History of the University of South Carolina
Founded in 1801, then-South Carolina College flourished pre-Civil War, overcame post-war struggles, was rechartered in 1906 as a university, and transformed itself as a national institution in the 20th and 21st centuries.
South Carolina College, est. 1801
The Palmetto State established South Carolina College—the precursor to the University of South Carolina—on Dec. 19, 1801, as part of an effort to unite South Carolinians in the wake of the American Revolution. South Carolina's leaders saw the new college as a way to promote "the good order and harmony" of the state.
The founding of South Carolina College was also a part of the Southern public college movement spurred by Thomas Jefferson. Within 20 years of one another, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia established state-supported colleges.
In the antebellum era, the Palmetto State generously supported South Carolina College. The institution featured a cosmopolitan faculty, including such noted European scholars as Francis Lieber and Thomas Cooper, as well as renowned American scholars John and Joseph LeConte. Offering a traditional classical curriculum, South Carolina College became one of the most influential colleges in the South before 1861, earning a reputation as the training ground for South Carolina's antebellum elite.
The Horseshoe campus
The campus grew around the modified quadrangle of the Horseshoe. In 1805, four years after the college was chartered, its first building, Rutledge, was completed. Classes began that year with two faculty members and nine students.
As the only academic facility, Rutledge served as classroom, lab, library, chapel, and student and faculty housing until DeSaussure was completed on the north side of the Horseshoe in 1809. Throughout the next 38 years, the Horseshoe took shape with eight more buildings. (The Horseshoe's 11th building, and the only one not built in the 19th century, is McKissick, completed in 1940.)
Robert Mills, the nation's first federal architect and the designer of the Washington Monument, greatly influenced the architecture of South Carolina College. Mills was involved in the design of Rutledge, South Caroliniana Library, and Maxcy Monument in the center of the Horseshoe, named for the first president of the college, Jonathan Maxcy. The South Caroliniana Library was the first freestanding college library building in the nation when it was completed in 1840.
Civil War, Reconstruction
Having survived an 1811 earthquake that damaged DeSaussure, then known as North Building, and an 1855 fire that gutted Rutledge, the college finally succumbed to the upheaval of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
South Carolina's secession from the Union unleashed the devastation of war. The state and South Carolina College paid dearly. The institution closed in 1861 for want of students, and in the ensuing decades it struggled to regain the leading role in the region it had held during the antebellum era.
A diverse, if short-lived, university
State leaders revived the institution in 1866 as the University of South Carolina with ambitious plans for a diverse university that included the first African Americans to serve on the Board of Trustees (1868) and the first African-American students (1873).
While politically controversial, this development was an extraordinary opportunity for South Carolinians at a time when opportunities for higher education were rare. The University of South Carolina became the only Southern state university to admit and grant degrees to African-American students during the Reconstruction era.
But with a nearly empty state treasury, the institution failed to reach its former status. Following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, South Carolina's conservative leaders closed the University. They reopened it in 1880 as an all-white agricultural college, and during the next 25 years the institution became enmeshed in the upheaval of late 19th century South Carolina politics.
Stability, post-war boom
Carolina went through several reorganizations in which the curriculum frequently changed and its status shifted from college to university and back again. In 1906, the institution was rechartered for the final time as the University of South Carolina. In the early decades of the 20th century, Carolina made strides toward becoming a comprehensive university, and in 1917 became the first state-supported college or university in South Carolina to earn regional accreditation.
The 1920s witnessed further progress and growth, with the introduction of new colleges and degree programs, including the doctorate. The Great Depression temporarily stalled this progress, but the outbreak of World War II launched an era that transformed the University. Carolina hosted Naval training programs during the war, and enrollment more than doubled in the post-war era as veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill.
Integration, enrollment explosion
In the 1950s, the University began recruiting national-caliber faculty and extended its presence beyond Columbia with the establishment of campuses in communities across South Carolina. On Sept. 11, 1963, Henrie D. Monteith, Robert Anderson and James Solomon became the first of an increasing number of African-American students to enroll at the University in the 20th century; in 1965, Monteith became the first African-American graduate, earning a BS in biochemistry.
In the ensuing years, Carolina underwent explosive growth as the "baby boom" generation entered college. Enrollment stood at 5,660 in 1960, but by 1979 had reached nearly 26,000 students on the Columbia campus alone. To meet the needs of these students and South Carolina's changing economy, the University put new emphasis on research and introduced innovative degree programs as well as a number of new schools and colleges. Carolina had become a true research university.
Horseshoe restoration, bicentennial
Carolina also honored its past. A renovation program that began in 1972 restored the 19th-century Horseshoe buildings, a renaissance that served the South Carolina Honors College, which was established in 1977 and whose administrative offices and housing for juniors and seniors are largely on the Horseshoe.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the University continued to develop its resources to better serve the Palmetto State. A concerted drive to achieve national recognition brought Carolina into the 21st century. In 2001, the University of South Carolina celebrated a legacy of 200 years of educating leaders for the future of South Carolina, the nation, and the world.
Today the University of South Carolina is not only the state's flagship university but also is a rising national star. It is consistently ranked as the country's best program for international business by U.S. News & World Report and other publications; is one of only 23 public universities in the nation with the Carnegie Foundation's highest research designation to be named among the nation's leaders in providing programs that benefit and engage communities; was ranked No. 42 in the nation for in-state students by Kiplinger's "Best Values in Public Colleges" in 2011; and was on the Princeton Review's "100 Best Value Colleges for 2011" list.
The University is home to some of the South's best doctoral programs, according to a 2010 report from the National Research Council. Carolina has nine programs that rank among the Top 10 in the South in their respective disciplines; 12 programs are ranked among the nation's top 50.
The Arnold School of Public Health Research Center, a $22 million facility, opened in 2006 and represented the first footprint of Innovista, a research and innovation district that is expanding the campus westward toward the Congaree River. Two additional buildings, Horizon I and Discovery I, for University researchers now house many of the University's top researchers.
Carolina is committed to sustainability in all of its operations, and that commitment is best reflected in its new buildings. The Public Health Research Center earned a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation from the U.S. Green Building Council, a distinction also conferred on the West "Green" Quad, a 500-bed residence hall that opened in 2004. Since then, the Honors Residence Hall, which opened in 2009, has earned Gold LEED status, and the Hollings Library was built to Gold LEED standards when it opened in 2010. LEED design and construction results in lower energy and water requirements, less waste, and more use of sustainable materials and recycling.
A new home for the Darla Moore School of Business, scheduled to open in spring 2014, is being designed for Platinum status, the highest LEED certification.
With 44,500 students on eight campuses, nationally respected faculty and nearly 260,000 alumni, the University of South Carolina has a bright future to match its rich history.