The History of South Carolina State University

On March 3, 1896, the South Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation establishing the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College of South Carolina. Thomas E. Miller, a former Congressman from South Carolina, became the first president (1896-1911). During Dr. Miller’s tenure, and that of his initial faculty of thirteen South Carolinians, the College plant consisted of 135 acres, eight small buildings, a minimal dairy herd, and a few other farm animals. Because of the meager facilities, academic instruction was given primarily on logs hewn from the campus forest—logs that were later made into lumber for the first dormitory and classroom buildings.

Upon President Miller’s retirement, Dr. Robert Shaw Wilkinson, a Charlestonian and Professor of Physics at the College, succeeded to the presidency. His twenty-one year administration witnessed an increase in faculty and student enrollment, an established income from both federal and state sources, an expansion in the building program, a cooperative working relationship with Clemson University and Claflin College, the initiation of a State Teacher Summer School, and the celebration of the College’s twenty-fifth birthday.

The death of President Wilkinson on March 13, 1932 catapulted Dr. Miller F. Whittaker to Acting President, subsequently to President in May 1932. Among the milestones under the aegis of President Whittaker (1932-1949), a former Director of the Mechanical Department at the College, were these: the establishment of a Law School, the establishment of a South Carolina State College Extension School with units in fifteen South Carolina communities, the establishment of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Infantry Unit, and in 1933, the achievement of the college’s appearance on the approved list of colleges by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The first formal observance of Founders’ Day was held in March 1938.

From 1950 to 1967, Dr. Benner C. Turner, former Dean of the Law School, effected these developments in the College: a rapid growth of both the undergraduate and graduate enrollments, an increase in the number of faculty and staff, an increase in the number of doctoral faculty, the reorganization of the administrative and structural areas, major improvements in the physical plant to include the renovation of buildings and construction of many new buildings such as a new academic building, dormitories for both men and women, and a cafeteria. New walkways, drives, roads and attractive landscaping added to the beauty of the campus and the comfort of its inhabitants.

On June 23, 1968, Dr. M. Maceo Nance, Jr., former Vice President for Business and Finance, succeeded to the presidency of the College after a one-year tenure as Acting President. Dr. Nance continued to build upon the foundation laid by his predecessors. The Nance administration embarked upon a meaningful role to be performed by the College in the local community and, by extension, in the world community via the creation of a wholesome, relevant public image, the acquisition of new sources of income, the ensuring of sound curricula, sincere students, dedicated teachers and alumni, and a burgeoning physical expansion.

Most outstanding among the large number of additions to the physical plant under the administration of President Nance were the following: Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center, a Health and Physical Education Building (1968); addition to Hodge Hall Science Building (1968); addition to Kirkland W. Green Student Center (1970); Ko W. G. Donma Administration Building (1970); housing for married students, Queens’ Village, Phase 1, 12 Apartments (1971); 20 Apartments (1975); Sojourner Truth Hall, Women’s Residence Hall (1972); Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium (1974); M. Maceo Nance, Jr. Classroom Building (1974); John H. Mitchell Hall, Men’s Residence Hall (1975); I. P. Stanback Museum & Planetarium (1979); the Crawford-Zimmerman Service Complex (1983); and the School of Business Algernon S. Belcher Complex (1986).

On July 1, 1986, upon the retirement of President Nance, Dr. Albert E. Smith became the sixth President of South Carolina State College. During President Smith’s tenure, the College established working relationships with several major corporations including Westinghouse, Hughes Aircraft, AT&T and Xerox. The School of Freshman Studies was created, and an Honors Program was established. Fundraising efforts brought nearly $3 million to the College. Ground was broken in late 1991 for a new women’s residence hall. President Smith was instrumental in efforts to gain university status for the College.

On January 13, 1992, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Carl A. Carpenter, Interim President of South Carolina State College. During his tenure, the New Master Plan for Facilities was finalized and approval was given for the construction of the Fine Arts Building, improvement of Oliver C. Dawson Stadium, expansion of the 1890 Research Facility and New Conference Center at Camp Harry Daniels. The Intercollegiate Athletics Program was re-organized with the employment of the first full-time Athletics Director. The Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) was approved by the Commission on Higher Education and accreditation visits for engineering technology and social work were conducted. Also, the Institution was designated South Carolina State University on February 26, 1992.

