Griggs University/Griggs International Academy (K-12) began its work in 1909, when the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to offer correspondence courses to meet the needs of its members and workers who were unable to attend a traditional campus-based school or college. GU/GIA was originally called Fireside Correspondence School and was founded by Frederick Griggs, one of the pioneer educational leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
On July 18, 1909, the Fireside Correspondence School was launched; by October 4, 62 students had registered. Courses were offered at the elementary, secondary and college levels. Its first president was W.E. Howell (1909–1920), and it operated from one room in the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists building on Eastern Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Under its second president, C.C. Lewis (1920–1923), the Fireside Correspondence School was moved to the campus of Washington Missionary College (presently known as Washington Adventist University) in Takoma Park, Md. It returned to the church’s headquarters early in the presidency of M.E. Olsen (1923–1946). By 1931 the name of the school had been changed to Home Study Institute (HSI).
The fourth president of GU/GIA was W. Homer Teesdale (1946–1965). During his term of service the school first had a real “home.” Property had been purchased in 1945 at 6940 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland. On it stood a large wooden dwelling that housed the school until a brick office was erected on the site in 1956.
In 1990, GU/GIA’s main headquarters were moved to 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Md. In October of that same year, permission was granted by the Maryland Higher Education Commission to meet the needs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by offering degree programs in several disciplines.
The higher education division was named Griggs University in honor of the founding president, Frederick Griggs. In 2003, the Board of Directors voted to name the K–12 division Griggs International Academy. This name has been registered with the various agencies in the State of Maryland. In 2006, GU/GIA adopted a new logo and officially changed its name to Griggs University/Griggs International Academy.
In 2009, the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership formed a Commission on Distance Education Models and Structure. The intent of the commission was to conduct an in-depth investigation of current best practices for distance education and make recommendations to the Church on the possibility to using distance education to meet the needs of the worldwide constituency.
In 2010, the Commission brought a recommendation to the General Council and to Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of Andrews University, that ownership of Griggs University be transferred to Andrews University. During the summer of 2010, Andrews University faculty and administration met and deliberated on the impact that ownership of Griggs would make upon the University structure.
Andrews University and Griggs University had enjoyed a long-term partnership offering distance education degree programs and, through its academic schools, the university had also been offering a number of online courses and programs. Furthermore, the Andrews University Board indicated an interest in bringing Griggs to Andrews University in its entirety and began to include in its planning consideration of Griggs University and Griggs International Academy.
After researching many models and possible working relationships, Provost Andrea Luxton presented a plan recommending that Griggs University/Griggs International Academy fit into the general university structure as part of the new School of Distance Education.
Instead of a president for Griggs, there would be a dean and two associate deans (one for higher education and one for K–12) who would serve in place of vice presidents. General services for Griggs University (Records, Admission, Marketing, Human Resources, ITS, Enrollment, Finances) would be handled by personnel dedicated to Griggs but located and working within the departments handling those services for other schools on campus.
These basic concepts (the creation of the School of Distance Education and the embedding of Griggs services on campus) became important principles in the transition process.
At the October 26, 2010, board meeting, it was also voted to ask Alayne Thorpe to serve as the dean of the School of Distance Education. She was also given the title of interim president to meet needs during the transitional period.
After analyzing the housing challenges on campus, Andrews University purchased a building on the edge of its campus that had been owned by the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The Lake Union relocated into one wing of the building, and the entire first floor of the other wing, as well as five offices on the second floor, now houses the School of Distance Education/Griggs University.Renovations were completed by the end of June 2011 to allow for a physical relocation of Griggs in July 2011. In a nod to both a shared history (Frederick Griggs, the founder of GU/GIA was also an important person in the development of Andrews University) and the establishment of Griggs University on Andrews’ campus, the building was named Griggs Hall.