At the turn of the 20th century, pioneer physician Dr. James Henry Wayland understood the importance of education and was driven to offer an education grounded in faith to the people of West Texas. In an agreement with the Staked Plains Baptist Association and the people of Plainview, Dr. and Mrs. Wayland donated $10,000 and 25 acres of prime real estate to establish the Wayland Literary and Technical Institute that was officially chartered in 1908.
The first classes were held in September of 1910 in Matador Hall with 241 students enrolled in what was now called Wayland Baptist College. In 1911, Elmer Childress was the first student to officially graduate. By 1914, Wayland had become one of the correlated schools affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
During Dr. James W. “Bill” Marshall’s tenure (1947-1953), Wayland began to expand its reach. An international student program was initiated and the college soon had a higher percentage of international students than any other American college or university. By 1948, Wayland had become a four-year college.
Wayland continued to make bold strides forward in 1951 by becoming the first four-year liberal arts college in the former Confederate states to voluntarily admit black students on an equal basis with white students. This decision came three years before the Supreme Court’s decision that banned racial segregation in schools.
In 1956, Wayland marked another milestone by securing full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and attained the approval of the Texas Education Agency to certify teachers.
By the 1970s, Wayland began expanding its reach, beginning by offering courses to law enforcement in Lubbock in 1972. Wayland opened its first official external campus in Wichita Falls in 1974, Amarillo in 1976 and Hawaii in 1979. Wayland also reached out to non-traditional, full-time adult learners by offering a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education (which later became the Bachelor of Applied Science) degree in 1973.
In the 1980s, Wayland moved from college to university status and began offering graduate and lifelong learning programs. At the dawn of the 21st century, the university opened another campus in Altus and opened its virtual campus so students around the world could attend Wayland. By 2003, Wayland Baptist University had become the fourth-largest Southern Baptist university in the United States.
Wayland continues to operate campuses and offer degrees in six states and the African nation of Kenya, as well as online, and in 2016, the university began its first doctoral program, the Doctor of Management Degree.