Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University (ACU) is a private Christian university in Abilene, Texas. It was founded in 1906 as Childers Classical Institute.

Abilene Christian University
Religious affiliation
Churches of Christ
Endowment$425 million[1]
ChancellorRoyce Money
PresidentPhil Schubert
ProvostRobert L. Rhodes
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 208 acres (84 ha)
ColorsPurple and white[2]
AthleticsNCAA Division ISouthland
MascotWillie the Wildcat


Abilene Christian University grew from an idea held by A.B. Barret and Charles Roberson to form a school in West Texas. The Churches of Christ in Abilene agreed to back the project. J.W. Childers sold Barret land and a large house west of the town, and lowered the price with the stipulation that the school would be named in his honor. Childers Classical Institute opened in the fall of 1906, with 25 students.[4] It initially included a lower school starting in the seventh grade.[5]

When Jesse P. Sewell became president of the institute in 1912, the school began using "Abilene Christian College" on all its printed material. In 1920, the school paid the Childers family $4,000 and formally changed the name.

The Optimist, the university's student-produced newspaper, was founded in 1912. The Prickly Pear, the school yearbook, was founded in 1916. The JMC Network, a converged student media operation, was created in 2008 to produce all student-led news media. The campus literary-arts magazine (now The Shinnery Review, formerly The Pickwicker) has been in production since 1933.

In 1927, with the help of a $75,000 contribution from the city of Abilene, the board of trustees purchased 680 acres (280 ha) northeast of Abilene. In addition, residents donated 75 acres (30 ha) of adjoining land. The new campus opened in the fall of 1929.

From the time of its founding to the present, the university has been governed by a board of trustees made up of members of the Churches of Christ. Abilene Christian University has historically been the largest organization in the United States that has time set aside each class day for chapel. Chapel attendance is required, absent an approved exemption, and those students failing to meet the requirement over a period of more than one semester may be subject to suspension.[6]

Abilene Christian College first received school accreditation in 1951, when it became an accredited member of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[7]

The university was officially segregated, for white students only, until 1961.[8]

Amberton University, previously Amber University, was created as an extension campus of Abilene Christian University. It was launched in Mesquite, Texas, in 1971, moving to Garland, Texas, in 1974. It became a separate institution as Amber University in 1982, and was rechristened Amberton University in 2001. Like Abilene Christian University, Amberton remains affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

University rankings
Forbes[9] No. 463 (Top Colleges, 2018)

No. 305 (Private Colleges, 2018)

No. 95 (South, 2018)

U.S. News & World Report[10] No. 21 (Best Colleges, Regional Universities, West, 2018)

No. 4 (Most Innovative Schools, 2018)

No. 14 (Best College for Undergraduate Teaching, 2018)

No. 13 (Best College for Veterans, 2018)

No. 10 (Best Value Schools, 2018)

Master's University class
Washington Monthly[11] No. 186 (Best Bang for the Buck South, 2018)

On February 22, 1976, the name was changed to Abilene Christian University. The university celebrated its centennial in the 2005–06 school year. In July 2015, the university signed a lease for an expansion campus located in Addison, Texas.[12] Called ACU Dallas, the new campus began offering several new graduate programs, including an MBA and Ed.D. in organizational leadership.[13]

The school established an NPR station, KACU, in 1986. Initially, the community was concerned that the school might use the station for proselytizing, and for the station's first ten years, an advisory board composed of community members served to monitor the station against this possibility.[14] On October 18, 2008, the school hosted a live broadcast of NPR's long-running A Prairie Home Companion radio show from the campus' Moody Coliseum.[15][16]

On Wednesday, August 23, 2017 the NCAA Board of Directors voted to pass ACU through to full Division 1 status, thus making them eligible for postseason play.


  • Allen Booker Barret (1906–08)
  • H. C. Darden (1908–1909)
  • Robertson Lafayette Whiteside (1909–1911)
  • James F. Cox (1911–1912)
  • Jesse Parker Sewell (1912–1924)
  • Batsell Baxter (1924–1932)
  • James F. Cox (1932–1940)
  • Don H. Morris (1940–1969)
  • John C. Stevens (1969–1981)
  • William J. Teague (1981–1991)
  • Royce Money (1991 – May 31, 2010)
  • Phil Schubert (June 1, 2010–present)


ACU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. ACU's business programs are professionally accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the Social Work programs are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, the Education programs are accredited by Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the Marriage and Family Therapy programs are accredited by Commission on the Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. The ACU School of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). ACU Graduate School of Theology is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). ACU is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).


