William Peace University is located in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina. It was founded in 1857 as Peace Institute, offering education for boys and girls in primary grades and to women from high school to college.

The school is named in honor of William Peace, a Raleigh Businessman and church elder, who pledged $10,000 and eight acres of land to the Rev. Joseph M. Atkinson in trust for the First Presbyterian Church. The gift was used to establish the Peace Institute.

The Civil War interrupted construction of the University's Main Building when the Confederate government used it as a military hospital. After the war, the federal government used the building as the North Carolina headquarters for the Freedmen's Bureau, which helped former slaves establish new lives.

In 1870, R. Stanhope Pullen, a local Raleigh businessman and philanthropist, purchased the mortgaged (but closed) school to save it after the Civil War. Pullen organized a new charter and offered most of the stock to First Presbyterian Church members, who renovated the building. Once Main Building was repaired, the school opened to incoming female students in 1872, and to both males and females in primary grades.

The first school of art and painting in the South was established at Peace in 1875, and three years later in 1878, Pullen signed the property over to The First Presbyterian Church, allowing it to regain ownership. Just one year later in 1879, the Peace Institute opened the first Kindergarten in North Carolina to serve both boys and girls. In the 1880s, the institution offered the area’s first cooking school in North Carolina. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Peace Institute had programs for women to earn their whole education at Peace, from kindergarten to college-level courses.

By 1914, the Peace Institute had become the first accredited Junior College in the South, and in 1925, the first junior college degrees were awarded. In 1930, the Peace Institute changed its name to Peace, a Junior College for Women.

By 1940, Peace College offered an academic program for young women that encompassed the last two years of high school and the first two years of college. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Peace saw its greatest growth with the construction of 11 new buildings and many renovations to existing structures.

Peace College transitioned into a four-year baccalaureate institution during the mid-1990s, awarding its first baccalaureate degree in 1996. In 1997, the Office of Caeer Services was established to support the baccalaureate program and to begin requiring internships. Additionally, Peace began offering coeducational evening courses through the William Peace School of Professional Studies in 2009.

In 2011, the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to transition Peace's day program to coeducational and to rename the college William Peace University. The University's first male students matriculated in the 2012-13 academic year, with the University's first full, four-year graduating class set to cross the stage in 2016.

William Peace University's mission is to prepare students for careers in the organizations of tomorrow. On average, more than 90 percent of the University's graduates are placed in jobs or graduate school within one year of graduation.