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Our History

The Evolution of NLU

ul 1.30.13 In 1886, National Louis University began as a radical idea for its time: a college to train women as kindergarten teachers. Our visionary founder, Elizabeth Harrison, believed that the future prosperity of a community began with the education of its youngest children. She also believed that teaching was a noble and difficult profession that demanded a college degree. As Chicago grew from a prairie outpost to an icon of American diversity and industry, NLU evolved from its beginnings as Miss Harrison’s Training School into a full university and one of the most respected “teacher of teachers” in the region.

Today, NLU is the outcome of and testament to the vision of our founders. It is a contemporary university committed to innovation and best practices in both undergraduate and graduate education. A university that excels in creating learning communities where theory complements practice, NLU sustains an 125-year tradition of access to higher education for first-generation and urban university students who want to make a lasting impact in their lives and in their communities.


Landmark moments in the creation and evolution of National Louis University: 

ul 1.30.13 1886 – Elizabeth Harrison has a radical idea for her time: create a college to train women to teach kindergarten primarily in immigrant communities. Harrison opens Miss Harrison’s Training School at the Loring School on Prairie Avenue in Chicago. The modern American kindergarten movement begins.

1894 – Harrison and her colleagues and their freshly renamed Chicago Kindergarten College launch the first in a series of convocations to connect mothers with their children’s teachers in the public schools. Those meetings lead to the 1897 founding of the National College of Mothers, later renamed the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). 

ul 1.30.13 1906 – The Chicago Kindergarten College incorporates as a non-profit entity and moves to a new location on Michigan Ave. The school pioneers educational delivery systems by offering branch classes in other cities, as well as a correspondence course. This dedication to supporting students in where and how they learn best remains a central mission of NLU.

1930 The college changes its name for a final time, becoming the National College of Education, and introduces the first four-year teacher-training program in Illinois.

1982 As the National College of Education (NCE) offers a broadening range of advanced degrees, it finds that students require supporting coursework in arts and sciences content areas. Thanks to the generous financial support of philanthropist Michael W. Louis, a separate College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is established offering degree programs in fine arts, English, applied languages, psychology, public policy, social sciences and more.

ul 1.30.13 1986 – Michael W. Louis makes a historic, $30 million donation to the NCE, among the largest gifts to any college or university in Illinois.

 1989 – The university rises to the request of area businesses seeking better-prepared employees by forming the College of Management and Business (CMB) to deliver undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a much-in-demand MBA program.

ul 1.30.13 1990 – In recognition of the Louis family’s tremendous generosity and support, the institution is renamed National Louis University, a comprehensive university composed of three colleges.

1999 – NLU moves to its flagship downtown Chicago location in the historic Peoples Gas Building, while reaching other students nationwide with campuses throughout Illinois and in Wisconsin and Florida.

ul 1.30.13 2011 – National Louis University celebrates its 125th year and is respected as one of Chicago’s oldest, most innovative private universities, providing a quality education for a new type of learner: one who is pursuing an education while managing other personal and professional goals. NLU continues the commitment of its founders, who believed in the value of education as “preparation for life.” From its sense of community to its student-centered approach to online learning, the university is constantly evolving to meet society’s changing needs.

2014 The university merges the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the College of Management and Business (CMB) into one new entity, the College of Professional Studies and Advancement (CPSA). CPSA is comprised of three schools: The School of School of Health and Human Services, the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Business and Management.

2016 – National Louis University announces that it will close the Wisconsin location due to changes in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) accreditation requirements and NLU’s desire to maintain our focus as a unified institution.

2018 – National Louis University acquires Kendall College. The university also launches an expansive undergraduate college program based on its successful Harrison Professional Pathways program.


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    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

    122 S. Michigan Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60603
    (888) 658.8632
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    Conveniently located in a fast-growing business district off I-90 and Route 31, NLU Elgin features 10 classrooms with high-tech media equipment; a computer lab with high-speed Internet access; two conference rooms; and comfortable student lounges. Parking is free at this recently remodeled and upgraded teaching site, which now includes wireless Internet access.

    620 Tollgate Road
    Elgin, IL 60123
    (888) 658.8632
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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

    5202 Old Orchard Road
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located just minutes from the East-West Tollway (I-88), NLU Lisle features 42 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a separate walk-in lab in the library; a café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; conference rooms; and six comfortable student lounge areas with wireless access.

    850 Warrenville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532
    (888) 658.8632
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    Located in one of Chicago's major northwest suburbs, the newly renovated NLU Wheeling includes 20 classrooms with high-tech media equipment, four conference rooms, four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, large student lounge areas with wireless capabilities and interactive video capabilities, and an extensive research library. The site also houses the university library research collection.

    1000 Capitol Drive
    Wheeling, IL 60090
    (888) 658.8632
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    Established in 1988 and located in one of Tampa's major business districts, NLU's Florida Regional Center serves students in 13 counties in central Florida. In addition to its classrooms, the National Louis University Tampa Regional Center features a computer lab, student lounges, and conference room.

    5110 Sunforest Drive, Suite 102
    Tampa, FL 33634
    (800) 366.6581
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