In 1971-1972 Anderson College history professor Dr. Larry Osnes conceived of the idea of a new kind of honors program. Osnes tapped into the strong service orientation of the Church of God and Anderson College to encourage students to focus their skills toward public service to address pressing societal needs.
Through a sizable grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Center for Public Service was born in 1973 and the new program anticipated that its students would develop a public service ethic, increased awareness of societal needs and firsthand knowledge of their career before graduation, and that CPS would bridge the academic world and public service sectors.
The original Honorary Board of Directors included such notables as Indiana Governor Otis Bowen, U.S. Senator Vance Hartke, and U.S. Senator Birch Bayh, as well as the balance of the entire Indiana Congressional delegation. In 1976 Dr. Doug Nelson took over as Director of CPS and ably administered the program for the next thirty-two years until the summer of 2008, guiding CPS fellows to professional mentors, conferences and professional associations, and internships.
Since the 1973-74 academic year hundreds of talented Anderson students have gone through CPS and have gone on to distinguished careers in public service.