Our Past

It all began in 1946 at the Trailways Bus Station in Covington, Kentucky. A handful of students and instructors participated in classes offered through the University of Kentucky’s educational extension services. The students were secretaries, recent high school graduates, and World War II veterans on the G.I. Bill. These students took a variety of courses, including beginning math, typing, first-year business classes, and English. The instructors were area high school teachers.

In the years that followed, a bipartisan group of members of the Northern Kentucky community lobbied for a new institution, which paved the way for the creation of Northern Kentucky State College in 1968. Just a year later, more than 1,000 students were enrolled as the institution began to prepare for a move to its new home in Highland Heights. The campus grew quickly, soon adding a law school and a residential village. 

In 1976, the institution became a university. The campus continued to expand, with enrollment topping 8,000 students in 1980 and 10,000 students less than a decade later. Year after year, the University responded to increasing student demand by establishing new academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including the doctoral degree. 

The 1990s saw unprecedented community engagement and new strategic partnerships, all of which brought national recognition to the University for its contribution to the economic and social vitality of the Northern Kentucky region. NKU would become a perennial member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. And when the Carnegie Foundation created a new designation for community engagement, NKU would be part of its inaugural class.

Our students also excelled in athletics, bringing home three NCAA Division II national championships in the first decade of the 21st century – women’s basketball titles in 2000 and 2008 as well as a men’s soccer crown in 2010. With new facilities, the University envisioned a transition to the highest level of intercollegiate athletics, and we began the reclassification as an NCAA Division I institution in 2012.

From its first days, NKU would be a place where faculty and staff put students at the center of learning and made student success their life’s work. This University is a place where the flame within each student is fueled and the dream within each person is realized.