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 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.

Peace Institute opened in 1872, when the First Presbyterian Church regained ownership of the property and repaired the Main Building. R. Stanhope Pullen, a local businessman and philanthropist, who owned the eight acres of land the campus is built on, signed over ownership of the property to the Peace Institute in 1878.

By 1940, Peace 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 College 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. 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.

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.