The College Heritage
Like other historic American colleges, Moravian College has its origin in the abiding concern of early settlers for education. In 1732, emigrants from Germany and Moravia (now a province of the Czech Republic) began coming to the New World following years of religious persecution in their native land and years of exile in Europe and England. They called themselves the Unity of the Brethren, but their new neighbors referred to them as the Moravian Brethren. From the beginnings of the sect in Europe, its members had gained an international reputation for their commitment to education. A statue on the Moravian College campus honors the achievements of their early leader, John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), whose teaching and writings earned him the title "the father of modern education."
On Christmas Eve 1741, a group of Moravians led by Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, their benefactor and protector in Germany, founded the community of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. Within a few short months, their concern for the education of their children led them to establish two schools, one for girls and one for boys. The boys' school developed into Nazareth Hall Academy in 1759. It, in turn, was instrumental in the founding of Moravian Theological Seminary in 1807. In 1858, the Seminary was reorganized as Moravian College and Theological Seminary and was chartered as a men's college in 1863. The girls' school, established by Count Zinzendorf's daughter Benigna, became known as the Bethlehem Female Seminary in 1749 and was opened to students from outside the Moravian community in 1785, when it became a boarding school. In 1863, it was chartered as Moravian Seminary for Young Ladies; in 1913, it was reorganized as Moravian Seminary and College for Women.
After nearly two centuries of parallel development, Moravian College and Theological Seminary and Moravian Seminary and College for Women merged in 1954 to form a modern undergraduate coeducational institution: Moravian College. Moravian Theological Seminary, a graduate professional school of theology, remains a part of the corporate institution, offering a specialized academic program while sharing the campus, its facilities, and some of its personnel with the undergraduate institution.
Tracing its institutional history to 1742, Moravian today is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college, after Harvard, William and Mary, St. John's (Annapolis), Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania. In the College's third century of service, Moravian's identity and mission are rooted in a long and rich tradition, which continues to grow today.