Our history

For 65 years in Geneva, the Centre has been dedicated to serving the international community, first as a meeting place for students from all over the world, and gradually as a service provider offering affordable conference facilities, accommodation and catering.

But that is not the whole story. This timeline shows the Centre's commitment to the heart of international Geneva as a platform for dialogue and exchange between the many nationalities and cultures drawn to the city for diplomacy, research, education, self-fulfilment and well-being. Initiatives from many different communities have converged to the Centre since its inception, such as the Franco-Swiss branch of the anti-apartheid movement and the American Presbyterian Church's foreign student exchange programme.

Today, the Center continues to operate with the same conviction and enthusiasm, welcoming visitors from around the world, bringing people together, fostering a home-like atmosphere, and providing much-needed facilities that are accessible to all.

Who was John Knox?

A 16th century Scottish minister and theologian.

He was a major figure in the founding of Presbyterianism as a separate movement from the Protestant Reformation, a schism in Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther.

Presbyterianism was influenced by John Calvin who developed Reformed theology and John Knox, who studied with Calvin in Geneva.

John Knox led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland and was instrumental in developing a new confession of faith.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the founder of the Center, named the home that would one day become the Center we know today after John Knox.

Our timeline

The beginning

At the instigation of Charles Tudor Leber, General Secretary of its Board of Foreign Missions, the Presbyterian Church (USA) decided to create a hostel for students in Geneva. The constitutive General Assembly was held on April 23. Ray Teeuwissen was the first director until 1956.

The Foyer John Knox moves into a chalet in Malagnou (Geneva).


The John Knox Home is officially inaugurated on June 6 and 7. The first series of lectures begins, led by a pioneer of the ecumenical movement, Dutch theologian Willem Visser't Hooft.

First seminars

Paul Frelick, director of the centre from 1958 to 1966, organised the first annual seminars specifically for students from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Acquisition of land

The Association acquires land in Grand-Saconnex in order to better accommodate the growing number of visitors and requests for services.


A new home in Grand-Saconnex, designed by the Geneva architect Dominique Gampert, is under construction.

Inauguration of the Center

The press describes the new John Knox Foyer as a striking complex of stone, glass and brilliant angularity. The contrast with the large chalet, erected on the site in the 1940s, is striking. The Foyer was inaugurated on 21 June 1963.

Visitors in all seasons

The Foyer and its vast tree-lined grounds attract visitors in all seasons.

New Director

Charles Harper was director from 1967 to 1974.

Margaret Flory

The large conference room is under construction. It will be named in honor of Margaret Flory, an ecumenist and strong advocate for students and later director of the Commission on Mission and Ecumenical Relations of the Presbyterian Church in America (COEMAR).

The John Knox Centre is at risk

The Presbyterian Church in the USA is restructured and PCA is dissolved. The John Knox Centre is in peril without its financial support, but the strength and determination of the community is based on a new model that forms the basis of the Centre's current activities: conference facilities, rooms and catering services available to all.

The initial clientele of students and religious groups quickly expanded to include Geneva's local and international communities, humanitarian and educational groups, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations.

New Director

Michel Cluzel is appointed director. (1974 - 1981)

Groups and new hirings

The Center hosts groups and rents office space to other nonprofit organizations at below-market rates. Some rooms are renovated to hotel standards. The Center's program committee is reactivated.

New Director

Jean-Jacques Bauswein is appointed director. (1981 - 1996) 

The Centre celebrates its 40th anniversary

The Centre celebrates its 40th anniversary and officially dedicates the Flory Building to Margaret Flory

New Director

Marc Appel is appointed Director. (1998 - 2018)

The Centre celebrates its 50th anniversary

A renovation of the buildings is undertaken thanks to donations from the Loterie Romande, the town of Grand-Saconnex and other generous benefactors.

Death of Lukas Vischer

Lukas Vischer, world figure of the ecumenical movement and iconic leader of the John Knox Center community for over 20 years, dies in Geneva. Theologian, author and advocate for ecumenical dialogue in the Christian churches of the world, Lukas Vischer also founded the Witnessing Together in Geneva movement. He never ceased to militate for churches to assume their responsibility for the environment.

Modernisation of the Centre

Strategic thinking is underway to modernize the Center to honor its past and secure its future in a competitive environment.

New Director

Denis Muller is appointed Director.

A haven for the 21st century

A steering committee is set up to organize and develop a proposal for the site layout which would include green and sustainable design construction and the preservation of the park. The Center’s welcome mission is at the heart of the future concept.