Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
I have access to both the 1959 (purchased) and 1967 (Ancestry.com) Northern Light yearbooks. Closed only since 2008, Pillsbury Baptist Bible maintains a web presence, now through Maranatha Baptist Bible College. In October 2012 I stopped in Owatonna to take photographs. The campus still sits, immaculately maintained, as though students were only out for the weekend. Unsold, it remains the property of Northland Community Bank. The “Private Property” sign forced me out into the street for my photo.
Pillsbury Baptist Bible College came into being when the Minnesota Baptist Convention were declared owners of Pillsbury Academy. Pillsbury Academy had begun in 1877 as Minnesota Academy. In 1886 the name was changed to Pillsbury Academy to honor George A. Pillsbury, a major benefactor of the school. Originally a co-educational institution, Pillsbury Academy became a military school for boys in 1920. In 1957 the Minnesota Baptist Convention converted the school to a four-year bible college.
Academically, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College described itself as a biblical arts college “which believes and accepts the Bible as the foundation for faith and practice.” It offered a “four-year program leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Bachelor of Science in Bible.” However, students could choose a two-year program in Bible before focusing on other professional training. The college defined its mission as being “to glorify God through a Christian higher education program which imparts a biblical worldview, preparing students for Christian ministries in and through local Baptist churches.”
Students had to “agree not to use alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or non-medicinal drugs.” They also agreed “to abstain from social dancing, gambling, sexual immorality, attending movie theaters, and using unwholesome media materials.”
Yearbooks show that student life at Pillsbury was filled with spiritual, social and cultural activity. In 1967 students performed The Robe and Cyrano de Bergerac. They had opportunities to participate in both large and small musical groups—both vocal and instrumental. The campus boasted of no fewer than 16 literary societies, most named for internationally known or local religious figures. Campus activities included social events such as the Valentine’s Day Formal.
Enrollment reached 800 in the 1970’s, but by the fall semester of 2008, it had fallen to fewer than 150, well below the break-even point. As a result, the college closed in December 2008.
Bricks and Mortar
Pillsbury Baptist Bible College inherited the Pillsbury Academy campus. It was razed in 1977. Old Main, the Administration Building, dates from 1889. It and four other older buildings were placed on the National Register in 1986. Kelly Hall, the Music Building was completed in 1904. It became the men’s dormitory, when the original Kelly Hall burned in 1939. Jefts Hall, the original dining facility—later the library—came in 1911; Lindsay Gymnasium was built in 1914.
Pillsbury Hall, the women’s dormitory, was built around 1886. It was razed in 1977, and a new Pillsbury Hall, built on the same footprint, was added in 1978.
The rose window of Old Main shows through the fall foliage in this 2012 photo.
Team name: Comets
Colors: Blue and White
The 1967 Northern Light shows that Pillsbury offered six sports for men—football and soccer in the fall, wrestling and basketball in the winter, and baseball and track in the spring. Teams found a home in conferences of like schools. They were a part of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and of the National Christian College Athletic Association. The 1967 football team compiled a 3-6 record. The team defeated Worthington, Gustavus Adolphus Frosh, and Mankato State Frosh. They lost to Midwestern, Estherville, Northland, Marshalltown, Lea and Waldorf.
The 1967 Northern Light shows that the school sponsored a women’s basketball team. This team compiled an 8-1 record. In later years PBC added volleyball and softball.
1958-59 men's basketball team (Northern Light)