Anderson University is a liberal arts college affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC). Its roots can be traced to a movement among leading citizens of Anderson to raise funds for the establishment of a women’s college. After $100,000 and a thirty-two acre site were secured, the money and land were offered to several denominations with the proviso that they be used to operate a Christian college. The offer was accepted by the SCBC meeting in Laurens in December 1910. Trustees were selected and a charter was granted by the state on February 14, 1911, the date regularly celebrated as Founders Day.
Classes were first offered in the fall of 1912, and bachelor’s degrees were offered to women until 1930. In January 1928 Dr. Annie Dove Denmark became president, the first woman to serve as a college president in South Carolina. In the fall of 1930, after a period of financial difficulties, she led the college to change its mission, and it became the first junior college in South Carolina. In 1931 men were admitted as day students only, but over time the college became fully coeducational.
In the 1950s the college again experienced financial difficulty, and the Baptist Convention considered closing it. After an increase in enrollment and financial support, and the receipt of full accreditation in 1959, the convention meeting of 1960 lifted its probation and allowed the college to borrow funds to expand.
Anderson College began offering upper-level undergraduate classes in 1991 and in 1993 again awarded bachelor’s degrees. In 2006, the school officially changed its name to Anderson University. In 2013, Anderson’s College of Visual and Performing Arts was renamed the South Carolina Schools of the Arts.
As of 2016, the university has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 3000 students and offers 40 majors. In addition, it offers ten graduate programs to approximately 500 graduate students, both on-campus and online. Anderson participates in NCAA Division-II athletic competition. Its purpose remains “to provide, within a Christian community, a quality liberal arts education for a diverse student body.”
Hester, Hubert I. They That Wait: A History of Anderson College. Anderson, S.C.: Anderson College, 1969.
King, Joe M. A History of South Carolina Baptists. Columbia: General Board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, 1964.