KMBC was founded in 1931 by two outstanding Christian leaders, Dr. Lela G. McConnell and Rev. Martha L. Archer, who answered God’s call to establish a college dedicated to preparing students for a ministry of spreading scriptural holiness.

The early years of the college were characterized by hardship, sacrifice, unwavering commitment, heroic faith, and joyful service. The founders of Kentucky Mountain Bible College were true spiritual giants! Out of this rich, godly heritage KMBC has grown to be the great school it is today. God’s leadership is evident throughout the history of the school and in His choice of the early leaders who laid a good, spiritual foundation!

Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute (KMBI), as it was originally known, was located approximately 3 miles from its present site. It initially offered a two year Bible course, and expanded its program to three years in 1938. On July 5, 1939 a cloudburst on Frozen Creek caused a flash flood that destroyed the original school, as well as many of the homes that were near the school. Forty-four houses, sixty barns, numerous trees, cattle, and rocks, were picked up, carried away and dashed to pieces. Fifty-two people lost their lives in less than three hours including staff member Mr. Horace Myers, his three children Titus, Philip, and Lela Grace, students Elsie Booth, and Christine Holman, and three guests of the Myers. Of the Myers family, only Nettie survived.

On October 20th, 1939, the school re-opened on a new three acre site donated by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fletcher. The new campus was located far above flood plain. On December 15th of this year, Wilfred and Alice Fisher accepted an invitation from Lela G. McConnell to teach for the remainder of the academic year while they waited for the 1940 Asbury commencement and for an Evangelical Church appointment to open in the coming summer. What was originally to be a temporary assignment became a permanent one lasting 73 years.

Growth and building continued at a feverish pace, starting with the Myers Chapel in 1940, followed by Swauger and Brengle Halls. Archer Auditorium was begun in the summer of 1961 and was ready for the graduating class of 1962.

Following the death of Dr. Lela McConnell, Dr. Carl Paulo assumed the presidency and faithful served until his death in 1981. Dr. Eldon Neihof followed in his footsteps, leading Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute into candidate status for institutional accreditation in 1989 with the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges (now Association for Biblical Higher Education). In this transitional period, Dr. Wilfred Fisher, served as president of KMBI for nearly three years, seeing its final transition to an accredited four-year college, changing the name to Kentucky Mountain Bible College.

Dr. Philip Speas accepted the invitation to serve the new college president on October 11th, 1993. The following year, 1994, KMBC was granted full membership with the ABHE, bringing the college into a recognized position in higher education. As such, KMBC began offering a four-year Bachelor of Arts in Religion along with a two-year Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies.

Under the leadership of Dr. Phil Speas, the college underwent significant remodeling and construction including the completion of the Davis Memorial Building and Gibson Library, the Chatlos and Townhouse Apartments, Campus Commons, the Lela G. Coffee house, and most notably the new Helen Matthew Luce Chapel and Fine Arts Building, completed in 2009. In addition to the physical campus, Dr. Speas has led in an expansion of faculty and staff and an increase in enrollment. Dr. Speas retired in 2022, after twenty-nine years of service.

In 2022, Dr. Robert D. Pocai, Ed.D. was appointed president of KMBC. Dr. Pocai is a distinguished pastoral, parachurch, and educational leader in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. He and his wife, Rev. Holly Pocai, graduated with a BA in Religion/Communications from KMBC in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

Over the past two decades, Dr. Pocai has had professional ministry experience in the Salvation Army, Methodist, Nazarene, and inter-holiness churches. Dr. Pocai has demonstrated a deep love for Christ’s church through his passion for holiness and commitment to biblical higher education. Dr. Pocai comes with broad and experienced knowledge in pastoral care, community relations, fundraising, facility development, as well as staff and volunteer cultivation. While serving as the Executive Vice President of Wesley Biblical Seminary, Dr. Pocai was actively involved in administration, enrollment, institutional advancement, and the launch of new educational programs. The late WBS President, Dr. John Neihof, said, “Rob is an energetic, passionate leader. He has a proven track record as a successful urban minister, church planter, pastor, and evangelist. Rob’s powerful pulpit ministry resounds with the authority of Scripture and a call to Christian holiness.”

As President-elect, it is the desire of Dr. Pocai’s heart to claim the promise of the founder, Dr. Lela G. McConnell found in Joshua 17:18 “the mountain shall be thine.” (KJV) He said, “Kentucky Mountain Bible College was established as a life-transforming Christian formation institution. Testimonies of alumni are far-reaching around the world for the glory of God. On that mountain, lives are changed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the blood of Jesus. Glory to God! Holiness of heart and life is a reality and this message needs shared and lived in a broken world. Pray that the Lord raises up students who learn passionately about holiness and ministry, supporters who will give sacrificially to this holiness work, and friends who will pray faithfully for this holiness ministry in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.”

Since our beginning, 70% of Kentucky Mountain Bible College graduates have entered Christian ministries. Eighteen percent have served as foreign missionaries in more than sixty countries. An impressive number have risen to leadership positions in many Christian organizations.

Kentucky Mountain Bible College graduates are promoting and demonstrating scriptural holiness as missionaries, ministers, and lay leaders in America and on mission fields around the world. Alumni are filling places of Christian leadership in many denominations, mission societies, and other Christian organizations.