An overview of the college’s history begins with two families, Francis and Helen Price and Lindley and Orpha Hall (members of the Wilburite Quakers) who, in 1943, felt disinclined to send their children to public school. In 1946, the Halls became associated with the Eastern District of the Emmanuel Association, a group that assumed the oversight of the school begun by the two families approximately two miles from the present campus in a room added to their home. One year later, acreage on Woodsdale Road, the present site of the college campus, was purchased and several farm buildings where adapted and used as dormitories, classrooms, and dining hall. A feeding shed became the tabernacle for summer camp meetings. By 1949, eighty-five students were enrolled in this academy under the instruction of nine faculty members. In 1950, when the Salem and Lisbon churches left the Emmanuel Association, the school was transferred to a seven-member board of trustees and renamed Salem Bible Institute. In 1956, articles of incorporation were issued by the state of Ohio. Rev. R. W. Dunn, a Wesleyan Methodist minister from Canton, Ohio became president of the college. The administration building, which included classrooms, library, and chapel, was constructed during his tenure. Later, the three-story ladies’ residence hall, which also housed the college dining hall and ladies’ laundry room, was completed. In 1958 the college began to offer a limited number of college courses. Professor David Budenseik (M.Div., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) was hired as academic dean. A number of students transferred from Central Wesleyan College (Central, South Carolina) and made up Salem Bible College’s first graduating class in 1959. In that year, the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Religion was conferred upon the college graduates. The Ohio Board of Regents did not exist at that time, being created by the Ohio legislature in 1967.
The period from 1957 to 1973 saw the college struggling under the leadership of several presidents. Due to the college’s status as an interdenominational enterprise, no one particular denomination or church group felt the urge to underwrite the needs of the college. By the fall of 1972, the college was in serious financial difficulties and turned to the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection to become its denominational sponsor because, at that time, the president of the college, most of the faculty, student body, and constituency were Wesleyan Methodists. In June of 1973 the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection voted at its annual conference to assume sponsorship of the college and Rev. James Beers was appointed president. At that time the corporate name was changed from Salem Bible College to Allegheny Wesleyan College and Academy, and shortly thereafter, the academy was organizationally separated from the college. The Secretary of State of Ohio reissued the charter of the college to reflect the new name. The college has enjoyed a general increase in constituency support.
During the tenure of President Beers, the “old barn” was completely remodeled and bricked and dedicated as Blair Hall. It served as the campus library until 1998 when Sexton Hall was completed. President Beers also oversaw the construction of the president’s home.
From 1982-1986, Rev. Robert Luther’s presidency emphasized financial soundness and renewed focus on organizational mission. He was able to increase constituent confidence in the college and begin a period of increasing institutional stability. During his tenure, the Blair Hall roof was damaged by a tornado and had to be repaired.
In 1988, Rev. William Blair began a nine-year tenure as president. Through his efforts additional property was purchased and Rhoades Hall, the gymnasium complex, was completed and plans were made for a new classroom/library building. Several faculty houses were purchased, constructed, or remodeled on the campus property during his term.
In 1997, Rev. David Phelps, Sr. assumed the presidency. During his tenure, thirteen acres were added to the campus, bringing the total acreage to forty-five. Also, Sexton Hall was constructed debt free. Other significant renovations and remodeling projects took place on campus. The acquisition of the Richardson property provided five married-student residences. Rev. Phelps’ tenure continued until he resigned in 2002. He also serves as the president of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Stewardship Foundation, the main source of endowment funds for the college.
In 2002, Dr. Robert England (D.Min., Nazarene Theological Seminary) assumed the presidency of the college. Dr. England had previously worked at AWC, where he began teaching in 1969, also serving as president from 1986-1988. His return to the college brought a strong emphasis on spiritual atmosphere, revival and preaching, and a desire to lead the college to stronger emphasis on scholarship and added breadth in program offerings.