On September 30, 1992, the Board of Trustees elected Dr. Barbara R. Hatton as the first woman to assume the presidency of South Carolina State University, and she began her duties on January 4, 1993. During her tenure she was instrumental in converting Felton Laboratory School into a state-of-the-art professional development school, initiating legislation which was passed by the General Assembly allowing engineering technology graduates to sit for the engineering licensure examination in South Carolina, opening an Office of State and Community Relations in Columbia, and increasing collaborations and projects with colleges, universities and federal and private agencies. Capital improvement projects included the 1890 Extension Office Complex and the completion of the Oliver C. Dawson Bulldog Stadium and Student Center Plaza.

On June 13, 1995, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Leroy Davis, Sr., Interim President and on April 10, 1996, Dr. Davis was named the eighth President of South Carolina State University. President Davis established Centers of Excellence in Transportation and Leadership as part of a plan to have a Center of Excellence in each of the five academic schools. Under his leadership, scholarship support increased to recruit more academically talented freshmen; the first University Staff Senate was established; a new tenure and promotion policy was developed; university partnerships were increased, and new community service programs in the areas of health care and economic development were implemented. The Stateite Creed was developed. In December 2000, the university’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

In 2001, the School of Business was first accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB); annual private fundraising exceeded $2 million for the first time, and the Office of Environmental Health was established. Capital improvement projects included the Fine Arts Center (1999) and the Unity Wall (2001). Also, approval was given for the construction of privatized housing, a science building annex, and an interdisciplinary research center. An updated long-range facilities Master Plan was approved. Dukes Gym was re-opened and The STATE Room was opened at Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

On July 1, 2002, the Board of Trustees named retired Chief Justice Ernest A. Finney, Jr. Interim President of South Carolina State University. During his tenure, the Nuclear Engineering Degree Program was approved by the S.C. Commission on Higher Education. The program is a joint program in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, the only undergraduate Nuclear Engineering program at an HBCU and the first of its kind started in the nation within the past twenty-five years. The University received funding in the amount of $9 million to construct a state-of-the-art transportation research facility. The University became the lead institution to provide statewide coordination for the South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation (SCAMP). SCAMP is a $5 million grant to increase the number of minority students participating in mathematics, science, engineering and technology.

On May 16, 2003, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr., the ninth President of South Carolina State University. President Hugine developed an Alumni Heritage Endowment fund to allow the University to create a perpetual fund to be used for scholarships, capital improvements, and endowed chairs. It is a fundraising effort specifically for graduates and supporters of South Carolina State University. In addition, Faculty, Staff, and Student Cabinets were established. The front entrance to the campus was renovated and upgraded; a security booth was constructed; and a new, enormous Bulldog mascot was unveiled to adorn the front entrance. Major renovations and improvements were made to selected dormitories, academic buildings, and the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.

Under President Hugine’s leadership, an agreement with the University of South Carolina launched a faculty/student exchange program in nuclear engineering; the University Transportation Center was named the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center, and the Walnut Room was named the Robert S. Evans Walnut Room. In addition, the Real Estate Foundation 501(c)3, the Research and Development Foundation and the Advancement Foundation were established. Also, the 1890 Extension Office Complex was completed. The University underwent a major restructuring effort that combined and placed programs within appropriate units and the Student Success and Retention Program was developed. The five undergraduate schools within Academic Affairs were reorganized and elevated into three colleges.

Other university accomplishments during Dr. Hugine’s presidency include: the Computer Science program received its initial accrediation by the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (CAC/ABET). A new Master of Business Administration degree program with concentrations in Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship was added to the curriculum. The University had the largest number of newly enrolled students in the University’s history. The 1890 Research and Extension Division purchased a mobile technology unit. An Alumni Heritage Endowment Fund was launched, and the University Board of Visitors was established. The nursing program received accreditation from the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education.

In 2005, President Hugine continued to make significant accomplishments. The University began work on the largest construction project in the history of the University, a $42 million new apartment-style residence hall. The new 772-bed living facility will provide safe, modern housing for University students. The University completed multi-million dollar renovations to the Pitt and Washington Dining Hall facilities; alumni giving reached a record $1 million; the new Master in Transportation degree program was established; and the Thomas E. Miller Society was established to recognize $100,000 lifetime givers.

In 2006, the 755-bed state of the art Residence Hall was opened for student occupancy. Likewise, the 1890 building was dedicated and named in honor of graduate and senior South Carolina Senator John W. Matthews, Jr. In addition, the University was among six colleges to participate in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa initiative to provide textbooks and other learning materials to the students in Africa. Specifically, South Carolina State University is partnered with the country of Tanzania in USAID initiative. Continuing with its level of excellence, the University was ranked by the national publication, Washington Monthly Magazine, number nine as a national university and number one in the area of social mobility.

