History & Heritage

Founding and Development

DrC-preachingOn October 5, 1969, his twenty-fifth anniversary as the pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Dr. W.A. Criswell presented to the church his vision for an institute that would provide biblical teaching for lay people that would be both intellectually and spiritually sound. The church enthusiastically approved the recommendation on October 7, 1970, and began developing the curriculum that would reflect the nature of the lifelong ministry of W.A. Criswell: teaching centered on the Bible, with an evangelical theology and evangelistic passion.

Classes began on January 12, 1971, with two certificate programs consisting of twelve semester hours of study in theology and the Old and New Testaments. On the first night, 329 students enrolled. For the next two years the institute operated as a night school, providing working lay people with an education previously unavailable to them at a convenient time.

By 1973 a three-year diploma program had been established, and by 1977 both a bachelor’s and master’s program were instituted. The American Association of Bible Colleges (AABC) accredited the undergraduate programs in 1979, and in 1985 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accredited all programs of study.  At that time the name of the institute changed to Criswell College. Since its founding, the institute had been housed in the facilities of First Baptist Church, but in 1989 prayers for a dedicated campus were answered and the Gaston Avenue property was acquired. The property was remodeled and in January 1991, the College moved onto its own campus just minutes from Downtown Dallas.

Since that time the College has created and maintained a governing board independent from First Baptist Church Dallas, and developed other undergraduate and graduate programs, diversifying its curriculum to include various majors in addition to the biblical studies major. The College has also established several online graduate degree programs. Beginning fall 2020, each entering freshman who graduates from Criswell does so with a double major (Bible & Theology and another of their choosing), equipping them to influence the culture for Christ in whichever field they pursue.

Although the organization has developed from an institute for lay people to an accredited college, its distinctives have not changed: an uncompromising commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, expository preaching, the study of biblical languages, personal evangelism, international missions, and hands-on practical ministry training.


Historical Timeline

1970    W.A. Criswell and First Baptist Church Dallas found Criswell Bible Institute

1971    Evening classes begin with 329 students

1972    Dr. H. Leo Eddleman becomes the first full-time President and Dr. Criswell is named Chancellor

1973    Day classes begin

1974    Three-year diploma program initiated

1975    Dr. Paige Patterson becomes President

1975    Bachelor’s program introduced

1977    Criswell Graduate School of the Bible opens

1979    Undergraduate programs accredited by the American Association of Bible Colleges (AABC)

1985    All programs accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

1985    Criswell Bible Institute becomes Criswell College

1991    Criswell College moves to its Gaston Avenue campus

1992    Dr. Richard Melick, Jr. becomes President

1996    Dr. C. Richard Wells becomes President

2001    Criswell College becomes affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC)

2002    Founder and Chancellor, W.A. Criswell, laid to rest

2003    Dr. Jerry A. Johnson becomes President

2010    Criswell College creates a new governing board

2010    Dr. Jerry A. Johnson returns as President

2014    Dr. Barry Creamer becomes President

2020    Entering freshmen who go on to graduate will do so with a double major — Bible & Theology and another of their choosing

2021    Mary L.A. Stanton & Lance Ouellette Hall opens its doors to residents

Criswell College admits students who are Christians of good character, without regard or reference to race, national or ethnic origin, color, age, disability, or sex (except where regard to sex is required by the College’s religious tenets regarding gender and sexuality) to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of these classifications in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and other school-administered programs.