Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Southern Nazarene University


Founded in 1899, Southern Nazarene University (SNU) is one of the oldest private, four-year liberal arts colleges in Oklahoma. One of eight liberal arts colleges of the Church of the Nazarene in the United States, the school serves Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. Located on a forty-acre campus in Bethany, SNU has an enrollment of approximately two thousand students representing the United States and many foreign countries and more than thirty different religious denominations.

The Church of the Nazarene was a product of the Holiness revivals that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Early Nazarenes valued higher education as a way to provide trained clergy and an educated laity. SNU resulted from the consolidation of several Holiness colleges in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas. The earliest of these institutions was Texas Holiness University, established at Greenville, Texas, in 1899. The first school at the Bethany campus was Oklahoma Holiness College, founded in 1909. In 1920 the creation of Bethany Peniel College marked a turn toward the Christian liberal arts tradition. That institution became Bethany Nazarene College in 1955 and was renamed Southern Nazarene University in 1986. In addition to its role in Oklahoma higher education since shortly after statehood, SNU was crucial to the development of the town of Bethany.

At the turn of the twenty-first century the university was fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and several other accrediting agencies. Well known in the region for its academic, cultural, and athletic accomplishments, SNU offered a full slate of undergraduate programs and several graduate programs. The university has historically emphasized to its students the importance of service to the church, the community, the nation, and the world. SNU students are engaged in scholarship and volunteer work in many foreign countries. More than twenty-five thousand SNU alumni serve successfully in most fields of endeavor, and a large number have dedicated their lives to service in education, medicine, public service, the ministry, and foreign missions.

Robert Lively



"Education, Higher—Oklahoma—Bethany," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Loren P. Gresham and L. Paul Gresham, From Many Came One In Jesus' Name: Southern Nazarene University Looks Back on a Century: A Pictorial and Synoptic History of SNU (Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Co., 1998).

W. T. Purkiser, The Second Twenty-Five Years, 1933–58, Vol. 2 of Called Unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes (Kansas City, Mo.: Nazarene Publishing House, 1983).

Timothy Lawrence Smith, The Formative Years, Vol. 1 of Called Unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes (Kansas City, Mo.: Nazarene Publishing House, 1962).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society (unless otherwise stated).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Robert Lively, “Southern Nazarene University,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=SO015.

Submit a Correction About the Encyclopedia Terms of Use