In 2007, South Carolina hosted the first candidates’ debate of the 2008 Presidential cycle on Thursday, April 26th. The Democratic Presidential candidates’ debate was produced by NBC News and hosted by SC State. MSNBC’s signature political program, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” aired live from South Carolina State University. The new 755-bed residence hall was dedicated and named in honor of the University’s Ninth president, Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. In addition, construction began on Phase I of the James E. Clyburn Transportation Research and Conference Center Complex. The University also realized a record enrollment of 5,000 students. On December 13, 2007, Dr. Leonard A. McIntyre was named Interim President.

During his tenure, Interim President McIntyre and a delegation from the University delivered the first set of textbooks (165,000) to the students of Zanzibar. In addition, His Excellency Amani Karume, President of Zanzibar served as the Commencement speaker Spring 2008. South Carolina State University and Francis Marion University announced the launch of the new I-95 Corridor Initiative seeking innovative ways to address long-running development challenges in eastern South Carolina. Renovations began on Lowman Hall.

On June 6, 2008, the Board of Trustees named Dr. George E. Cooper the 10th President of South Carolina State University. Under his leadership, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and South Carolina State University signed an agreement creating, “The Gateway Program” between the two-year college and the four-year university. The Program is intended for any OCTech student who aspire to continue their studies at SC State. In addition, the Dr. Clemmie Embly Webber Educational Resource Center was named and dedicated at the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium. Construction began on the Hodge Hall Annex.

On March 27, 2009, Dr. Cooper was inaugurated as the 10th President of SC State. In addition, the University received $13 million for the Textbook and Learning Materials Program to continue its initiative to provide books to the students of Tanzania. SC State’s Environmental Policy Institute received a $1.7 million grant for Nuclear Research. Also, construction demolition took place on Bethea Hall to make way for the new Science and Engineering Building. Renovations were completed on Lowman Hall.

In August 2010, a new program leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with concentrations in journalism and broadcasting began and two classes in Mandarin Chinese were offered. The Honors Program received approval by the Board of Trustees to initiate an Honors College beginning the fall semester. Construction began on the James E. Clyburn Transportation, Research and Conference Center.

During the Spring 2011 semester, construction was completed on the Hodge Hall Annex which will be named for Dr. Leroy Davis, Sr. the eighth President of SC State.

The Transit Research building was completed and the Certificate of Occupancy was issued. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held for the SC State Fitness Center located in Sojourner Truth Hall. The University made history as the host of a statewide science conference, the 2011 South Carolina Academy of Science (SCAS) annual meeting and Junior Academy meeting.

Dr. Rita Jackson Teal assumed the responsibilities as Acting President on March 31, 2012.

On July 5, 2012, Dr. Cynthia Warrick became Interim President of South Carolina State University. During her tenure, the University formed a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency to promote environmental sustainability. This partnership, which includes OC Technical College, Aiken Technical College and Claflin University, focuses on collaborations in research, teaching, various projects and student internship opportunities with the EPA. In addition, the dedication and open house of the new state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Complex was held on February 1, 2013. The $24.5 million, 86,500 square foot complex features innovative classrooms, research centers, laboratories, offices and other academic support spaces. The University also launched a new mobile application which allows users to become more engaged with the University through the no-cost interactive tool.

Dr. W. Franklin Evans assumed the responsibilities as Acting President on June 1, 2013.

On April 18, 2013, the Board of Trustees named Thomas J. Elzey President of South Carolina State University. On June 15th, he assumed the responsibilities as the eleventh president. On March 1, 2014, he was inaugurated as the eleventh President. Under the guidance of President Elzey, two new Master of Science Degree Programs, Energy and Environmental Science and Bio-Engineering, were developed and subsequently approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (SCCHE).

Other accomplishments include: the restoration of the clock tower at Miller F. Whittaker Library; improvement of campus grounds; and increased giving of scholarship funds from the University Foundation, alumni and individual supporters.

The University received a $2 million Cybersercurity grant to help address one of the nation’s most critical workforce needs. The grant will support the efforts of a newly formed cybersecurity consortium comprised of 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, two national laboratories and a public school district.

A preliminary study was conducted examining the institution’s impact on the South Carolina economy by the university’s School of Business, which indicated that SC State has an impact of approximately $187 million on the state’s economy.  This is an increase of $37 million over a study conducted in 2005

SC State’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program had a completion rate of 100% as well as an employment rate for graduates of 100%.

