Columbia International University

1921 –

Founded as an undergraduate college in 1921, Columbia International University has been one of the symbolic centers to which fundamentalists and conservative evangelical Protestants in South Carolina have gravitated.

Founded as an undergraduate college in 1921, Columbia International University has been one of the symbolic centers to which fundamentalists and conservative evangelical Protestants in South Carolina have gravitated. The school traces its roots to the work of Emily Dick, who held Bible classes in homes, sewing classes for women, and programs for children in the mill villages around Columbia beginning in 1913. A former student at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, Dick voiced the need for a similar school to train laypersons for work in Protestant churches in South Carolina. What was then called Southern Bible Institute opened in Columbia in the fall of 1921. The following year Robert Crawford McQuilkin, a popular Bible conference speaker in South Carolina and elsewhere, became dean. He changed the name to Columbia Bible College when he became president in 1923. At that time the school offered only a two-year course in Bible studies. McQuilkin shaped the school as a fundamentalist institution and thus helped plant fundamentalism in South Carolina.

Under McQuilkin’s leadership, the college began to expand its curriculum and degree programs, offering not only a four-year baccalaureate degree but also an M.A. in Bible Education beginning in 1936. Additional professional programs were established in the affiliated Columbia Biblical Seminary and School of Missions. The major focus remained training persons to be pastors, missionaries, youth and children’s workers, Bible teachers, and Christian education directors. In 1960 the entire operation moved from downtown Columbia to a four hundred-acre suburban campus.

Renamed Columbia International University in 1994, the institution retains its fundamentalist orientation, still requiring all students to have a major in Bible studies, even if enrolled in one of the sixteen professional programs. In 2002 undergraduate enrollment was around 700, with 25 opting for the distance learning program. An additional 75 students were pursuing degrees in six programs in education and one in counseling offered through the graduate school. Seminary curricula leading to M.A. and M.Div. degrees enrolled around 300, with an additional 125 opting for the distance learning tracks. A doctor of ministry program drew around 50 more. Thus, in 2002 total enrollment hovered around 1,300.

Glass, William R. Strangers in Zion: Fundamentalists in the South, 1900–1950. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2001.

Mathews, R. Arthur. Towers Pointing Upward. Columbia, S.C.: Columbia Bible College, 1973.

McQuilkin, Marguerite. Always in Triumph: The Life of Robert C. McQuilkin. Columbia, S.C.: Bible College Bookstore, 1956.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Columbia International University
  • Coverage 1921 –
  • Author
  • Keywords evangelical Protestants, Emily Dick, Robert Crawford McQuilkin, Bible studies
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 27, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 20, 2022
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