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History and Presidents

Founded in 1968, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, in Mount Vernon, Ohio is a co-educational liberal arts university with an intentionally Christian foundation and mission.

From the very beginning, Mount Vernon Nazarene College has been alive with God-given possibility — this was a community who cared, loved, and served each other. With the help of the Church of the Nazarene and the local community, God’s hand was evident from the early days as MVNC was created, designed, and shaped into existence by a people committed to God. It is into this place that God placed a vision on the hearts of our founding faculty and staff to transform an ordinary farm into an extraordinary community of believers. That calling is still heard today. We’re still a part of this calling and this community — to “Shine Forth” in all we do.

Although there are Nazarenes in the student body at MVNU, there are over 40 other Christian denominations are represented on our campus. MVNU challenges students to live up to their greatest personal potential by offering a wide variety of academic programs and many opportunities for service in a student’s university life.

MVNU encourages students to involve themselves in the local and international community by providing numerous opportunities for service and travel. With this distinctive global vision, the MVNU motto, “To Seek to Learn Is to Seek to Serve,” continues to be fulfilled by all who walk the paths of those who have gone before us.


Dr. Stephen W. Nease (1966-1972)

Brown University, A.B. (’45); Eastern Nazarene College, Th.B. (’47); Boston University, M.Ed. (’57); Eastern Nazarene College, D.D. (’66); Harvard Divinity School, graduate studies

Mount Vernon Nazarene College Founding President Dr. Stephen W. Nease was instrumental in developing “Zone A Junior College” into Mount Vernon Nazarene College. Alongside founding faculty and staff, Nease paved the way for the initial fundraising to transform 800 Martinsburg Road from “a cornfield to a college.” With Nease’s official inauguration in 1969, the campus began to take shape with Founders Hall, Faculty Hall, Campus Center, student housing, the Multi-Purpose Building, and tennis courts. The Pioneer Class presented MVNC with the Eternal Flame as a gift in 1970.

Dr. John A. Knight (1972-1975)

Bethany College; University of Oklahoma; Vanderbilt University, Ph.D.

Before his inauguration in 1972, Dr. John A. Knight was chaplain and chair of the Religion Department at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in 1970. During the “Knight years” the president furthered the effort for four-year accreditation that Dr. Nease had initiated. MVNU became a four-year institution in 1974, and the education degree program was added in in 1975. Knight had a heart for the Mount Vernon community, and represented MVNU on several area committees and boards, and was named “Man of the Year” in 1973.

Dr. L. Guy Nees (1975-1980)

Northwest Nazarene College, B.A. (’59); Nazarene Theological Seminary, B.D. (’62); Wesley Theological Seminary, D.Min. (’76); Pasadena College, graduate studies; Hamma School of Theology, graduate studies; Howard School of Divinity, graduate studies

Dr. L. Guy Nees had the opportunity to revise key curriculum at Mount Vernon Nazarene College. Just as MVNC produced its first bachelor of arts graduates, Nees worked to develop facilities for art and music and other student housing like Maplewood, Elmwood, and Central Complex. Nees’ presidential campaign brought in $1.15 million to expand the Campus Center building. Nees had a reliable and friendly reputation among his peers and the community and spent time fostering relationships to spread the word about MVNC.

Dr. William J. Prince (1980-1989)

Bethany Nazarene College, B.A.; Nazarene Theological Seminary, M.Div.; Bethany Nazarene College, D.D.

Dr. William J. Prince set his eyes on higher things early on in his presidency at Mount Vernon Nazarene College. Prince had a vision for more space for students to learn, experiment, and to grow. Prince initiated a $5 million campaign to construct a chapel and fine arts building, and executed the expansion of the campus with Regents Hall, the Proper Road “MVNC Woods” property, WNZR radio station, student housing, and more.  Prince was also known for his ambitious thinking and consistent follow through.

Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks (1989-2007)

Trevecca Nazarene College, B.A. (’64); Scarritt College, M.A. (’67); Nazarene Theological Seminary, M.Div. (’70); Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Th. (’71); Princeton Theological Seminary, fellow in pastoral leadership education, (’76); Nazarene Theological Seminary, D.Min. (’78); Harvard University, post-doctoral studies (’91)

Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks was instrumental in the transformation of Mount Vernon Nazarene College to Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Fairbanks saw the 61,000 square-foot R.R. Hodges Chapel Auditorium come to fruition in 1990, along with Thorne Performance Hall. Fairbanks envisioned the future of MVNC with landmark additions in the Free Enterprise Business Center (The Jetter School of Business), the Thorne Library and Learning Resource Center, and adult education in the Executive Center for Lifelong Learning (School of Graduate and Professional Studies Program). Other developments included the construction of the Prince Student Union, the Jennie K. Moore building, and satellite adult education campuses.

In a move with far ranging future implications for MVNU, Dr. Fairbanks engaged local community leaders in conversations that led to the university’s presence downtown.

MVNC became Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Aug. 1, 2002. Soon after, the University saw an exciting increase in enrollment and an increase in acreage, as the campus expanded to 401 acres.

Dr. Daniel J. Martin (2007-2012)
Southern Nazarene University, B.A. (’89); University of Kansas, MBA (’93); University of Kansas, J.D. (’93); University of Kansas, Ed.D. (’98); University of Pennsylvania, Ed.D. (’06)

As Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s sixth president, Dr. Daniel J. Martin brought an academic vision to the table. Martin continued to invest in community relationships to expand our downtown presence. With the partnership of Dr. Karen Wright, Hunter Hall and Schnormeier Gallery took shape to revitalize the area. In addition, Ariel Arena, a state-of-the-art athletic facility was constructed. Martin also accepted a $10 million gift; oversaw a 10-year reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission; and the addition of several new academic programs.

Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II (2012-2023)
Trevecca Nazarene University, B.A. (’74); Nazarene Theological Seminary, M.Div. (’77); Florida State University, Ph.D. (’82)

Henry W. Spaulding II, Ph.D., strategically and prayerfully led the University into a new age of strong academics and an expanded presence within downtown Mount Vernon. Through the MVNU 2023 Strategic Plan, Spaulding outlined initiatives that expanded and enhanced academic offerings. The University added its Engineering department and Communication Sciences and Disorders major in 2014, and completed the Center for Student Success in the fall of 2015. The $2.5 million Title III grant transformed the lower level of the Thorne Library and Learning Resource Center into a bustling hub for study and student-focused work. In addition, The Mount Vernon Grand Hotel opened in early spring of 2016 in downtown Mount Vernon. What used to be the historic Curtis Inn, The Grand is a Victorian, boutique-style hotel with 46 rooms and a winding staircase. Finally, Dr. Spaulding implemented the MVNU 2027 Strategic Plan, which includes the first doctoral program in the school’s history as well as several other new academic programs.

Dr. Carson Castleman (Oct. 1, 2023-present)

Northern Kentucky University, B.A. ('96); Capella University, Ph.D., ('13); Indiana Wesleyan University, M.S. ('20); Liberty University, M.A. ('22); Indiana Wesleyan University, MBA ('23)

Dr. Carson Castleman was elected as the 8th President of Mount Vernon Nazarene University on Aug. 11, 2023. He brings an extensive background in Christian higher education, a proven track record of innovative leadership, dedication to academic advancement, and servant leadership that aligns seamlessly with our mission and values. Dr. Castleman grew up in the Eastern Kentucky District and spent his life serving the Church of the Nazarene in various capacities, making him the first MVNU President from the University's region.

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