History of Ottawa University

With a rich history tied to the Ottawa Indians and the American Baptist Churches USA, Ottawa University is proud of its heritage and committed to honoring those who are responsible for it. From 1837 to 1855, Reverend Jotham Meeker and his wife, Eleanor, were Baptist missionaries to the Ottawa Indian Tribe in the Midwest region, which is now Ottawa, Kansas. The Meekers devoted themselves to improving the lives of the Ottawa Indians and inspiring a hunger for education and religion. After the Meekers’ deaths, the Ottawa Indians carried on the missionaries’ Christian leadership with a strong desire to educate their children.

John Tecumseh (Tauy) Jones also carried on the Meekers’ commitment to the tribe. Serving as an interpreter and Baptist minister, he was responsible for arranging a meeting between the Baptists and the Ottawa Indians, which led to the development of Ottawa University. The Ottawa Indians donated 20,000 acres for a university to ensure the education of their children. In exchange, the Baptists agreed to build and operate the school with a promise to provide free education to the Ottawa Indians. After delays due to the Civil War, Ottawa University was founded in 1865. Today, Ottawa University provides free undergraduate tuition to recorded members of the tribe who are descendants of the Kansas Ottawa Indians.

The first building erected on campus, in the spring of 1869, was destroyed by fire in 1875; however, through generous support of the community, it was rebuilt in 1876. It stands today, appropriately named Tauy Jones Hall. The first commencement was held in 1879, with the graduation of one student. Throughout its long history, Ottawa University has enjoyed many changes and additions to become the beautiful campus it is today. In recognition of the growing demand for programs suited to the needs and learning styles of adults, the University opened its first adult campus in Kansas City in 1974. Additional campuses were opened in Arizona in 1977, Wisconsin in 1992, and Indiana in 2002. International programs in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia were added in 1986. Ottawa University opened its second residential campus in Surprise, Arizona in 2017.

Ottawa University began its first graduate program in 1987 with the addition of the Master of Arts in Human Resources, offered at the Greater Kansas City campus. The online Master of Business Administration was initiated in 2001. These programs are now offered across APGS (Adult Professional and Graduate Studies) along with a Master of Arts in Counseling (becomes a Master of Science in Counseling with this catalog), Master of Arts in Education, Master of Accountancy, Master of Arts in Leadership, Master of Science in Nursing, Executive Master of Business Administration, and an Educational Specialist. Campuses in Arizona and Greater Kansas City also have teacher professional education programs, providing courses for certified teachers.