Mackinac College

Mackinac College was a private liberal arts college which opened on Mackinac Island, Michigan, in the fall of 1966 and closed four years later in 1970. The college taught courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, modern languages, theater, television, radio, journalism, art, government, and public affairs. The college offered professional degrees.

Mackinac College
Mission Point buildings 1969, conference center & library, Mackinac Island.jpg
The Clark Center for Arts and Sciences (left) and Peter Howard Memorial Library (right) were constructed for use by Mackinac College.
MottoTo learn how to learn, to live, and to lead.
Active1966 (1966)–1970 (1970)
PresidentSamuel Douglas Cornell, Ph.D. (1965–1970)
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Location, ,
Coordinates: 45°51′05″N 84°36′20″W / 45.851391°N 84.605424°W / 45.851391; -84.605424
Colorsred and blue


In 1964, journalist Peter Howard of the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement proposed the idea of converting the MRA camp at Mackinac Island, which stood unused for a large portion of the year, into a college campus. His proposal was to create a high-level school institution to educate young adults for the 21st century to play key roles in international relations, modern languages, theater, television, radio, journalism, art, government, and public affairs. The college planned to offer professional degrees in these fields. The school was granted a charter from the state of Michigan in 1965.[2]

The MRA deeded its headquarters on the island and the Old Mission House to Mackinac College.[3] The first class was admitted in 1966, due to graduate in 1970, consisted of 113 students from 30 states and Canada.[4][5] The charter class of freshmen students were put in temporary classroom facilities on September 15 in the new Peter Howard Memorial Library building on the beach at Cedar Point until the college facilities were finished.[6] Optical physicist Samuel Douglas Cornell resigned from his 12 year position as an executive manager of the National Academy of Sciences to become the school's president.[7][8]

A gift of $1,500,000 (equivalent to $8,000,000 in 2020) from a Mr and Mrs William Van Alan Clark of New York City for construction and equipping of the main classroom-laboratory building of Mackinac College was announced by the board trustees in the first week of May 1966. It was for a 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2), two-story, reinforced concrete structure. It had completion scheduled for August 1967. The donor was an honorary chairman of the board of Avon Products. The donor and his wife had discussed the need for an academic center with Cornell on several occasions. The concept evolved of a science center being integrated with the college's existing fine arts facility. The new center housed 20 classrooms, 13 seminar study areas, a lecture hall capable of seating 300, faculty offices, and laboratories for biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and languages. The new arts and science center, designed by a well-known architectural firm of Little Rock, Arkansas, was planned to harmonize with the existing college buildings and with the surrounding wooded lake shore area where the campus was.[9][10]


Peter Howard Memorial Library

During its operations, Mackinac College had a liberal arts focus (unlike the MRA's College of the Good Road which focused on teaching ideology of the MRA), and joined in with the "radical critique of traditional higher education" which was happening in the 1960s, although the MRA was generally strongly opposed to most of the ideals of the 1960s counter culture.[2] Students participated in the creation of the curriculum,[11] but were not allowed to date which caused discord and unrest with some clandestine activity.[12]

The college held its first and final commencement exercises of 29 seniors receiving Bachelor of Arts degrees on June 20, 1970. The exercises were held in the Great Hall of the college that was preceded by the traditional academic procession that included some 20 members of the present and past faculties. All former faculty members of the college were invited to take part in the commencement ceremony. Cornell directed the exercises, which began with a message of greeting from the chairman of the board of trustees. The students chose not to have the regular commencement address and instead some of the students spoke briefly during the exercises.[13]

Mission Point Resort

Closing and legacyEdit

The school closed at the end of June 1970, four years after opening.[14][15][16] The American School Board Journal cited the reasons for the closure as being "familiar": the high costs of setting up the campus and programs, a smaller enrollment than planned and a lack of alumni to fund endowments.[11] After closing, the campus was sold to Cathedral of Tomorrow,[17] founded by Rex Humbard who reopened Mackinac College in 1972 as a bible college under the same name.[1] The campus was sold in 1977 to a Dallas-based real estate development firm which transformed it into the Mackinac Hotel & Conference Center.[18][19] The property was again sold in 1987 and redeveloped into the Mission Point Resort, with the Howard Library being torn down a few years later.[20]


  1. ^ a b Associated Press (Oct 26, 1972). "Beachhead for Old Time Religion". The Argus-Press. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b Sack 2009, pp. 183–186, 219.
  3. ^ Adie 2012, p. 58.
  4. ^ North 2011, p. 49.
  5. ^ "Mackinac College inaugurated at impressive island Ceremony". Green Bay Press-Gazette. Green Bay, Wisconsin. October 2, 1966. p. 27. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  6. ^ "Vacation Over". The Evening News. Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. September 7, 1966. p. 14. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  7. ^ "Best Wishes, Dr. Cornell". The Evening News. Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. October 5, 1966. p. 4. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  8. ^ "Funeral Notices", Arizona Daily Star, p. A21, November 23, 2010, retrieved January 31, 2014
  9. ^ "$1.5 Million Gift for Mackinac College". The Evening News. Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. May 2, 1966. p. 1. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  10. ^ "Mackinac College Building is result of $1.5 Million Gift". Idaho Free Press. Nampa, Idaho. May 5, 1966. p. 13. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  11. ^ a b Bruce 1970, p. 10.
  12. ^ "Mackinac Island's Short-lived College, 1966–1970". 99.1 WFMK. Townsquare Media, Inc. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  13. ^ "Mackinac College To Award 29 Degrees Next Saturday". The Evening News. Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. June 18, 1970. p. 8. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  14. ^ "Moral Re-Armament Cuts U.S. Operations", New York Times, p. 30, August 10, 1970, retrieved January 31, 2014
  15. ^ "Mackinac College Closes". The Escanaba Daily Press. Escanaba, Michigan. June 22, 1970. p. 7. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  16. ^ "College on Mackinac Island for sale". Lansing State Journal. Lansing, Michigan. August 16, 1970. p. 55. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  17. ^ "Ohio Catherdral to take over closed Campus". Des Moines Tribune. Des Moines, Iowa. April 5, 1972. p. 19. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  18. ^ "Resort transition". Southtown Star. Tinley Park, Illinois. September 18, 1988. p. 18. Retrieved September 23, 2021 – via  .
  19. ^ Porter 1998, p. 99.
  20. ^ "Mission Point began as a conference center and college". Mackinac State Historic Parks Alerts. Mackinac Historic Parks. April 24, 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2021.


  • Porter, Phil (1998). Mackinac: an island famous in these regions. Mackinac State Historic Parks. ISBN 9780911872699.