Grace Bible College began in 1939. It was founded as Milwaukee Bible Institute, a training center for laymen and Sunday School teachers of Milwaukee. The Institute was organized by Reverend Charles F. Baker, then pastor of Fundamental Bible Church. The regular day school program began in 1945. This move was stimulated by a group of evangelical pastors especially concerned about advancing a dispensational theology approach to the Bible, the distinctive character of the revelation given to the apostle Paul, and the preparation of full-time Christian workers to fulfill this goal. In 1953, the curriculum was broadened and Milwaukee Bible Institute became Milwaukee Bible College.
In 1961, the College relocated to suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was renamed Grace Bible College. The State of Michigan granted the College the authority to grant Associate and Bachelor of Religious Education degrees, as well as a five-year degree for vocational ministers. In 1967, Dr. Jack T. Dean became President and led the College through a period of growth and expansion. The College early on (1964) received accreditation from the Association of American Biblical Colleges (now Association of Biblical Higher Education).
In order to serve the growing needs of students and those of the broader Christian community and society, Grace Bible College has expanded its degree programs over the years. These degrees include an Associate of Arts as well as Bachelor’s degrees in Worship Arts, Biblical Studies, Human Services, Early Childhood Education, Business, and Interdisciplinary Studies. Bachelor of Science degrees are granted in Pastoral Ministry, Youth Ministry, Intercultural Studies, and General Ministry Studies. Over the years, Grace has formed a consortium with two local colleges: Davenport and Cornerstone Universities, which allow students to graduate with dual degrees in business or education, as well as a few other degrees offered by Cornerstone. Dr. Samuel R. Vinton was the College’s third President from 1985-1989. Under President Vinton, initial regional accreditation was granted to the College by the North Central Association (now the Higher Learning Commission) with the hard work of Dr. Marlin Olson and others.
Along with academic expansion, the College has been blessed with numerous progressive steps in student development. Dr. Bruce Kemper came to Grace Bible College in 1990 from local church pastoral ministry and stressed a strong ministry emphasis. During his tenure, the Bultema Memorial Library was expanded. Throughout the years, Grace Bible College has continued to emphasize off-campus ministry — in the local neighborhood as well as around the country and cross-cultural ministry teams overseas. These ministries often are led by faculty and staff or students in leadership. The Grace Singers is a long-standing music ministry team. These and other gospel teams which minister to students in churches, as well as evangelism and preaching teams have been a constant part of the College’s commitment to ministry for every student as a normal way of life.
Grace has a proud history of inter-collegiate athletics (soccer, volleyball, basketball, and cross-country) since moving to the Grand Rapids Campus and has many regional as well as National Championships against much larger opponents.
Ken B. Kemper was called on to lead the College in early 2003 when his father retired and by God’s strength, he brought vision and energy to the College. Several significant updates and additions have taken place on the campus. The Dean Academic Center was purchased and remodeled in 2005, more than tripling classroom space and faculty offices, as well as adding over five more acres to the GBC Campus. In addition, the O’Hair Administration Building was remodeled to house Grace Ministries International, Grace Gospel Fellowship, and Grace Publications. In 2010, Grace Bible College began a non-traditional education program offering working adults an opportunity to study one night a week or exclusively online to earn an Associate or Bachelor Degree. The “Beyond the Bricks” Capital Campaign revitalized the campus, added a student commons, as well as upgraded exterior parking, walkways and landscaping. God has blessed the College’s efforts in student enrollment as it grew from 160 students in 2008 to over 340 in 2015. At the same time, an additional 450 non-traditional students enrolled from 2010 to 2015. This enrollment increase helped the College grow its program in both size and quality of academic and student services.
Praise God there are hundreds of GBC alumni serving the Lord with great impact in various vocational settings around the world today!