A History of Higher Education in North Omaha

Creighton University, University of Omaha, Metro Community College, Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Grace University were all at home in North Omaha.

Did you know that North Omaha has been home to FIVE higher education institutions in its history? It was 1863 when the Town of Saratoga, now located in North Omaha, went to the Nebraska Territorial Legislature and secured a charter for the first-ever University of Nebraska. Unfortunately, their efforts amounted in nil—but their legacy did not!

North Omaha’s young people are obviously supposed to go to college. With feeders from some of the most powerful high schools in Nebraska, these higher education institutions have been integral to the community and the state’s successes. Into the future, these institutions will drive the successes of the community! I present their history as evidence…

Creighton University

Creighton College
This is an 1880s atlas map of Creighton College at N. 24th and California Streets.

The Creighton family — including Edward, John and Mary — left an indelible mark on Omaha. In 1878, Mary’s donation to establish a school in memory of her husband Edward founded Creighton College. The first building was located on North 24th Street, and the university continues to expand there today. Edward’s brother John built and sustained the institution. Today, with more than 140 acres along Cuming Street, the university has more than 8,000 students who study in a college of arts and sciences; a college of business; a college of nursing; a school of dentistry; a school of medicine; a school of pharmacy and health professions; a school of law; and a college of professional studies.

Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 3033 N. 21st St., North Omaha, Nebraska
The Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary was located in North Omaha at 3303 N. 21st St. from 1904 to 1943. Key: 1. Seminary building, 1926; 2. Seminary building, 1906; 3. the The Vanderburgh House circa 1926; 4. Graduates, 1930; Dormitory room, 1916; 6. Lawn off Florence Blvd, 1926; Faculty, 1924; 8. Student lounge, 1914; 9. Entrance, 1926.

In 1891, the Presbytery of Nebraska decided they needed to send ministers throughout Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas and beyond. Opening the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary at the old Cozzens Hotel in downtown Omaha, they held classes for dozens of ministerial candidates through 1902. That year, they opened a grand new facility in the Kountze Place neighborhood on a five acre campus at Florence Boulevard and Spencer Streets. With more than 100 rooms, the building housed classrooms, an auditorium and library, and a dormitory. In 1942, the facility was closed permanently. Today, the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Foundation carries on the legacy of the institution.

University of Omaha

University of Omaha opened in North Omaha in 1907, and moved away in 1937.
The University of Omaha opened in North Omaha in 1907. Its locations included Redick Hall, Jacobs Gymnasium, Science Hall and Joslyn Hall. It moved away in 1937.

Omaha University was founded in 1908 at North 24th and Pratt Streets. Today, the university credits the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary with founding the university as a coeducational, secular institution. With almost a dozen buildings scattered between Kountze Place and Saratoga, the university graduated more than 2,000 students in 30 years between 1908 and 1937. That year, the federal CCC program built a new campus on West Dodge Road, and closed their North O facilities. After becoming a municipal university in the 1930s, today the University of Nebraska at Omaha continues expanding in west Omaha.

Grace University

After the Presbyterians closed their seminary in spring 1942, the Grace Bible Institute opened in the building the following month. It stayed there for several months, and moved to the former Stuntz Hall, which was part of the second Brownell Hall school, on South 10th Street right afterward. In the 1970s, it moved to the former St. Catherine’s Hospital on South 10th and stayed there until 2017, when it was announced they were moving to Blair.

Metro Community College

An 1875 drawing of Fort Omaha, Nebraska
A circa 1875 drawing of Fort Omaha featuring the wooden buildings, and the hospital in the northwest (upper right) corner. None of these particular buildings still exist.

Opened in the 1870s, Fort Omaha served on and off as a for almost a century. When the US government decommissioned the base in the early 1970s, the Metropolitan Technological and Community College moved to protect the facility by moving in. Since then, not only has Metro protected and preserved the historic buildings on the campus, they have also expanded and enhanced the heritage of the facility. With more than 30 historic buildings, several significant events and countless meaningful people having come and gone through Fort Omaha, the college has been a boon to North Omaha and the city as a whole.

Getting Smarter

In talking about the higher education in North Omaha, I shouldn’t neglect the private institutions that have marked the community’s history, too. The Duchesne College of the Sacred Heart operated from 1908 to 1968, awarding degrees in a variety of areas. It was accredited by NCA as a junior college in 1937 and as a senior college in 1939. The Immanuel Nursing School awarded nursing degrees from 1891 to 1974. The Swedish Mission Hospital was a teaching facility, too, with nurses earning degrees there, too.

North Omaha has an amazing legacy of higher education! Although much of the city is neglectful of North Omaha’s higher education heritage, history shows the legacy and depth of the community’s roots. Time will show that North O will only get smarter from here out!

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This is the Immanuel Deaconess Institute School of Nursing, located at N. 34th and Meredith from 1891 to 1974.
The “General Plan of Grounds and Buildings” for the University of Omaha, made in 1928.
These are images of the Creighton Family of Omaha, including Edward (1820-1874), Mary L. (1820-1874), Sarah E. (1840-1888) and John A. Creighton (1831-1907).
These are images of the Creighton Family of Omaha, including Edward (1820-1874), Mary L. (1820-1874), Sarah E. (1840-1888) and John A. Creighton (1831-1907).
Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the 5-acre lawn at the Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which was the boundary with Florence Boulevard.

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