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Our Heritage

"Fresh Crowned with Fame, in Every Passing Year"

Newberry College has enjoyed a rich and exciting history — conceived in the antebellum church, guided through the tumult of the Civil War and Reconstruction, strengthened throughout the 20th century and carried to new heights in the 21st.


Newberry College is chartered on Dec. 20 as a college, seminary, and preparatory school of the Lutheran Synod of South Carolina. The principal founder was the Rev. John Bachman (1790 – 1874), a Charleston minister and naturalist, who also served as the first chair of the Board of Trustees. Classes officially began on Feb. 22, 1859.

1861 – 1865

The College's second president and a staunch Unionist, the Rev. James A. Brown (1812 – 1882), resigned in January 1861 following South Carolina's secession from the Union the previous month. He returned to his native Pennsylvania and became a chaplain in the Union Army during the Civil War. The Rev. Dr. Josiah P. Smeltzer (1819 – 1887) assumed the presidency less than a week before the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter. In the following months, enrollment plummeted as students joined the Confederate Army. By 1864, the student body had dropped to 30 students — four in the college and 26 in the preparatory division. In March 1865, the College's original building was commandeered by the Confederate Army as a hospital during the last days of the war. From July to October, the campus headquartered the 56th New York Infantry, which destroyed the College's only building, chopping up doors and furniture for firewood and even turning the roof into a swimming pool.

1868 – 1877

By 1868, after having made the best of a campus despoiled at the end of the Civil War, the Board of Trustees accepted an offer to relocate the College to Walhalla, South Carolina — a Lutheran community established by German immigrants in 1850. Smeltzer and the College's 10 students departed Newberry on Oct. 26, taking with them the College bell, a small collection of books, and a bust of Martin Luther (which today resides in Holland Hall). In 1869, the College awarded its first bachelor's degree to James E. Houseal (1849 – 1941). At the end of Reconstruction, the College reacquired the Newberry campus and returned in 1877. Smeltzer remained in Walhalla to become president of Walhalla Female College, and the Rev. Dr. George W. Holland (1838 – 1895) took the helm. The cornerstone of the College's first new building, what would become Smeltzer Hall, was laid on July 18, 1877.

1885 – 1900

Newberry College began offering master's degrees in 1885. Over the next 43 years, 53 men and one woman earned graduate degrees in subjects including mathematics, philosophy, physics, Latin and Greek. College enrollment was first opened to women in 1897, when eight women enrolled. The first female graduate was Margaret Johnstone Mills (1881 – 1973) in 1900. President George B. Cromer (1857 – 1935), the first alumnus to serve as president, met with U.S. President William McKinley in Washington on March 2 and 4, 1898. The two discussed an appropriation that would reimburse the College $15,000 (or about $512,739 in 2022) for damages inflicted to the campus by Union troops in 1865. McKinley signed the bill on March 7, and part of the payment funded the construction of Holland Hall, which was completed in 1904. In 1899, baseball became the College's first intercollegiate sport, and the team purchased bright red uniforms. Because of this, the players were called the "Red Men," which, via a racial epithet, became the "Indians" in the early 1910s.

1911 – 1913

Intercollegiate basketball is established at Newberry College in 1911, and the first game is a Thanksgiving Day victory over Erskine College, 23-9. The team went on to take the state championship eight times between 1912 and 1924. In 1912, nine years after the Wright Brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, sophomore Louis H. Wink (1893 – 1971) became South Carolina's first known aviator with an airplane he built as a class project. After an eight-year ban for its "brutal" nature, football returned to Newberry in 1913 as an intercollegiate sport. Fred D. "Dutch" MacLean (1888 – 1964) transferred from Brown University to play in Newberry's first team. MacLean graduated in 1915 and coached Newberry football, baseball and basketball from 1921 – 1938.


During World War I, with the Board of Trustees' permission, the U.S. Army established a unit of the Student Army Training Corps. The program allowed enlisted students to take college courses and train for the military simultaneously. The short-lived program trained 100 men from September to December 1918.


