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Houghton College
Motto Not all classrooms are the same
Established 1883
Type Private
Endowment $30.5 million[1]
President Shirley A. Mullen
Faculty 88-90 FTE
Undergraduates 1,250
Postgraduates 12
Location Houghton, New York, United States
Campus Rural
Colors Purple and Gold         
Mascot Highlanders
Affiliations Wesleyan Church

Houghton College is a 4-year Christian liberal arts college, affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. Houghton's main campus is in Houghton, in the Genesee Valley of southwestern New York; a secondary suburban campus is in West Seneca, a suburb of Buffalo. It also has campus extensions in Australia, Tanzania, and London, England.

Houghton began as Houghton Seminary, offering high school-level work, in 1883, and began offering college level classes in 1899. The founder was Willard J. Houghton, a Wesleyan Methodist minister. It was chartered as a liberal arts college by New York State in 1923 and accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 1935.

The school offers baccalaureate degrees in 48 fields as well as master's degrees in music and theology. A recent $15 million gift enabled an expansion of the School of Music, and it was renamed the Greatbatch School of Music. A wide range of graduate degree programs was added to an existing undergraduate program that includes general music, composition, conducting and performance. The student body is interdenominational, with recent demographics showing 10% of the students as a part of the Wesleyan church.

The sports teams are the Highlanders. Houghton fields teams in men's and women's soccer, men's and women's basketball, women's field hockey and volleyball, and men's and women's track and cross country. Most of the teams have enjoyed some degree of success, with the women's soccer team reaching the NAIA National Tournament six times since 1998, including three-straight trips.

Houghton College is a member of the Christian College Consortium and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.



Houghton College began in 1883 as a seminary (high school) under the Wesleyan Methodist Connection. Coeducational from its founding, Houghton operated as a secondary school for its first 15 years. In 1899 a few college classes were offered; the college department's first diploma was awarded in 1901. While early principals were Wesleyan Methodist pastors willing to accept the job, in 1908 Houghton acquired its first academically-trained president, James S. Luckey, who served until his death in 1937.

Houghton College received its provisional charter from New York State in 1923 and awarded its first 19 baccalaureate degrees two years later. A permanent charter was granted in 1927, and accreditation by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges came in 1935. Stephen W. Paine succeeded Luckey and served as president until 1972. Under Paine’s leadership the college expanded from about 300 students to 1,200, necessitating the addition of new buildings, and the percentage of faculty holding earned doctorates tripled.

Daniel R. Chamberlain, president from 1976, oversaw the erecting of several other major campus buildings and an extensive adult degree-completion program. Houghton College continues its historical connection with the Wesleyan Church. In 2006, the College named Dr. Shirley Mullen as the fifth president of Houghton College[3].

The college initiated its first master’s program (in music) in 2004, funded by a $15 million gift to the college[4]. A Subsequent master’s program has since been added in theological studies.


Presidents of the college

  • James S. Luckey, 1908-1937
  • Stephen W. Paine, 1937-1972
  • Wilber Dayton, 1972-1976
  • Daniel R. Chamberlain, 1976-2006
  • Shirley Mullen, 2006-present

Historical personages

Taken from the fourth floor of Gillette Hall (formerly East Hall) showing the quad of Houghton College's main campus. Buildings pictured from left to right are the Library, Paine Science Center and the Luckey Building.

Stephen W. Paine served as president of the college for thirty-five years. He taught classical languages in addition to his duties as president. When he became president in 1937 he was twenty-eight years old, making him the youngest head of a college in the U.S. at the time. Paine was a well known Greek and Biblical scholar in his time, and served on the translation committee of the New International Version of the Bible as well as numerous other important evangelical national organizations, including the International Bible Institute.

The Ortlip family[5] is responsible for most of the artistic heritage of the college. H. Willard Ortlip was a benefactor of the college, and together with his wife Aimée was responsible for the historic mural in the foyer of the campus chapel. Several Ortlip family members have taught art and painting at the college over the years. The Ortlip Art Gallery, an all-purpose exhibition space, located in the College's Center for the Arts was named for H. Willard and Aimee Ortlip and their family.


Houghton College’s main campus is in the hamlet of Houghton, Allegany County, in western New York, about 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Buffalo and 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Rochester. The campus of 1,300 acres (5.3 km2) sits on the Allegheny Plateau at roughly 1,300 feet (400 m), on the site of the former Caneadea Indian Reservation of the early 1800s. Fifteen miles to the north are the Genesee’s magnificent Portage Falls and Letchworth State Park.

When the former Buffalo Bible Institute in West Seneca merged with Houghton College in 1969, the West Seneca campus was created. The programs on this campus have evolved from lower-divisional status to specialized courses and internships designed to complement majors offered on the main campus, particularly those requiring an urban setting. The West Seneca Campus is also the primary setting for Houghton’s adult degree completion program in management, P.A.C.E.

Houghton’s Adirondack Park Campus, purchased in 2001, is a 40-acre (160,000 m2) wooded site located on Star Lake in New York State’s famed Adirondack Park. The campus includes a main lodge with dining and sleeping facilities, classroom and meeting room facilities and a number of cabins, plus waterfront and beach. Activities in the area include wilderness hiking, rock-climbing, canoeing and cross-country skiing. The college has developed an on-site academic program in environment and Culture for both Houghton and non-Houghton students. The facilities are also available to outside groups on a limited basis. The campus is on the market for $799,000 and there is a buyer.


