"Connecting our present with our past"
Settlers poured westward into northwest Iowa in the 1850s. Using oxen and hand tools, they drained swamps and broke the sod to find some of the richest and most productive farmland in the world. Tiny settlements sprang up across the frontier and the pioneers quickly began to feel the need for organization and social structure.
To address this need, Buena Vista College was founded in 1891. Its mission, "Education for Service," demonstrated the founders' goal of providing teachers and ministers to staff the schools and churches. It was believed that schools and churches were the bedrock of real society and culture and would, therefore, serve as anchors in Iowa's new communities. Early in its history, President Loyal Hays and his supporters added the commercial department to teach young men and women the basics of small business.
Buena Vista's founders envisioned an institution that was not focused solely on the students' improvement of self. Their goal was to provide an opportunity for students to improve their level of service to family and society. This has been the institution's key to success. Alumni also assert that this unique focus has been the key to their success.
The first 60 years of Buena Vista's history are a story of tremendous struggle and heroic perseverance. Life on the frontier was difficult for Buena Vista, just as it was for the settlers it served. Growth came slowly and painfully in the early years. Old Main, a stately three-story brick building with limestone arches at the entry, housed classes, offices, the chapel, library and dining facilities. In 1920, Victory Hall (later renamed Edson Hall in honor of a prominent alumnus and benefactor who served on the Board of Trustees for 62 years) was built for athletics. In 1925, a new science hall was constructed. In 1954, this hall was named in honor of Professor "Bugs" Smith who taught science at BV for 40 years.
In the early 1930s, America began sinking into the economic disaster we now call the Great Depression. In 1931, at the depth of the depression, Dr. Henry Olson was appointed president of Buena Vista College. At that time the institution had only 29 cents in the bank and $300,000 in debt. Olson was a brilliant, courageous, tough and energetic entrepreneur. Not only did the college survive under his leadership - it grew, balanced its budgets and gained accreditation. Generations of alumni fondly remember the gruff Olson for allowing their parents to pay tuition in eggs, vegetables, ham and other useful commodities. He also kept the faculty employed, paying their salaries with the same goods. Olson rode a freight train to Chicago in 1952 to apply successfully for accreditation by the North Central Association. Olson brought a great college forth from the Depression. BV had begun to flourish.
In 1954, President Jack Fisher took the reins. In his first year, Fisher built Pierce Hall, the first men's residence, a complement to Swope Hall for women which had opened four years earlier. In his second year, in September, shortly after classes started, Old Main burst into flames and burned completely to the ground. Students, faculty, firemen and community volunteers worked hard to save the records, books and possessions of the college. In the morning, everyone was exhausted and depressed - seemingly, Buena Vista College had died that night. But Fisher, like Olson, refused to quit. He proclaimed that classes would continue as usual. These classes were held in churches and halls around town while a new classroom building, Dixon-Eilers, was constructed. The Victory Arch, that stands today atop the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business/Siebens Forum, symbolizes how the institution and its leaders rose from the ashes to become the institution it is today.
The sixties were tremendous years of growth for Buena Vista College. White Hall was constructed in 1962; Schaller Chapel, 1963; Ballou Library, 1965; Lage Communication Center, 1966; Siebens Science Center, 1968; and Siebens Fieldhouse, 1969. As the college grew, so did enrollment.
President Keith Briscoe assumed office in 1974 and began a new cycle of progress with several spokes. During his first year, he established a Centers program for women in Fort Dodge. The program, called BVU Graduate & Professional Studies, now serves men and women throughout the state of Iowa, has grown into one of the most innovative and successful non-traditional education programs in the nation.
In 1981, Harold Walter Siebens committed $18 million to the college and the transformation to the Buena Vista University of today began. Under Briscoe's leadership, Briscoe, Constitution and McCorkle Halls (the suites) were constructed. The Siebens Forum and the Information Technology Center were also built, giving BVU the unique distinction of 150,000 square feet of underground buildings. In the spring of 1995, Buena Vista College became Buena Vista University.
