If the “Bronze Man on Campus” statue dated back to the day Millikin University opened its doors in 1903, the student depicted might have been making bricks instead of reading a book.
That's because the four-building campus, founded by local banker James Millikin, was originally called “Decatur College and Industrial School,” started out as a sister school to Lincoln University and offered a decidedly vocational curriculum.
Dedicated with an address by President Theodore Roosevelt, the school was situated between Millikin's home at 125 N. Pine St. and his church, Westminster Presbyterian at 1360 W. Main St., and first encompassed the Elizabethan-style buildings of Liberal Arts, East and West halls and Mueller Industrial Laboratories.
The two schools, collectively known as James Millikin University, split in 1953 and the Decatur campus became known as Millikin University.
And what began as a parochial academic center appealing almost entirely to Decatur-area residents became a campus of 35 buildings covering 75 acres and whose 2,200 students represent 32 states and 18 countries.
What Millikin envisioned was a unique blend of “practical” learning alongside the “literary and classical,” and, while affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, remaining open to all. Today that concept is taken a step further with performance learning, or learning by doing, leading to a greater chance for success after graduation.
Some of Millikin's more unique features include its Center for Entrepreneurship, opportunities for international study, and high national rankings among small private universities.