  • The Prickly Pear. Beginning in 1916, this was the title for Abilene Christian University's (formerly Abilene Christian College) yearbook. The name was taken from Opuntia, a species of cactus native to the Abilene and West Texas area, commonly referred to as "prickly pear". The Prickly Pear ceased publication in 2009.[17]
  • Sing Song. Since 1956, this annual competition in mid-February has featured student groups of 30–100 people, singing themed a cappella medleys, usually satirical. Originating as a fundraiser for the school, the modern event has developed into a major show for which each group assembles costumes related to their act's theme, such as Peter Pan, the British Royal Guard, Coca-Cola, Adam and Eve, or forest fires. Often the costumes involve a mid-performance quick-change to a second costume — such as the 1987 acts in which grapes turned into raisins or bananas peeled to reveal Carmen Miranda — or elaborate choreography within the risers, as when the 1983 freshman class act recreated a Pac-Man screen and manipulated their costumes so that the character appeared to move around the screen.[18][19][20] The men of Galaxy and the women of Sigma Theta Chi currently hold the records for most wins of a men's club and women's club, respectively.[21]
  • Summit. Referred to as Lectureship until the 2008 school year. Begun in 1918, this annual program gathers thousands of attendees for lectures and workshops on religious topics connected with a biblical theme that changes each year. After many years of following directly after Sing Song, the lectureship moved in 2006 to a September event, in part to spread out the events that bring the most visitors to campus and also to take advantage of the more stable autumn climate, as winter storms and rain had hindered attendance on multiple occasions.
  • Wildcat Week. Formerly called Welcome Week, this event for the integration of incoming first-year and transfer students provides small-group study programs, social activities, and information fairs in the week preceding the beginning of the fall semester.
  • Homecoming. Like most residential U.S. universities, the campus hosts a celebration each fall for alumni to return for a parade, class-year and organizational reunions, and musical theater.[19]
  • Chapel. ACU is one of the few Christian colleges that maintains daily required chapel for all undergraduate, full-time students. Chapel is a 30-minute praise and worship time, usually with a featured speaker. Typically, no classes or meetings are scheduled during this half-hour.
  • School colors. The colors purple and white have long been the colors of ACU, standing for the royalty and purity of Christ, respectively.

Abilene Christian University Press

ACU is one of only seven faith-based institutions with a press.[22] ACU Press, founded in 1983 to print books about Churches of Christ theology, is now a member of the Association of American University Presses, printing books about Christian Higher Education, West Texas History and Christian Living as well as theology.[23] Along with its trade imprint, Leafwood Publishers, the press publishes an average of 36 titles per year. Among its notable authors are Rubel Shelly, Rick Ostrander, Darryl Tippens, Edward Fudge, Larry M. James and Walt McDonald.

Technology and mobile learning

On February 26, 2008, ACU announced that all incoming freshman classes would receive a free Apple iPhone or an iPod Touch. This decision was the result of a study to find out the viability of iPhone and iPod for academic purposes. ACU was reported as the first university in the nation to embrace this opportunity to further education through the use of the new generation of smartphone technologies.[24] In February, 2009, ACU hosted more than 400 academics and technologists from 31 states and 8 countries for its first ConnectEd Summit[25] on mobile learning. Attendees representing more than 90 schools participated in workshops designed to foster mobile learning programs on their own campuses.

In August 2008,[26] Campus Technology magazine named ACU "Innovator of the Year" in the mobile learning category for this "ACU Connected" initiative. On February 27, 2009, ACU received the award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology[27] from ACUTA and on March 4, 2009, Alcatel-Lucent named ACU a Dynamic Enterprise Award winner and awarded ACU with its first Analyst Choice Award[28] for its ACU Connected initiative. On June 13, 2009, the New Media Consortium presented ACU with one of three Center of Excellence[29] awards at its annual summer conference for ACU's efforts in mobile learning.


Formerly a charter member of the Division I Southland Conference, Abilene Christian joined the Lone Star Conference (LSC) of Division II of the NCAA in 1973, but have since rejoined the Southland Conference as of 2013. In 2007, the conference included 33 ACU current and former student athletes in its 75-member all-sports team commemorating the conference's 75th anniversary.[30] Through 2009, ACU is fourth in NCAA history in team national championships won with 57, trailing Division I schools UCLA, Stanford, and USC, and tied with Division III school Kenyon College.[31]

In 2012 Abilene Christian had received NCAA permission to compete in Division I FCS and was under consideration for reattachment to the Southland Conference.[32] On August 25, Abilene Christian's Board of Trustees accepted Southland's invitation to rejoin the Conference effective with the start of the 2013 academic year.

