Our History

For almost 190 years, McCormick Theological Seminary has enjoyed a rich and storied history as a noted center of theological education.

Hanover, Indiana

Like many pioneers, McCormick Theological Seminary was born in a log cabin. With a handful of students and a faculty of two, McCormick held an inaugural celebration on June 29, 1829. The Seminary was originally established in Indiana, and remained there until the beginning of the Civil War when it relocated to Chicago, Illinois.

At that time, Chicago was a city of 100,000 people and a strategic center of national growth. It was home to many successful entrepreneurs, including Cyrus H. McCormick, an industrialist and ardent Presbyterian layman. Cyrus McCormick’s vision for the city included the establishment of a Presbyterian seminary, and from 1859 until well into the twentieth century, McCormick, his wife Nettie, and their heirs were the school’s financial mainstay. Shortly after McCormick’s death in 1884, the school was renamed McCormick Theological Seminary.

Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois

The Seminary’s first Chicago location was in Lincoln Park on the city’s north side, where it remained for over a century. By the middle of the twentieth century, McCormick's urban location placed it in the swirling center of American societal conflict and change. In 1968, news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s tragic assassination led to the eruption of rioting and burning in Chicago. McCormick students and faculty joined other "Seminarians for Racial Justice" in providing services for the displaced and injured. In the late summer of that same year, a McCormick student was seriously injured as he and other seminarians, joining with area clergy, sought to be a buffer between police and citizens during the Democratic National Convention. In the spring of 1969, McCormick's new administrative/academic building was occupied by several minority groups to protest the plight of the poor in Chicago.

Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois

By 1972, the Board of Directors initiated a series of studies concerning relocation of the Seminary. The studies focused on two possibilities: joining Garrett Theological Seminary and Seabury-Western Theological School on their Evanston campus or moving to Hyde Park, where there was already a thriving cluster of theological institutions and the remarkable resources of the University of Chicago. McCormick chose to relocate to Hyde Park and began offering Masters level programs there in 1975. Relocation to this area opened the way for greater ecumenical contact and experience and allowed McCormick to share academic, library, and housing facilities with the near-by Jesuit School of Theology, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

In 1973, McCormick began a program for Latino/a ministries, soon followed by development of an African-American ministries program. In 1988, the Seminary also made a commitment to Korean-American ministries, and to achieving a balanced ratio of male to female students.  

In 2003 McCormick built a new administration building that forms an architectual connection with the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. This building extends the decades-long collaboration with LSTC, through cooperative use of facilities, academic programming, joint classroom space, and a shared library.

Today, the McCormick community is so diverse that no one racial/ethnic culture constitutes a majority. This diversity, together with an urban environment, continues to embody McCormick's commitment to a Reformed theological education that integrates scholarship, ecumism, with an unceasing commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.