The Wesleyan Church founded Oklahoma Wesleyan University in order to provide higher education within a Christian environment for Wesleyan youth. Its predecessor, Bartlesville Wesleyan College, was established on the Bartlesville campus as a result of a series of mergers that included Colorado Springs Bible College, founded in 1910 in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Pilgrim Bible College, founded in 1917 in Pasadena, California; and Holiness Evangelistic Institute founded in 1932 in El Monte, California, and later named Western Pilgrim College.
In 1959, the Bartlesville campus was purchased, and Colorado Springs Bible College was moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The college, renamed Central Pilgrim College, held its first classes in September 1959. The following fall, Western Pilgrim College was merged with Central Pilgrim College. The name Bartlesville Wesleyan College was adopted in 1968 after the merger of the Wesleyan Methodist and Pilgrim Holiness churches. In the fall of 1972, Miltonvale Wesleyan College (founded in Miltonvale, Kansas by the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1909) was consolidated with BWC on the Bartlesville campus.
During this process of consolidation, a decision was made to create a four-year liberal arts college. In 1974 the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education accredited Bartlesville Wesleyan College as a four-year liberal arts, degree-granting institution.
Continuing the tradition of constantly improving the quality of Christian education provided by our antecedent schools, BWC became Oklahoma Wesleyan University in August of 2001.