James MillikinMillikin was founded on April 30, 1901, when James Millikin gifted 35 acres of land, plus $200,000, to build the university, challenging the citizens of Decatur and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to match his financial commitment. They met the challenge. 

In June 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered the dedicatory address and the Masonic fraternity laid the cornerstone for the new James Millikin University, as it was known at that time. Classes began that fall, with the first commencement (for graduates who entered Millikin by transfer from other colleges) held in June 1904. 

Each year on April 30, the campus celebrates Founder’s Day in recognition of James Millikin's vision that his university would be a place where “the scientific and industrial have a place of equal importance, side by side, with the literary and classical.”