History And Tradition

Founded in 1853 by a determined group of pioneer settlers, Central College has, since its inception, been committed to the ideals of liberal education. Central was originally a Baptist institution, and its founders immigrated to central Iowa to escape religious tyranny in the Netherlands.


Central College officially opened Oct. 8, 1854, with a class of 37. The campus consisted of one two-story building containing three rudimentary classrooms. This fledgling institution grew both in size and mission during its first 60 years, eventually moving to a parcel of land donated by Pella’s founding father, Dominie Pieter Scholte. The college survived fires, three wars and economic depression during a period of history that saw the United States double in size.


In 1916, Central became affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. As its academic reputation grew, Central attracted many more students from outside the denomination.


Today, Central College welcomes approximately 1,100 students each year from around the world..


Central’s home of Pella, Iowa, is a thriving community of more than 10,000. Pella impressively appears in Oprah’s 2021 60 Charming American Towns You Haven’t Heard of But Should Visit ASAP. The community is famous for its annual Tulip Time Festival, its Dutch pastries and its fully functional 1850s-style windmill. In fact, Pella has it all! Pella is located just minutes from Red Rock Lake, Iowa’s largest lake, and is the corporate headquarters of several international companies, including Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation, Precision, Inc., and Lely North America.


Central’s four-year liberal curriculum offers dozens of academic programs in the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. In 2018, the college celebrated its first graduates from its new engineering program. The college also has several professional programs and more than a dozen pre-professional tracks including dentistry, health, pharmacy, law, medicine, nursing, athletic training and more.  The Dutch compete in 21 varsity sports and have earned 11 Division III national titles—more than any other Division III college in Iowa. An extensive program of art, music, theatre and cultural events are offered every semester.