Houghton College grants two-year and four-year degrees in forty-six majors. The college has sixteen academic departments: Art, Biology, Business and Economics, Chemistry, Communication, Education, English, Foreign Languages, History and Political Science, Intercultural Studies, Mathematics and Computer Science, Music, Physical Education and Recreation/Leisure, Physics and Earth Science, Psychology and Sociology, and Religion and Philosophy.

The college offers graduate degrees in music, made possible by a $15 million endowment. Degrees include the master of arts (M.A.) and master of music (M.M.). A master of arts degree in theological studies will begin courses in the fall 0f 2008.

The college business department has also been recognized in the top 5th percentile of all colleges and universities in the nation. The Business Major Field Test, provided by the Educational Testing Service, is given every year to senior business majors. Houghton ranks both in the top 5 percent for all schools that participate, 564 schools in 2008, and out of all Christian schools. [7]

First year honors

A distinctive Houghton academic program, the First Year Honors Program provides unique opportunities for qualified first year Houghton students. The honors program has three options: London Honors, East Meets West, and Science Honors.

The honors program initially began with the London Honors program in 1996. The London Honors Program involves the second semester of the first-year spent in London, England, with several trips elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The program explores the roots of Western culture and ideas through studying history, literature, philosophy and the fine arts.[8]

In 2004 the East Meets West portion of the First-Year Honors Program was added. This program involves the first two semesters spent at Houghton studying and preparing for travels in the Eastern Mediterranean during Mayterm. Study sites include such cities as Venice, Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb. East Meets West also emphasizes development of Western culture and history while focusing on its relationship with Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

In fall of 2009, the Science Honors Program was added. Whereas the London Honors and East Meets West programs focus on history, literature, and the arts, the science honors program is directed toward those who are drawn to such areas as mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry and others. The goal for this program is for the participants to work together in a collaborative process to solve a real-world problem. The topic for the first installment of the program will be researching alternative sources of energy and designing and building a working vehicle.

Acceptance into one of the honors programs is by invitation through an application and interview process beginning but separate from the general application.

Campus life

Clubs and organizations

Numerous student groups are active on the campus in all areas of interest. Some of these include: Student Government Association, Allegany County Outreach, the Boulder, the Star, the Drawing Board, the Intercultural Student Association, Clown Ministry, Habitat for Humanity, Gadfly Society (the Houghton Philosophy Student club), Equestrian Club, Evangelicals for Social Action, Dayspring, Swim Club, Climbing Club, Global Christian Fellowship, and Youth for Christ. The college also provides both interscholastic and intramural athletics.


The majority of the College's students live in College-owned housing. There are two dormitories for female students, Gillette (formerly East Hall) and Lambein, while the men live in Rothenbuhler (formerly South Hall) and Shenawana. The college also owns numerous townhouses and a building of flats.

Students also have the opportunity to apply to live in approved off-campus housing, called Community Living Opportunities (CLOs). This option is generally open only to Juniors, Seniors and Super Seniors, and a limited number of spots in the program are available. Super Seniors (those students with over 120 credits) automatically qualify for CLO housing.


  • The gum trees

On the path leading up to the Nielsen Center and Stevens Art Studios, certain trees in close proximity to the path have become the recipients of unwanted chewing gum. It is hard to say when this tradition began or what its original purpose was (avoiding being caught chewing gum in class, perhaps?).

  • Walk around the quad

The day of graduation, the seniors are led around the quad by a bagpiper dressed in traditional Scottish attire. Graduates pass through a line of professors before proceeding into Wesley chapel to begin graduation ceremonies.

  • Ski hill sledding with trays

Trays were often removed from the cafeteria, during the lengthy Winter season, and used as makeshift sleds for use on the ski hill as well as other hilly locations on campus. This practice is not generally looked down upon, but has been made difficult by the permanent removal of cafeteria trays.

  • SPOT

Each semester, a "talent" showcase of sorts takes place. In the fall, it is during homecoming week and in the spring it is during the newly reinstated Purple and Gold week. There is also a Senior Spot organized and run by seniors prior to graduation. Notable sketches include Chapel Linebacker, Houghton Wars, The Phantom of the Opera and performances by the band Cheech and the Chimichangas, to name but a few.

  • Shen Bloc

At all the men's home soccer games, a group of Shenawana residents, dubbed Shen Men, dress in costumes designed to be as zany as possible, usually involving wearing kilts or clashing apparel. During the game they cheer on the team with organized chanting, yelling, and drum playing (including upside down trash cans).

  • The New Fine Arts Complex

It seems that they have finally been able to build the complex, however, there were many years where this "future complex" was something of a ledgend. Instead, students used the rather creaky music building with practice rooms that only aspired to be sound proof.


The Houghton Highlanders field 10 varsity teams. The women are able to participate in soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, track, and cross country. The teams provided for the men are soccer, basketball, track, and cross country. The Houghton Highlanders are members of the NAIA and American Mideast Conference. Houghton is a member of the "Champions of Character" program of the NAIA. It is a "program [that] is designed to instill an understanding of character values in sport and provide practical tools for student-athletes, coaches and parents to use in modeling exemplary character traits."

Houghton also has 4 junior varsity teams: both men's and women's soccer and basketball. Club and intramural sports for men are soccer, volleyball, football, basketball, and indoor soccer. For women, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and indoor soccer. Their coed sports are handball, water polo, volleyball, and softball. There is also a coed frisbee team that Houghton advertises but does not support since they play on Sunday.

Notable alumni


External links

Coordinates: 42°25′34″N 78°09′19″W / 42.426111°N 78.155278°W / 42.426111; -78.155278


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