Associated with the Lutheran Church, Wittenberg University was founded in Springfield, Ohio, in 1845. It reflected the growing number of German immigrants to the region. The school was named after the original Wittenberg University in Germany, made famous because of its association with Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century.
Wittenberg's founding illustrated some of the differences that had emerged within the Lutheran Church in the United States by the mid-nineteenth century. Many German Lutherans maintained their own cultural practices and continued to use the German language, although they were living in the United States. Lutheran schools usually taught classes in German. In the early 1840s, there was a split within the church. Some members wanted to focus on Americanization and stressed the use of English instead of German. They believed that, by holding on to their German practices, immigrants were not integrating fully into the American population. Within the state of Ohio, this group was represented by the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio. It was this organization that sponsored Wittenberg, and as a result, from its beginning the school taught its classes in English.
From its founding, Wittenberg has stressed the importance of tolerance and the need for all people to have access to education, a tradition that still lives on at the university.