Anderson University is one of the many higher-education institutions that have existed in Anderson, South Carolina. As a student (and a bit of history nut), I have long had an interest in understanding Anderson’s rich past. I wanted deeply appreciate the University that I would be calling home for the next four years. What I discovered was an extremely colorful and interesting history. Here are my discoveries compiled for your reading pleasure.
One of the first things anyone learns after coming to AU, is that it used to be an all-female school. In fact, most historians agree that the school can be directly tied back to the earlier Johnson Female Seminary of Anderson, which existed from 1848-1862. The seminary was forced to close during the Civil War but it left an indelible mark on the community.
In 1910, the Anderson Chamber of Commerce decided that it would a good idea to start a women’s college. They quickly raised some $100,000, and procured the 32 acre piece of land that makes up the main campus. All of this was given to the South Carolina Baptist State Convention for the purpose of creating a college for women.
In 1911, Anderson College was born.
The college, however, was off to a unfortunate start. You see, despite the $100,000 that had been raised, funds were still extremely short. Local trustees managed to borrow $50,000 to keep things moving, but the college would be plagued by financial problems for years to come.
After three other short lived college presidencies, Dr. John E. White stepped down as the fourth president of Anderson in 1927. The board of trustees dutifully set about looking for a replacement, but they were hard pressed to find anyone who would accept the position. This turn of events would actually prove to be both fortunate and historic for Anderson. Taking office in 1928, Annie Denmark was elected president by the board of trustees. She was the first female college president in South Carolina.
Some felt that Dr. Denmark was out place doing a man’s job. She quickly proved them all wrong, demonstrating that she was far more competent than any her predecessors. By 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, she had paid off the school’s $60,000 debt.
Serving until 1953, Dr. Denmark did something else that was momentous in Anderson’s history (for which I am extremely thankful). Under her leadership, Anderson officially became a co-ed junior college in 1931. She built and strengthened much of the foundation of present day Anderson University.
In the years that followed, Anderson expanded and grew. In the early 1990s Anderson became a four-year institution once again. Then, in 2002, our current president Evans P. Whitaker took office. His vision and guidance have led to the building of the five Boulevard dorms, the Thrift Library and the soon to be completed new Student Center. Finally, in 2006, Anderson College officially became Anderson University.
And there you have it – everything that you will probably ever need to know about the history of Anderson University.