In 1910 the Lutheran Church entered into an agreement to establish a Lutheran seminary. The majority of Lutherans in Ontario lived in the vicinity of Waterloo and Berlin (Kitchener), and Waterloo was selected when its citizens offered a tract of land on the boundary of the town. 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.

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. In 2018, the Seminary was renamed Martin Luther University College.

On November 1, 1973, Bill 178 was given royal assent by the Lieutenant Governor, William Ross Macdonald (a former chancellor), and Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University, one of Ontario's provincially funded universities.