In 1910, the Canada Synod and Synod of Central Canada of the Lutheran Church entered into an agreement to establish a Lutheran Seminary. Though the location first proposed for the Seminary was Toronto, Waterloo was selected when its citizens offered a tract of land on the boundary of the town. The choice of location was affected, too, by the fact that the majority of Lutherans in Ontario lived in the vicinity of Waterloo and Berlin (Kitchener). In 1911, the Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Canada opened its doors.

Facilities for pre-theological education were established in 1914 with courses leading to senior matriculation given in Waterloo College School.

In 1924, the Waterloo College of Arts, providing courses in post-secondary education in a four-year program, was established. In 1925, the Faculty of Arts, under the name of Waterloo College, affiliated with the University of Western Ontario. Waterloo College soon began to offer honours degree programs in the arts. In 1927, there were 87 students.

The affiliation with the University of Western Ontario ended in 1960 when the Seminary obtained a revised charter changing the name of the institution to Waterloo Lutheran University.

On November 1, 1973, Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University, one of Ontario's provincially-assisted universities, after Bill 178 was given Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor, former Wilfrid Laurier University Chancellor William Ross Macdonald. At that time, the university had an enrolment of 2,299. In September 1999, Laurier opened a new campus in Brantford, Ontario and in August 2006 the governance of the campus was changed to an affiliated college. On November 1, 2014, Laurier had an enrolment of 18,571 students. They came from five continents and from across Canada. Approximately 97 percent reside in Ontario.