On Monday, September 28, 1896 students first entered the classrooms of the newly established Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina, known today as South Carolina State University.
Even though facilities were not complete that Monday, college President Thomas E. Miller and the 17 faculty members were ready when the day arrived and the college "opened in good order."
Three-story Bradham Hall, which was soon to serve as dormitory, classroom building, library and president's office, was still under construction when the students arrived.
J.S. Pierce noted, the early South Carolina State was "a very unattractive place, with roads running in every direction and ending up in no particular place. Deep gullies made by heavy rains were all through the campus."
Although the look was dreary, the college still offered great hope to the people who were drawn from surrounding areas for a chance at the education S.C. State offered. Tuition at the time was free unless a students' parents earned more than $1,000 a year and room and board were $35 a semester.
Over 760 students, ranging from the ages of 6 to 40 enrolled at the college, which offered primary school through college courses. The large enrollment showed the "thirst for knowledge" that existed in the community, said former S.C. State University President Leroy Davis at the school’s centennial celebration in 1996.
South Carolina State's early curriculum emphasized industrial and agricultural courses including masonry, carpentry, harnessmaking, mechanical drawing, architecture, painting, sewing, dressmaking, cooking, housekeeping, typewriting and upholstery.
South Carolina State would gradually move to a more professional curriculum, one which now has courses ranging speech language pathology and audiology to business.
High school and college students also took academic courses such as Latin, chemistry, ancient history and mental and moral science.
The university prepared grade school students for their future college studies through its normal school, or school for teachers. The most famous of the graduates from this school was Benjamin E. Mays.
Through Felton Laboratory School, "We've been able to preserve that part of our history and legacy," Davis said.
The support of the Rosenwald Fund and the General Education Board helped the institution survive The Great Depression (1929-1940s).
“The Rosenwald Fund was intended to use all of its funds for philanthropic purposes. It donated over $70 million to public schools, colleges and universities, museums, Jewish charities, and black institutions before funds were completely depleted in 1948.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenwald_Fund)
“The General Education Board was an organization created for the purpose of distributing gifts made by John D. Rockefeller, who in 1893 had chosen the Baptist clergyman Frederick T. Gates as his business and benevolent representative. Begun in 1902, it was chartered by Congress in 1903.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Education_Board)
After World War II, the state legislature created a graduate program and a law school at South Carolina State to prevent black students from enrolling in the University of South Carolina's graduate and legal education programs. The legislature also dramatically increased funding at the college in an effort to make "separate but equal" a reality in higher education in South Carolina.
During the 1950s and 1960s hundreds of S.C. State students participated in local civil rights demonstrations and were arrested. In 1968 three young men were slain and 27 wounded on the campus in the Orangeburg Massacre.
S.C. State ended its agricultural programs in 1971. The college farm was transformed into a community recreation center consisting of a golf course as well as soccer and baseball fields. The university’s 1890 Research and Extension Program still thrives.
“The 1890 Research & Extension Program at SC State University offers an important public service for rural and urban limited-resource families who are in need of the latest research-based scientific knowledge, sustainable practices in agriculture, financial management, business development, parenting skills, health and nutrition, and computer skills. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and local government, 1890 programs are making a difference in South Carolina communities and changing lives.” (http://www.scsu.edu/1890)
Since 1966, S.C. State has been open to students and faculty of all races, but it has largely retained its mission and character as an historically black institution.
Official S.C. State University Mission Statement (unedited)
South Carolina State University, a senior comprehensive teaching institution, is committed to providing affordable and accessible quality undergraduate and graduate degree programs. This public university with a student population between 4,000 and 5,000 is located in Orangeburg, an area that has a traditional rural, agricultural economy which has expanded to include a business and industrial focus that is national and international in scope. South Carolina State University's 1890 land-grant legacy of service to the citizenry of the state is ensured through its collaborative efforts with local, rural, and statewide businesses, public education, colleges and industry. This symbiotic relationship provides a catalyst that spurs a reciprocal economic and social growth for the University, state, nation and the international community at-large.
South Carolina State University, founded in 1896 as a historically Black co-educational institution, embraces diversity among its students, faculty, staff and programs. While maintaining its traditional focus, the University is fully committed to providing life-long learning opportunities for the citizens of the state and qualified students of varied talents and backgrounds in a caring and nurturing learning environment.
South Carolina State University through instruction, research and service activities, prepares highly skilled, competent, economically and socially aware graduates to meet life's challenges and demands that enable them to work and live productively in a dynamic, global society. The University offers sixty baccalaureate programs in the areas of applied professional sciences, engineering technology, sciences, arts, humanities, education and business. A small number of programs are offered at the master's level in teaching, human services and agribusiness, and the educational specialist and doctorate programs are offered in educational administration. Faculty and students participate in research that stimulates intellectual growth, enhances and facilitates student learning and adds to the scientific knowledge base of the academy. Service activities, which are provided through programs, related to agriculture, adult and continuing education, research, cultural arts, small business development and other special interest areas, are designed to enhance the quality of life and promote economic growth. These efforts, supported by various applications of technology, are achieved in a climate of mutual trust and respect through methods of scholarly inquiry and scientific research.
The South Carolina State University Mission Statement was approved by its Board of Trustees on December 2, 1997. (http://www.scsu.edu/about/mission.aspx)
Sing the praise of Alma Mater
Let us rally to her call
Lift our voices, send them ringing,
Thru the groves and classic halls.
Hail! Hail! Dear Alma Mater
Hail! Hail! Dear S.C. C.
We’ll defend and honor,
Love and cherish thee.
We are loyal sons and daughters
Proud to own the name we bear
For the truth that thou has taught us
Ready all to do and dare.
Hail! Hail! Dear Alma Mater
Hail! Hail! Dear S.C.C.
We’ll defend and honor,
Love and cherish thee.
By Robert S. Wilkinson and T. D. Phillips - 1927