Since 1868, Bloomfield College has educated thousands of students from all over the world, currently making it one of the most diverse institutions of higher education in the country. With its beginnings as the German Theological School founded by the Presbytery of Newark in 1868, the College has evolved with the changing populations to become one of New Jersey’s best private colleges, serving a diverse population and graduating thousands of first generation students.From the original nine students who graduated in 1874 as German-speaking Presbyterian ministers to the more than 2200 students enrolled in Bloomfield College today, the mission has been focused on global education: to prepare students to attain academic, personal and professional excellence in a multicultural and global society.
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the Essex county area experienced an influx of European immigrants, primarily from Germany and Ireland. Testing the area’s ability to accommodate people from diverse backgrounds, institutions began to emerge to meet the growing needs of their new populations. While the Irish gravitated to the Roman Catholic Church, the Germans adhered to several different denominations and the Presbytery of Newark saw the need to minister to the immigrants entering New Jersey in great numbers.
The German Theological School opened in 1868 on the grounds of Newark’s First German Presbyterian Church with four students. They were soon joined by five others and in 1874, seven of the nine students graduated to become German-speaking Presbyterian ministers.
In 1872, the school moved to the former Bloomfield Academy on Franklin Street in Bloomfield, which was renamed Seibert Hall in honor of the school’s first president, Rev. George Seibert. The hall served as a dormitory, classrooms, faculty housing, and library. Students took their meals as borders in nearby residences until the refectory was added to Seibert Hall in the 1890s. In the early twentieth century, Liberty Hall was acquired and the increasing student body used this as a residence hall.
At one point, the school’s entire curriculum spanned nine years: five years in preparatory courses, one year in college courses and three years in theological courses. In 1909, the New Jersey Legislature authorized the school to grant the bachelor of arts degree in addition to a bachelor of divinity. In 1913, the German Theological Seminary changed its name to Bloomfield Theological Seminary.
Over the years, as the local population began to reflect greater diversity, the school incorporated more languages and taught courses in Italian, Hungarian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, and Russian. Students came to the college not only to study theology, but to gain a solid liberal arts foundation. In post-World War I years, the college received approval for a four-year program and the school’s name was again changed to Bloomfield College and Seminary. In 1961, the school simply became known as Bloomfield College.
Bloomfield College has grown in both number and space. From one building more than 140 years ago, the institution now owns or leases more than 45 buildings that house students, offices, classrooms, labs, and technology. Each graduating class typically represents more than 50 countries world-wide and students are encouraged to celebrate their cultural and ethnic backgrounds with each other. As the population shifts and educational demands change, Bloomfield College has a strong history of renewal to meet and exceed the needs of students worldwide.