On February 23, 2015, the Board of Trustees named Dr. W. Franklin Evans Acting President of South Carolina State University.  The governor appointed a seven-member interim Board of Trustees to serve a term through June 30, 2018.  On July 16, 2015, the Board of Trustees promoted Dr. Evans from acting president to interim president of South Carolina State University.

The Reverend Dr. Solomon Jackson Jr., a philanthropist from Columbia, South Carolina, gifted SC State with a $120,000 contribution to support the purchase of a 54-passenger bus. Congressman James E. Clyburn and his wife, Emily, provided $70,000 in support of their alma mater to benefit the James E. and Emily E. Clyburn endowment and to establish the Emily England Clyburn Honors Scholarship program. In July 2015, the Felton Laboratory School became the Felton Laboratory Charter School sponsored by SC State University. Two University dormitories, Bradham and Manning Halls, were demolished in December 2015.

On February 26, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton spoke at Dukes Gymnasium to lead her ‘Get Out the Vote’ HBCU Rally.  Entertainer, entrepreneur, actress, radio personality, and philanthropist Sheryl Underwood delivered the commencement address to SC State University students during the May 2016 commencement.

On May 25, Judge Donald W. Beatty, ’74 was elected to serve as the next chief justice of the SC Supreme Court.  He is the second Africa American male to hold the position.

On June 6, it was announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson partnered with the university to establish a $2.5M Endowed Scholarship.  The Earvin “Magic” Johnson Endowed Scholarship Fund will support scholars who are working toward earning their degrees from the university’s School of Business. It was announced on June 16 that the university had successfully demonstrated compliance with its accrediting agency’s standards and was removed from probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).  SACSCOC’s decision reaffirmed the university’s accreditation with no sanctions.

On June 29, 2016, Dr. W. Franklin Evans resigned as Interim President. On June 29, Mr. James E. Clark was named the 12th president of SC State University following a meeting of the SC State Board of Trustees. The announcement was made by Board Chair Charles S. Way, Jr. Mr. Clark will serve a four-year term. His appointment began July 1, 2016.

Under the leadership of President Clark, there was an increase in the Fall 2016 enrollment for the first time in nine years. Nix and Rowe halls were renovated and brought back online, September 2016, to accommodate the increase in enrollment.

In September 2016, multiple ABET Accreditations were achieved in Computer Science, Civil Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, Industrial Engineering Technology, and Mechanical Engineering Technology, by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.

In addition, Memorandums of Understanding were signed with OC Tech (September 2016); Denmark Tech (November 2016); and Midlands Tech (March 2017) to establish a seamless accelerated pathway from their Associate’s to SC State’s baccalaureate degrees. The School of Business’ MBA is the only Healthcare Management option available at the Lowcountry Graduate Center in North Charleston. The kickoff reception was held January 19, 2017.

On March 5, 2017, President Clark was Inaugurated as the 12th President. Also, the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium was re-opened on the same day. As a safety mechanism for students and the community, the Chestnut Street Pedestrian Bridge was officially opened on May 5, 2017.

On Friday, May 12, 2017, the Honorary Doctor of Laws degree was conferred upon South Carolina Governor Henry D. McMaster and the Honorary Doctor of Engineering and Technology degree was conferred upon President Clark. Also on May 12, Joe Thomas, who was nationally recognized as the oldest Division I football player, completed his lifelong  journey of becoming a college graduate. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering Technology.

Former Miss SCSU Kára McCullough was crowned Miss USA on May 14, 2017. The 2013 alumna is a Chemical Radiologist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In addition, the University was also among 70 sites across the country participating in a national research initiative for the Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017.

On September 22, 2017, SC State University was awarded a grant in the amount of $6.2 million by the National Cancer Institute, NIH to establish the South Carolina Disparities Research Center. A portion of the total $12.5 million award funds the Medical University of South Carolina’s cancer disparities research. The two universities will collaborate on this project.

On February 8, the University commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre.  Bakari Sellers, son of Cleveland Sellers who was one of those wounded in the Orangeburg Massacre and the only person convicted of any crime in connection with the Orangeburg protests, served as the keynote speaker.

In April, SC State Alumnus Brig. Gen. Milford “Beags” Beagle Jr. was named the new commanding general of Fort Jackson, which is the nation’s largest basic training base. He is the second SC State graduate to assume this role.

In May, SC State University and Piedmont Technical College formalized a memorandum of understanding that will give Piedmont Tech students access to programs and services to facilitate their transfer to SC State upon completion of their associate’s degrees.

