Westminster College has played a pivotal role in the educational heritage of the intermountain area. Founded in 1875 as the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute, a preparatory school under the auspices of the First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City, Westminster first offered college classes in 1897 as Sheldon Jackson College. Named in honor of its primary benefactor, Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian clergyman and supervisor of public education in Alaska, the college operated for many years on the Collegiate Institute campus in downtown Salt Lake City. Gradually the institute became identified as the college preparatory department, and high school classes continued to be an integral part of the curriculum until 1945.
In 1902 college trustees adopted a new name to reflect a more generic Protestant orientation than its former title afforded. The name Westminster derives from The Westminster Confession of Faith, a comprehensive exposition of Presbyterian theology produced by English Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians at Westminster, a borough of London, in the seventeenth century.
Moving to its present location in 1911, Westminster became the first accredited two-year junior college in the intermountain area. In 1935 Westminster modified its curriculum to qualify as a four-year junior college and in 1949 became a four-year liberal arts institution offering baccalaureate degrees in the arts and sciences. In the years since, the college has added a number of professional programs.
Founded by Presbyterians but always interdenominational in outlook and governance, Westminster had legal ties to the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America administered through the regional Synod of Utah. By mutual consent of church and college, Westminster ended its official covenantal relationship in 1974. Today Westminster exists as a fully independent, privately funded, nondenominational, comprehensive liberal arts institution of higher learning with selected graduate programs, meeting the West’s educational needs as it has since 1875.