Mount Vernon Nazarene University was founded by action of the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene in 1964 when the Assembly authorized the start of two new liberal arts colleges and a Bible college. The first Board of Trustees, organized in spring 1966, elected Stephen W. Nease as its first president in May 1966. In September 1966 the Trustees voted to locate the College in Mount Vernon, Ohio on the Lakeholm farm. The land was purchased with funds raised by public subscription in the Mount Vernon area and deeded to the Board of Trustees as the university site. A charter was received from the State of Ohio in December 1966. The first students, the Pioneer Class, arrived on campus October 12, 1968.
The first graduates received associate degrees in June 1970. Four succeeding two-year classes received associate degrees through May 1974. In 1972 the University was accredited as an associate degree conferring institution by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation was extended in 1974 to include baccalaureate degree programs. In 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009 the accreditation was reaffirmed. The first junior class enrolled in the academic year 1974 and the senior class was added in 1975. The first baccalaureate degree was awarded in May 1976. The graduate program began in 1991 with the first class of students in the Master of Ministry program. The first graduate students were graduated in May 1994.
The University began its degree completion program for adult learners in fall 1993. Its first graduates received the Bachelor of Business Administration degree in spring 1995.
The Master of Science in Management program was initiated in 2003. The Master of Business Administration degree program was approved by the Ohio Board of Regents and The Higher Learning Commission in 2006 and the first MBA degrees were awarded in December 2006.
The University received a Certificate of Authorization from the Ohio Board of Regents in 1969 and was elected to membership in the Ohio College Association in 1971. In 1975 the University received accreditation of the Teacher Education Program.
The Master of Arts in Education program received approval from the State of Ohio and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and began in fall 1995. The first graduates completed the program in spring 1997.
Dr. John Allan Knight, the second president, served from August 1972 until June 1975. Dr. L. Guy Nees, the third president, served from June 1975 until November 1980. In November 1980, Dr. William J. Prince was elected as the fourth president; he served through July 1989. In July 1989, Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks was elected as the fifth president. The transition to university status was completed in August 2002. Dr. Daniel J. Martin was elected as the University’s sixth president in November 2006 and began his service in February 2007.