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Our History

South campus archive shot

Our History

Education for All

԰AV was founded on a belief that education is essential for all, without regard for gender or social standing. It was an idea ahead of its time, but that didn’t stop us. In fact, ԰AV thrives on new and innovative ideas and has been embracing them ever since.


"Not the children of the rich or of the powerful only, but of all alike, boys and girls, both noble and ignoble, rich and poor, in all cities and towns, villages and hamlets, should be sent to school." –John Amos Comenius

A Brief History

The history of ԰AV is anything but brief—we're the 6th oldest college in America, after all—but we'll stick to the highlights for now. Our history doesn’t follow a singular, linear path. Though our story does start with a singular idea and moment. It follows two schools and two winding paths that eventually meet and merge.

Girls’ School

  • 1742: Established in Germantown, Pennsylvania, by Benigna von Zinzendorf; moves to Bethlehem seven weeks later
  • 1745: Moves to Nazareth
  • 1749: Moves to Bethlehem (now known as South Campus)
  • 1785: Opens to pupils outside the ԰AV Church and becomes known as ԰AV Female Seminary

Boys’ School

  • 1742: Opened in Bethlehem by ԰AV Church
  • 1743: Second boys’ school opened in Nazareth by ԰AV Church
  • 1759: Two schools merge to form Nazareth Hall, with survives until 1929
  • 1807: Men’s college and seminary established as extension of Nazareth Hall and called ԰AV College and Theological Seminary
  • 1858: Moves to Bethlehem


  • 1863: Both college and seminary chartered by state of Pennsylvania to grant baccalaureate degrees
  • 1954: Women’s and men’s institutions merge to form first coeducational institution of higher education in the Lehigh Valley
  • 2016: ԰AV College reorganizes into three schools: School of Natural and Health Sciences; School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; and ԰AV Seminary
  • 2021: ԰AV College becomes ԰AV

We're Carrying on the Tradition

You can’t have a history spanning nearly 280 years without establishing a few traditions along the way. And we take ours seriously.

The Blue and Grey

Did you know the colors blue and grey were adopted by ԰AV in 1894? With the bitter battles of the American Civil War still a recent memory, the choice of colors represented a gesture of unity and healing.

The ԰AV Mile

The distance between North and South campuses, about 0.8 miles, is known as the “԰AV Mile.” As part of orientation, first-year students traditionally , traveling from North to South, through Historic Bethlehem on their way. Once their time at ԰AV is complete, graduating seniors take part in the “Backwards Walk,” walking the ԰AV Mile as they did in their freshman year, but this time in reverse. Don’t worry—you can always take the shuttle!

Heritage Day

Established by President Grigsby, Heritage Day is a celebration of ԰AV tradition, community, and service. Each year, we dedicate a fall day to learning about the founders of ԰AV and our cultural heritage, as well as serving our community.


A local holiday tradition hosted by ԰AV, Christmas Vespers is a beautiful service that features two forms of ԰AV worship, the "Singstunde" and the Candlelight Service. Music by our students combines with the beauty of the Liturgy in this service of worship for the College community and friends.

Founder’s Day

We observe Founder’s Day each year to remember and learn from the revolutionary men and women who came before us at ԰AV. The day includes a reception, Lovefeast, and luncheon, and features stories and artifacts from our past.