  • The men's track and field program has won 32 NCAA National Track and Field Championships: 19 NCAA outdoor and 13 indoor.[31]
  • The women's track and field program has won 22 national championships: 12 indoor and 10 outdoor.[31]
  • The Wildcats were NAIA national football champions in 1973 and 1977.[33]
  • Before the NCAA invalidated its 2007 season, nine ACU football players were included in the LSC's 75th-anniversary list of top players in conference history.[30] The school's 2007 victories were vacated by the NCAA in 2009. The NCAA charged "two assistant football coaches helped a pair of players find an English correspondence class to take, enroll in the same course, allowed them to use the coaches' school computers for writing papers and paid to mail the assignments."[34] The school had scored more than 40 points in 11 of its 13 games and more than 50 points in 7 games and 70 or more points in two games including a 73–76 three overtime loss to Chadron State in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
  • In 2008, the Wildcats "set a record for points in an NCAA (football) playoff game, beating West Texas A&M 93-68 in the second round of the Division II playoffs."
  • Ove Johansson kicked the longest field goal in college football history (69 yards) in 1976, 6 yards longer than the current NFL record. As of 2009 it remains the longest field goal ever kicked in any level of football competition and is an unbroken world record.[35]
  • Olympic athletes from ACU include Bobby Morrow, three-time 1956 gold medal winner; Earl Young, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400 relay; Billy Olson, who made the 1980 and 1988 U.S. teams but did not compete in 1980 due to President Carter's decision to boycott the Games; Yolande Straughn, who competed in 1988 for Barbados; and James Browne, 1988 competitor for Antigua.[30]
  • ESPN and NFL Network analyst and author Sean Adams is a former NCAA All-American athlete for ACU.

Social clubs

The school has a number of student organizations called "social clubs" that are equivalent to a fraternity or sorority on other college campuses; chapters of national Hellenic societies, however, are not permitted. The main goal of these social clubs is to help in service to the surrounding communities and the school itself.[36] Clubs also participate in intramural sports and Sing Song. There are a total of fourteen social clubs for both men and women.[37]

Men's clubs Women's clubs
Frater Sodalis Alpha Kai Omega
Gamma Sigma Phi Delta Theta
Nu Kappa Psi Zeta Rho
Pi Kappa GATA
Galaxy Ko Jo Kai
Trojans Sigma Theta Chi
Sub-T 16 Tri Kappa Gamma

Notable people



  • Everett Ferguson, Patristics scholar and noted author
  • Douglas A. Foster, Professor of Church History, editor of the Stone-Campbell Encyclopedia
  • Gary D. McCaleb, vice-president of ACU, professor of management, and founder of Center for Building Community; former mayor of Abilene
  • Michael A. O'Donnell, former Professor of Family Studies; founding Executive Director of the Southwest Center for Fathering
  • Michael Sadler, professor of engineering and both nuclear and particle physics
  • John B. Weaver, Dean of Library Services and Educational Technology, Professor in the College of Biblical Studies



  • When James Cox's wife became ill, his brother, Alonzo B. Cox, filled in for him to finish the term.


