In 1908 LDS Church leaders from St. George and Salt Lake City undertook plans to establish an academy like those in other Mormon communities. The Salt Lake authorities agreed to allocate $20,000 if the members of the St. George Stake would raise $35,000 to build a college structure. The sacrifices of the people to build the building and to equip it have become legendary. That spirit of community contribution still serves as the inspiration to sustain the present institution.
The college opened in 1911 while the carpenters were still completing the building. Initially it was called the “St. George Stake Academy” but it soon became known as Dixie College. Its initial fort-two students were offered a curriculum which included algebra, domestic art, domestic science, economics, english, geometry, ancient and modern history, physiography, physics, physiology, theology and music.
In 1933 the LDS Church discontinued its support of the College as part of a wider policy to favor state-supported education instead of parochial education. The Great Depression also influenced the decision to close most of the twenty-two church academies. A crucial moment has arrived for Dixie College. College president Joseph K. Nicholes, along with Mathew Bentley and many communities leaders determined that the College should not die and that the State of Utah should become its sponsor. Arthur F. Miles introduced a bill in the Legislature to accomplish that. There was considerable opposition; Governor Henry Blood said he would veto any new appropriation because of the severe economic problems in the state. W.O. Bentley undertook a tedious but effective campaign to convince each senator and representative that Dixie College was essential. His quiet and sincere manner won many friends to the cause. Orval Hafen, Francis J. Bowler, Othello Bowman and other community leaders were influential in the uphill battle. The Governor finally withdrew his objections to state ownership if the bill had no appropriation request attached to it. Thus, the State of Utah took ownership in 1933 with the understanding that the College would receive no funding during the Depression years. The LDS Church, the community, the faculty and students rallied to gather funds and goods in kind to keep the College open for two years until a state appropriation was finally granted.
From 1935 to 1963 Dixie College grew on the St. George City square, expanding from the original building into five other structures clustered together around the St. George Tabernacle and the Woodward School. The college curriculum and the high school courses were taught by the same faculty, creating a four-year school with two years of high school and two of college. This was a period that is fondly remembered today by devoted alumni who talk of the superior teachers such as Ralph Huntsman (Art), Juanita Brooks (English), A. Karl Larson (History), Earl J. Bleak (Music), A.K. Hafen (History), H.L. Reid (History/Political Science), B. Glen Smith (Education), and John T. Woodbury (Phychology/Debate).
In 1951 the state legislature appropriated money for a new gymnasium. President Ellvert Hines and the Dixie Education Association leaders despaired of finding land near the campus and entertained the idea of moving the whole campus. Once that idea surfaced, it took off. The DEA purchased four blocks of land on the east side of town. Through the leadership of Senator Orval Hafen, who was the president of the Utah Senate, the State accepted the land as a gift in return for permission to relocate the campus.