ACU purchases historic villa in Leipzig


Abilene Christian University signed an agreement last week to purchase a historic 15,000-square-foot villa in Leipzig, Germany, to serve as the hub for a year-round study abroad program in the 1,000-year-old city. The purchase marks ACU’s first ownership of an international property for its study abroad programs.

Stephen Shewmaker, executive director of the Center for International Education, notes that the purchase of the villa is a significant piece in realizing ACU’s strategic objective to have 50 percent of undergraduate students study abroad.

Shewmaker said a senior-level team, including ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert and provost Dr. Robert Rhodes, visited the villa and met the owner in January.

“We were very excited to learn that this building was available, due to its excellent location and its fantastic condition,” Shewmaker said. “It will be a great asset for the ACU program in Leipzig for many decades to come.”

ACU offers semester-long study abroad programs in Leipzig; Oxford, England; and Montevideo, Uruguay, as well as faculty-led short-term trips to a number of other locations.

In summer 2017, a group of students will travel with Dr. David Kneip, professor of Bible, to Leipzig for a study abroad program centered on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his “95 Theses” on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. With the purchase of the new villa, year-round programs in Leipzig will launch in fall 2018.

As the fastest-growing large city in Germany, Leipzig is a great place for students to live and learn, said Shewmaker.

“Our students who’ve studied in Leipzig really love it,” he said. “Both students and faculty have had wonderful experiences there, and love the people they meet in the city. There are all manner of opportunities and academic disciplines for us to connect with. This property will serve as an outstanding hub for ACU to live out its mission of educating students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.”

Built in 1872, the property is located in the Music District of Leipzig. The villa will provide housing for about 35 students, as well as kitchens, classrooms and living spaces. It features 10-foot ceilings, original crown moldings and decorative woodwork, and has been renovated and modernized in recent years.

The villa is a short walk from the historic city center, and is well connected to the city’s excellent public transportation system. A canal, created in the late 1800s and recently converted for recreational use, lies directly behind the house. In addition, the property is across the street from the St. Thomas school, which was founded in 1212 and is one of the oldest schools in the world. The school is home to the world famous St. Thomas Boys Choir.

Leipzig, a city whose founding dates back at least 1,000 years, has played an important role in European history. The Protestant Reformation was centered in the area around Leipzig. As the home of such composers as Bach and Mendelssohn, it’s a city of worldwide musical renown. The Battle of the Nations, fought in 1813 on the edge of the city, was the decisive defeat that led to the first exile of Napoleon.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain in 1989, and the resulting reunification of Germany – known locally as the Peaceful Revolution – was precipitated by weekly prayer services at the Nikolai Church in the city center. In the days of the former East Germany, the city of Leipzig was the second largest city in the East, after Berlin.

Today, Leipzig is home to more modern markers of European importance. DHL has its European headquarters located in Leipzig, and both Porsche and BMW have recently built ultra-modern production facilities there. More Porsche cars are manufactured in Leipzig than in any city in the world.

Leipzig offers ACU students wonderful travel opportunities to explore nearby cities and towns such as Berlin, Dresden, Wittenberg (the home of Martin Luther), and Weimar; and destinations such as Munich, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest are just a train ride away.

For more information about ACU Study Abroad opportunities, contact Stephen Shewmaker at 325-674-2710 or visit