  1. As of 2018."The Endowment". Abilene Christian University Alumni Association. 2019. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  2. "Colors of Master Logo - Office of University Marketing". Acu.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  3. "NAICU – Member Directory". Naicu.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-11-09. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  4. Texas State Historical Commission. "Abilene Christian University, Texas State Historical Marker".
  5. The Childers Classical Institute: Catalog 1906–1907. Abilene, Texas: Taylor County News Press. 1906. p. 17. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  6. "MWF Moody Chapel". Acu.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  7. [Sources: John C. Stevens, _No Ordinary University_, p. 248; John C. Stevens, "Abilene Christian University," Texas State Historical Association, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kba01.]
  8. Key, Barclay. "Race and Restoration: churches of Christ and the African American Freedom Struggle" (PDF). Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  9. "America's Top Colleges 2019". Forbes. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  10. "Best Colleges 2020: Regional Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  11. "2019 Rankings -- Masters Universities". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  12. "Abilene Christian University campus to open in Addison". Acu.edu. 2015-07-21. Archived from the original on 2015-08-25. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  13. "New Abilene Christian University campus planned for DFW area | News – Home". Ktxs.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  14. Brian Bethel. "Local NPR station turns 20, looks to hi-tech future," Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Abilene Reporter-News, June 2, 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-19.
  15. "Austin360 bets" (upcoming events column), Austin American-Statesman, September 3, 2008: "Garrison Keillor and 'A Prairie Home Companion' are coming to Abilene in October for a live performance. Tickets are now on sale and expected to sell quickly. Public radio station 89.7 KACU, AbilenePublicRadio and Abilene Christian University are hosting the event ... ."
  16. Archived recording of October 18, 2008, A Prairie Home Companion broadcast from ACU's Moody Coliseum
  17. "The Prickly Pear, Yearbook of Abilene Christian College, 1916" "The Prickly Pear, 1916", 1916
  18. No author. "Seniors' Sing Song to unite work, fun," The Optimist (Abilene, Texas), Vol. 73, No. 38, Ed. 1, February 7, 1986, page 1.
  19. "ACU Today | The alumni magazine of Abilene Christian University". Acu.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  20. "Sing Song | Abilene Christian University". Acu.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-08-21. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  21. "Past Winners". acu.edu. Abilene Christian University. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  22. "ACU Press, Leafwood Navigating Book Publishing Tides". ACU Today. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  23. Directory 2013. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 2013. p. 21. ISBN 978-0945-103295.
  24. "ACU first university in nation to provide iPhone or iPod touch to all incoming freshmen". Acu.edu. 2008-02-25. Archived from the original on 2015-08-25. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  25. "ConnectEd Summit 2009". Acu.edu. Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  26. "2008 Campus Technology Innovators: Mobile Learning". Campus Technology. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  27. "ACU's innovation celebrated by ACUTA". Acu.edu. 2009-03-04. Archived from the original on 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  28. "Alcatel-Lucent Dynamic Enterprise awards honor organizations using communications to improve learning, share knowledge, save power and improve driver safety". Alcatel-lucent.com. Archived from the original on 2016-01-28. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  29. "NMC News | The New Media Consortium". Nmc.org. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  30. "Wildcats lead way as LSC honors all-time top performers," Archived 2008-10-29 at the Wayback Machine ACU Today, Summer 2007, p.32. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  31. Archived June 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  32. Briggs, J. (2012-01-18). "Market size to provide boost for UIW's Southland hopes". My San Antonio. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  33. "ACU Today | The alumni magazine of Abilene Christian University" (PDF). Acu.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  34. "NCAA penalizes Abilene Christian – Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas". Timesrecordnews.com. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  35. Curtis, Jake (2008-10-17). "How Swede it was". SFGate. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  36. "Local Fraternities and Sororities". Acu.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  37. "Social Clubs, Student Organizations". Acu.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  38. "Homecare Hombase - Executive Team". hchb.com. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  39. "April Anthony - Newsroom". Newsroom. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  40. "Just call her 'April' - Optimist". Optimist. 2018-02-16. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  41. "Gov. Perry Appoints Boyd to the Supreme Court of Texas". Archived from the original on 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  42. "Jeffrey Boyd Appointed to Texas Supreme Court". Archived from the original on 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
  43. "Antwone Fisher : About The Cast". Cinema.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  44. "More Gutenberg Recipients". Acu.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  45. Nelson Coates in Internet Movie Database
  46. Sara Morris. "Christian perspective and talent help ACU grad excel in Hollywood," Abilene Reporter-News, July 22, 2009, page Z-5.
  47. "Tracey Ferguson, Ebony, JET Magazine Journalist". Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  48. "Verna Elisha Howard (1911–2000)". therestorationmovement.com. Archived from the original on December 25, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  49. Jay DeFoore. "Leeson, Diaz Meyer Of DMN And LAT's Cole Win Photo Pulitzers," Photo District News Online, April 5, 2004. Retrieved Aug. 6, 2007.
  50. ACU press release."Pulitzer Prize-winning alumnus David Leeson wins Murrow, Headliner awards," Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine July 19, 2004. Retrieved Aug. 6, 2007.
  51. "Information about Abilene Christian University". Acu.edu. Archived from the original on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2015-08-26.
  52. Ted Dunnam. "Coaching by Hood vaulted ACU over top," Archived 2008-02-22 at the Wayback Machine Abilene Reporter-News, June 25, 2000.
  53. All-Time U.S. Rankings — Men’s Pole Vault Archived 2007-12-01 at the Wayback Machine, ranked #1 in the world for 1982.
  54. Frank Litsky. "Billy Olson is inching ahead on way to a 19-foot vault," The New York Times, February 22, 1982, page C6, column 1 (late city final edition).
  55. Al Pickett. "Abilene has produced more than its share of stars," Archived 2007-10-28 at the Wayback Machine Abilene Reporter-News, December 24, 1999.
  56. "Carry on, Jeev," The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), November 4, 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-22.


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