President Fred Moore became our institution's 17th president in 1995. His vision calls upon the students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni to build upon the University's mission to develop students for life-long success through innovative and imaginative academic preparation. Under President Moore's leadership, the university has raised record amounts of gifts and grants, started seven new BVU Graduate & Professional Studies locations, completed the remodeling of all student residences, built two new residence halls, the Lamberti Recreation Center, and our new Estelle Siebens Science Center. The university remains a pioneer institution, exploring new frontiers in higher education today. It is an enthusiastic, exciting, venturesome enterprise. Catch the spirit!
Buena Vista Alma Mater
Praise to thee, O Buena Vista
Alma Mater, dear
All thy loyal sons and daughters,
Do thy name revere.
By the beauteous lake resplendent
Stand thy halls so fair,
Fraught with mem'ries, rich in learning
Rich in friendship rare.
Buena Vista Fight Song
The BV Fight Song was written by W.B. Green SL'41 who directed the Buena Vista College band from 1950 to 1972.
Beavers fighting with our spirits high.
With our colors brightly streaming.
We fight with valor and with dauntless care,
Let us shout it everywhere!
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Beavers fighting out to win the game,
For our teammates, let us SING!
We'll FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! For the school we love,
For BUENA VISTA ALWAYS!
American Heritage Lecture Series
The William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series features internationally-recognized leaders of business, academics, law, press, government, religion and all other areas of American life. Each speaker focuses on an area of life where the matters of major rights and responsibilities are a concern. Selected students have the opportunity to interview the speakers during an afternoon session that is attended by faculty, staff and students. www.bvu.edu/ahls
In the spring of each year, faculty, staff and students join forces to paint, plant flowers and "beautify" our campus. This tradition has also evolved into a day of service during which BVU members volunteer in the local community. A morning of work and service is followed by a picnic lunch and an afternoon of games. www.bvu.edu/buenafication
Every Thursday at 11 a.m. during the academic year, the BVU community comes together for worship. Although attendance at chapel is no longer required of students, many still enjoy and participate in this celebration of faith and community.
During the holiday season, the president hosts a special dinner for all students. It's an evening of Christmas carols and traditional Christmas dinner fare. And, to make it an even more special event, faculty and staff come together to serve the dinner to students.
Founders' Day/New Student Welcome
As part of Orientation, at the beginning of the academic year, on the day the University opens and our new students arrive, BVU celebrates its founding. New students process through the Victory Arch for the first time and are welcomed into the community by faculty, staff and upper class students.
Homecoming at BVU is not just a football game - although the game is an important event. Throughout the week, the University prepares for Homecoming with residence hall/suite competitions and nightly events. The week culminates with the crowning of the king and queen, the Career Symposium, a carnival on the South Forum lawn and the football game.
Marching Through The Victory Arch
Students march through the Victory Arch twice during their university career, on Founders' Day as new students and, again, as part of their Commencement ceremony. As new students, they process through the arch, toward Schaller Memorial Chapel, indicating their entrance into the BVU community. As seniors, students process from Schaller Memorial Chapel through the Victory Arch, signifying the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of another.
Each semester during finals week, Student Affairs and Sodexo Food Service host a late-night breakfast for students. Served by the Student Affairs staff, this is an excellent study break as students prepare for their final examinations.
A fun, casual picnic by the lake is held in May for the graduating class. Sponsored each year by the Offices for Student Affairs and Alumni Relations, this is a time for faculty, staff and seniors to celebrate the students' many accomplishments throughout their time at BVU, and to bid well wishes to the soon-to-be-graduates. This event offers a time to think about the lifelong relationship that graduates have with their alma mater - students for a short time, alumni for a lifetime.
Student Recognition Dinner
Each spring the University recognizes those students who have excelled in their academic pursuits and student leaders who have contributed to campus life. Parents, faculty and staff also join in this celebration.