An aerial view of Concordia's downtown Milwaukee campus

CUW celebrates 40 years since its move from downtown Milwaukee to its current location in Mequon.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the spring 2023 edition of Hearts Together. a publication of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor.

CUW has come a long way since its 13-student start in the basement of Trinity Lutheran School in downtown Milwaukee.

From its inception in 1881 to today, CUW has grown to encompass thousands of students. Its student body is made up of on-campus, online, and hybrid learners at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels. CUW now offers more than 70 undergraduate programs, 50-plus graduate degrees, and six doctoral offerings. Program fields include education, church work, business, the liberal arts, and a wide variety of health care-related fields. And it has expanded its reach into Michigan thanks to the 2013 merge with Concordia University Ann Arbor. Together with the Ann Arbor campus, CUWAA is the largest LCMS school of higher education in the United States.

But before the university took a leap of faith in adopting a new campus in an entirely different state, school and Synod leaders made another decision that many deemed risky. They relocated CUW from its established home in the heart of Wisconsin’s largest city to a new home 20 miles north. And it has made all the difference.

Relocating to Mequon

The decision to move came at a pivotal point in the school’s history. In 1978, Concordia’s transition from a two-year school to a four-year accredited college prompted growth. For several years, university leaders hung their intentions on an expansion plan that would keep the school in Milwaukee. That plan would have required the school to purchase and raze an adjacent neighborhood of homes, however. When pushback from community members arose, the university’s leadership needed to pivot. Ultimately, university leaders made the decision to explore the feasibility of relocating to an entirely different campus.

The LCMS Board of Directors scouted the Notre Dame of the Lake campus in Mequon. At the time, the School Sisters of Notre Dame owned the property. They used it as a motherhouse/training center for teaching sisters. In July 1982, a momentous decision was made: Concordia would move to Mequon. The following year, CUW ushered in its first students—and its largest class yet—at 12800 North Lake Shore Drive in Mequon. And thus, “The Miracle of Mequon,” as it is colloquially called, officially began.

Many in the CUW community still hold a special place in their hearts for the downtown campus. However, the move to Mequon undisputedly afforded a plethora of possibilities and growth opportunities that would not have been feasible had the school remained. This year, CUW celebrates 40 years by the lake. We give thanks to the Lord for all of the opportunities the “new” location made possible.

Read more details about the move to Mequon.

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The spring 2023 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in April. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email