On October 19, 2018, the 93-foot pedestrian bridge over Chestnut Street was renamed the Dr. Emily England Clyburn Pedestrian Bridge.  The bridge was officially opened in May 2017.

During March 2020 the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic became more prevalent at alarming rates as it made a major impact in the United States and many countries.  Changes in the educational system in South Carolina was a new experience for everyone.  The university  was not exempted as several major changes were made, notably:  1) March 11 – spring break was extended and the university moved to remote learning and alternative instruction methods including online classes; 2) March 16 – the university closed per orders by Governor Henry D. McMaster, coursework was held remotely; 3) May 6 – university officials implemented an alternate grading policy for students; 4) May 20 – the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub in the College of Business  held a virtual Innovative Idea Competition that challenged students to use their creativity to create technology, a service or a product idea to solve a problem created by COVID-19; 5) May 31 – a spring virtual commencement was held; 6) July 16 – the MEAC announced it was suspending all sports competition for 2020; 7)  August 10 – fall classes started remotely for all students through November 24, 2020; 8) November 9 – the university and the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control began offering free COVID-19 drive-thru testing on the parking lot of SHM for university faculty, staff, students, and the  Orangeburg community; 9) January 19, 2021 – the Marching 101 Band performed during a virtual celebration honoring the historic presidential inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris; and 10) February 8 – faculty at SC State University physically returned to classrooms. The university engaged in dual delivery of instruction by resuming face-to-face instruction as well as continuing virtual instruction.

On July 13, 2021, the Board of Trustees named Retired U.S. Army Colonel Alexander Conyers acting president.   During the month, the university was named one of the most influential HBCU’s over the last two decades by Academic Influence.  The Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology’s graduate program was reaccredited, for an eight-year period, on the national level by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology.

On August 12, Acting President Conyers first student-parent focused initiative was the creation of a Legacy Luncheon to recognize incoming students whose parents and grandparents attended the university. On August 25, he was named interim president.

Also, on August 25, Interim President Conyers announced a fundraising campaign to honor the university’s 125 years of education and service through an endowment.  He launched a $1.25 million challenge to university supporters named, “Ready All to do and Dare.”   The campaign kicked-off with a $25,000 donation from him and First Lady Agatha Conyers.  As of December 31, 2021, the goal was exceeded with a total of more than $2.5 million raised.

Other accomplishments during his six months presidency, included:  1) the nuclear engineering program, No. 20 on the list, was designated one of the 25 best values in the nation for 2021 by Best Value Schools; 2) the university transitioned its civil engineering technology program to a “full” engineering program; 3) creation of an SCSU Parents and Family Association to build a bridge between the students’ families and the university; 4) work continued on Wilkinson Hall from a U.S. National Park Service $500,000 recurring grant; 5) extensive work began on Sojourner Truth Hall; 6) 1890 Research and Extension received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant of $750,000 to help cultivate beginning farmers; 7) United States President Joseph “Joe” R. Biden, Jr. was the fall commencement speaker, 8)  on December 18, SC State (MEAC) played Jackson State University (SWAC) in the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia and was named the HBCU national champions with a win of 31 to 10;  9) on December 20, a ribbon cutting was held to announce the Orangeburg Regional Innovation Center, developed by the university in partnership with Claflin University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, and other community partners resulting from a $225,000 grant from the South Carolina Department of Commerce; and 10) student enrollment and retention, health and safety of the campus, academic programs, and infrastructure were rigorously reviewed with detailed and specific plans for improvement.

The 2022 semester began with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC) notifying the university that it had reaffirmed its ten-year regional accreditation.  In addition, 1) the women’s and men’s track team established two school records in the 3,000 meters and four personal records from Carolina Challenge; 2) on February 4, a statue of the late civil rights icon and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, which was part of a traveling exhibition enroute to Washington, DC, was unveiled adjacent to the Orangeburg Massacre Monument; 3) on February 8, a program honoring the 54th Anniversary of the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre was held, and  the university dedicated a new monument featuring busts of the three young men killed in the civil rights demonstration in the Smith-Hammond-Middleton Legacy Plaza; 4) on February 15, SGA President, Javonni D. Ayers, and Governor Henry D. McMaster signed a bill creating an HBCU Day in the state of South Carolina to be recognized every third Tuesday in February, and 5) the Wilkinson Hall renovation project was recognized by the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC) for the stabilization measures used by the Building Envelope Enclosure (BEE) Group.