Newberry became fully coeduational through a merger with Summerland College (1912 – 1930) of Batesburg, South Carolina. The Lutheran college stood on the site of the present-day Batesburg-Leesville High School. In the late 1920s, the Lutheran synod decided it could not support two colleges only 30 miles apart, and the merger began in 1926. The merger brought Newberry a coeducational campus life, a larger enrollment, more women faculty, and the introduction of art and music to the curriculum.

1941 – 1945

With the United States' entry into World War II in December 1941, enrollment fell as students enlisted or were drafted into the war effort. By 1943, the student body comprised 95 women and only 31 men. That same year, the U.S. Navy established the V-12 program at Newberry, designed to train a large number of officers and offset falling college enrollment. Between July 31, 1943, and the unit's dismissal on Oct. 31, 1945, over 1,000 V-12 cadets were assigned to Newberry. Wright Hall was constructed as a recreation center for cadets, through the efforts of Zaccheus F. Wright (1869 – 1949), class of 1888. Wright Hall is now home to the campus mail center and the esports program. In July 1945, the U.S. Navy launched the SS Newberry Victory, named for Newberry College, which served as a transport ship during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. The ship was scrapped in 1979.


The tradition of the Bronze Derby as a symbol of the rivalry between Newberry and Presbyterian College began on Jan. 31, 1947. Newberry played rival Presbyterian College in basketball, in what would later be named MacLean Gymnasium. An unnamed Newberry student climbed a ladder on the outside of the building, into an open window behind the visitors’ stands, and took a bowler hat off the head of a Blue Hose. Former student Corrin Bowers (1928-2006) would later write that he was the hat's owner, and that the whole operation was merely to recover stolen property. Presbyterian won the game 57-41, and several altercations ensued after the game. Soon after, Presbyterian’s public relations director, Charles MacDonald, wrote Frank Kinard ’47 (1924-2021), Newberry’s sports publicity director, suggesting that the hat be recovered and made into a symbol of the schools’ rivalry. The hat was turned in anonymously, cast in bronze, and the Bronze Derby was born. The trophy would be passed to the victor of each meeting in basketball, baseball and football until 1956, and only in football until PC left Division II. The Bronze Derby has resided in Clinton, South Carolina, since the Blue Hose's final 10-0 victory on Nov. 11, 2006.


Nancy Lou Anderson Glasgow '70 became the first African American student to enroll at Newberry College. A Newberry native, she was a day student for her four years. At Opeining Convocation in September 1966, President A.G.D. Wiles (1906 – 1982) told the student body, of Anderson, "She is a student at Newberry College and she will graduate from Newberry College. Anybody who has a problem with that should take it up with me." Glasgow earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1970 and worked as an elementary school teacher until her retirement.


Women's intercollegiate athletics began at Newberry in 1976 with women's basketball, followed closely by tennis, softball and volleyball. The first women's basketball game was a Nov. 29 loss to host Columbia College, 74-59. Newberry's first female head coach was Christine Faust, who coached women's basketball from 1977 – 1982.

2010 – Present

The second and third decades of the 21st century have marked a new era for Newberry College in every way. In 2010, the College officially adopted the Wolves as the athletic mascot. In 2011, Newberry's historic Oakland Textile Mill was renovated into apartments, with Newberry College leasing the southern half as a residence hall for upperclassmen. On Aug. 23, 2012, Dr. Maurice W. Scherrens was inaugurated as the College's 23rd president. In 2013, Dufford Diversity & Inclusion Week began as an annual tradition, supported by civil rights leader and retired educator Dr. William E. Dufford '49. In 2014, Scherrens announced the largest comprehensive capital campaign in College history, Scaling the Summit. In 2016, the former Speers Street Elementary School was renovated into the Collge's Center for Teacher Education. The College's first online program, RN-to-BSN, launched in 2017. In 2020, the College completed the Melvin & Dollie Younts Athletic Performance Center. In 2021, the College launched its first new graduate program, a Master of Science in Organizational Development & Leadership.

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