On February 17, 1842, the Territorial Legislature granted a charter for the Mt. Pleasant Literary Institute, later named the Mt. Pleasant Collegiate Institute. In 1855, with the urging of then-President James Harlan, the school changed its name to Iowa Wesleyan University to emphasize its enlarged college program and its sponsorship by the Iowa Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, granted in 1849. The name was later changed to Iowa Wesleyan College (1912) and back to Iowa Wesleyan University (2015) as the academic programs and strategies have shifted.
Each year, Iowa Wesleyan proudly acknowledges Founders Day through a variety of celebrations.