Our Founder, B.T. Roberts

BT_PortraitThe Rev. B.T. Roberts was a champion of causes and reforms vital to his day.  He was a firm believer in the rights of laborers and farmers, consistently advocated for the rights of women, promoted temperance, stood in opposition to slavery, and argued for free seats in houses of worship.  For his stands against what he perceived as unacceptable moral compromise in these and other issues, B.T. Roberts and his sympathizers were expelled from the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Roberts was chosen by his colleagues to be the first bishop of a new denomination, the Free Methodist Church.  In 1866 he founded Chili Seminary, which was later to become Roberts Wesleyan College, to prepare well-educated young people who could become the kind of servant-leaders of high character which he believed were greatly needed in America. Read more about Benjamin Titus (B.T.) Roberts.

Our Heritage within the Free Methodist Church

Roberts and the other founders of the Free Methodist Church affirmed the view of Christian teaching, personal piety, and social action taught by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.  The Church’s official teaching in its Articles of Religion clearly shows its roots in historic orthodox Christianity.  The heritage of the College within the Free Methodist tradition has been of major importance in the development of its educational programs.  Stating his purpose for founding the school in its first catalog, Roberts wrote

While we cannot prize too highly the benefits of mental culture which lies at the foundation of correct principles and good character, education and religion should by no means be separated.  Indeed, to divorce them is dangerous as is proved by the history of the past.  Ignorance is the mother of superstition and religious error; and a system of education that does not comprehend the great truths of revelation fosters skepticism and infidelity in the youthful mind.

Continuing in its Christian heritage and its dedication to “education for character,” Roberts Wesleyan College remains committed to the mission of integrating a Christian worldview and learning.

Roberts Wesleyan as an Institution began in 1869

The Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York issued the original charter of Chili Seminary in 1869, authorizing the school for “public academic instruction”. In 1885 the name of the institution was changed to A.M. Chesbrough Seminary, to honor an early benefactor, and later to Roberts Junior College.  Senior college status was granted in 1949, and the name “Wesleyan” added to designate the Free Methodist affiliation and to distinguish the College from another institution named Roberts College.  In 1952 the charter for Roberts Wesleyan College was made permanent; the courses of study were registered with the State Education Department, and the College was authorized to confer under its own seal the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science. The College attained regional accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in 1964.

Today, Roberts enrolls more than 1,800 students and offers over 40 undergraduate majors as well as graduate programs in business, education, health, social work, psychology, nursing and music education.

Northeastern Seminary - Founded in 1998

Expressing a continuing commitment to the ideals of its founder, the trustees of Roberts Wesleyan College founded Northeastern Seminary on its campus in 1998 as a graduate school of theology, to prepare women and men for Christian ministry, both lay and ordained.  Rooted in classical Christian faith, the Seminary creatively seeks to equip its students for ministry to contemporary culture.  Currently Northeastern Seminary serves over 100 graduate students, offering Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and Doctor of Ministry degrees, as well as various certificate programs.  The Seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, as well as the State of New York, and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Additional information about the history of Roberts Wesleyan College is available on campus from the B. Thomas Golisano Library.