Hardin–Simmons University was founded as Abilene Baptist College in 1891 by the Sweetwater Baptist Association and a group of cattlemen and pastors who sought to bring Christian higher education to the Southwest. The purpose of the school would be "to lead students to Christ, teach them of Christ, and train them for Christ." The original land was donated to the university by rancher C.W. Merchant. It was the first school of higher education established west of Fort Worth. The school was renamed Simmons College in 1892 in honor of an early contributor, James B. Simmons. By 1907 it claimed an enrollment of 524 and a staff of 49. In 1925, it became Simmons University. It was renamed Hardin–Simmons University in 1934 in honor of Mary and John G. Hardin, who were also major contributors. The university has been associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas since 1941.
1940–1940 Dr. Lucian Q. Campbell (acting president)
1940–1943 Dr. William R. White
1943–1953 Dr. Rupert N. Richardson–Wrote the personal reflection, Famous Are Thy Halls: Hardin–Simmons University As I Have Known It (1964)
1953–1962 Dr. Evan Allard Reiff
1962–1963 Dr. George L. Graham (interim)
1963–1966 Dr. James H. Landes
1966–1977 Dr. Elwin L. Skiles
1977–1991 Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher
1991–2001 Dr. Lanny Hall
2001–2008 Dr. W. Craig Turner
2009–2016 Dr. Lanny Hall
2016– Eric Bruntmyer J.D.
HSU offers six undergraduate degrees with 70 majors, and seven graduate degrees with 18 programs. Pre-professional programs include dentistry, engineering, medicine, law, pharmacology, physical therapy, and seminary. HSU offers courses in geography, Greek, Hebrew, humanities, and physical sciences, as well. The university offers a doctorate in physical therapy, the first in Texas which is open to private citizens, as well as Doctor of Education, Doctor of Ministry and a Doctor of Science degrees.
HSU students come from diverse backgrounds and a variety of Christian denominations. With an approximate enrollment of 2,500 students, the student-to-teacher ratio is 12:1.
HSU's Student Activities host an event on campus almost every week of the semester, including concerts, movie nights, dances, game nights, pool parties, SMORES cookouts, volleyball tournaments, and much more. The basement of the Student Center is a place for students to hang out and relax. It is complete with giant flat-screen TVs, cutting-edge gaming systems, bowling, pool, and ping-pong, all which can be used for free.
Hardin–Simmons offers numerous opportunities to get involved: All-School SING, Campus Recreations, Greek Life, Six White Horses, Student Congress, Student Activities, International Club, International Student Fellowship, The Brand, The Bronco, intramurals and recreation sports, various academic clubs, the World Famous Cowboy Band, Spurs Dance Team, and HSU Cheerleaders.
Several opportunities also exist for students to minister to each other and to the extended Christian community at HSU. Chapel services are held weekly for the entire student body. Neighborhood outreach programs are also available in which students can participate. Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) offers free noon lunches for students every Wednesday. The BSM provides possibilities for students to get involved in Bible study groups and go on mission trips, in addition to hosting concerts and other campus events.
Western Heritage Days
Western Heritage Days is an annual celebration of the heritage and way of life in the American frontier that has occurred since the Abilene Centennial Celebration in 1981. The event is held on the HSU campus and includes activities such as trick roping, pit branding, chuck wagon snacks, and a small farm animal petting area. The activities have become a fun educational opportunity for Abilene-area elementary school-aged children.
Hardin–Simmons is a Division III school and offers 18 varsity sports for men and women, including: football, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer (men/women), tennis (men/women), basketball (men/women), cross country (men/women), track (men/women), and golf (men/women). Women's soccer has been HSU's most successful athletic program with 19 ASC Conference Championships in the 1996-2016 period, and an NCAA Division III National Championship title in 2010.