Findlay College began as a joint venture of the Churches of God, General Conference, and the Village of Findlay. It was chartered on January 28, 1882, to provide a liberal arts education within a Christian context for all. On May 25, 1884, the cornerstone was laid for Old Main, which was constructed at a cost of about $51,000. It was 171 by 107 feet, one of the largest college buildings in the state, and the only one heated by natural gas. The first classes began on September 1, 1886 with 170 students and 10 faculty members. The first commencement was held in June, 1889, with only two students receiving degrees. The first president of the College was John Roland Harris Latchaw and the first Dean was Charles Trout Fox.
Winebrenner Graduate School of Divinity, now known as Winebrenner Theological Seminary, was established in 1942. The distinctive Griffith Memorial Arch was added to the front of campus in 1923. Thus, began Findlay's most enduring tradition of having matriculating freshmen walk in through the arch and graduating seniors walk out through the arch at commencement. The institution changed its name on Juy 1, 1989, to The University of Findlay.