The storied history of formal Christian education in the Shoals goes back to January 1, 1871 when Theophilus Brown Larimore and Julia Esther Gresham Larimore opened Mars Hill Academy (a.k.a. Mars Hill College). This school operated to “train ministers and Christian workers for the Church of Christ.” Larimore closed the school in 1887 believing that he could provide a better service to churches by preaching full time instead of training leaders. Local organized Christian education for the churches of Christ resumed in 1947 when Mars Hill Bible School, a primary/secondary school, began on the site of Mars Hill Academy.

Heritage Christian University began as International Bible College in 1971 to increase the number of capable men and women with world vision and to prepare them for a life of Christian service, with Charles R. Coil serving as the inaugural president. Mrs. Inez Alexander donated a portion of the original Gresham/Larimore land for the current location of the school. From its inception, the university offered a four-­year program of study emphasizing the biblical text, ministry, and evangelism and culminating with the bachelor’s degree. Thirty-­one students formed the inaugural class.

In 1990 alumnus Dennis Jones became the second president of International Bible College and continues to serve in that capacity.

A graduate program offering the Master of Ministry and Master of Arts degrees was added in the fall of 2000 to meet the need of advanced education for preachers and church leaders. In January 2001, the institution changed its name to Heritage Christian University to reflect more accurately its status as offering both graduate and undergraduate degrees. On August 18, 2001 the first graduates completed the Master’s program and received their degrees. In the fall of 2011 the university initiated a Master of Divinity degree program with emphasis on small church growth.

The academic programs of Heritage Christian University are accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Initial accreditation was achieved in 1988. Accreditation was reaffirmed for a ten year period in 2009. In 2011 HCU was acknowledged as a Military Friendly School, one of the Service Members Opportunity Colleges, and a Yellow Ribbon School.

Alumni of the Year

Beginning in 1985, the University’s Alumni Association began to award an annual “Alumnus of the Year” Award. The following individuals have been named “Alumnus of the Year”:

2011 Bradley George Johnson (1999) and Ronya Joy Johnson (2000)
2010 Sara Kathryn Lyne Goldman (2000)
2009 James Robert Hall (1979)
2008 James Waverly “Sonny” Owens (1988)
2007 Nigel Murray Milo (1998)
2006 Myra Wade Underwood (1978)
2005 P. Edmund Cagle (1988)
2004 Jerry Bell (1988)
2003 Steve Vice (1992)
2002 Stanley Hubbard (1992)
2001 Austin Vimba (1995)
2000 Tom Leavins (1977)
1999 David R. Short (1979)
1998 Steven Worley (1984)
1997 Phillip Hines (1976)
1996 Randy English (1989)
1995 Gary Marshall (1979)
1994 Chris Ward (1984)
1993 Bobby South (1986)
1992 Daniel Frithjof Steinhauer (1988)
1991 Thomas L. Holiday (1985)
1990 C. Wayne Kilpatrick (1974)
1989 Charles Thompson (1972)
1988 Herschel L. McFarlen (1975)
1987 Glenn Russell Nichols (1977)
1986 Subin Panboon (1973)
1985 John Henry (1973)