Our Finnish Founders - History and Heritage
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A new land, a new start

That's how our Finnish founders felt about relocating to the new country. This same pioneering spirit is still alive today as new lives are forged at Finlandia University.

Finnish Heritage

Old MainFinlandia University was founded in 1896 as Suomi College, but its heritage extends hundreds of years before that. Finnish people developed the attitude of “sisu” or “persistence and determination” during the early years of their country’s formation. It is with this steadfast attitude that Suomi College was established. After years of hard labor in the Upper Peninsula mining and lumber camps, Finnish immigrants began to dream of a better life for their children and future Finnish- American generations. They found their answer in Suomi College.

Although the first graduating class consisted of only 11 men and women, the college persisted and in 1899 acquired its first building, Old Main. The Finns recognized the need not only to educate their children, but to maintain their cultural heritage. Hence, the two-year college served many purposes in its early years: preserving Finnish culture, upholding and teaching the tenets of the Lutheran religion, training Lutheran ministers, and educating students in English and other skills that would provide job opportunities in their new land.


Finlandia is one of 26 U.S. colleges and universities affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the only private institution of higher learning in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is the only remaining university in North America founded by Finnish immigrants. The institution is made up of two schools and two colleges: the International School of Art & Design, the International School of Business, the Suomi College of Arts & Sciences, and the College of Health Sciences.