Founded in 1870 by Rhode Island native Mrs. Bathsheba Benedict, Benedict College was an 80-acre plantation when purchased as the Benedict Institute. The investors' - Mrs. Benedict and the Baptist Home Mission - long-term goal was to educate emancipated African-Americans and produce citizens "powers for good in society".
Nearly 139 years later, Benedict College has been one of the fastest growing of 39 United Negro College Fund Schools Of the 20 independent colleges in South Carolina, Benedict has the largest undergraduate student body and is the second largest overall. The College has students enrolled from every county in South Carolina. More than 2,800 students currently study at the school and is distinguished by its continued commitment to facilitate the empowerment, enhancement, and full participation of African Americans in a global society.
The school's growth is more than an expanding student enrollment. Benedict College is also involved in an ambitious building program. The beautiful park-like campus is located on the corners of Harden and Taylor Streets. The campus has undergone substantial renovations to its Antisdel Chapel, the Benjamin E. Mays Human Resource Center, Morgan Hall, Pratt Hall, and all of its dormitories.
But the school's growth is not limited to its historic area. Benedict College is also erecting a multi-million dollar, 60-acre sports complex off of Two Notch Road in Columbia. The new facility will include tennis courts, baseball fields, fitness trails, and running track. The heart of the complex is the11, 000 seat Charlie W. Johnson football stadium.
After a 30-year hiatus, football returned to Benedict College in 1995. And with football came its complement, the marching band. While credited by some as a boost to male student enrollment, according to Dr. David H. Swinton, president of Benedict College, the move back to football was a way for students to feel a "community esprit de corps", and to boost the "spirit and quality of the school".
The spirit and quality have attracted their share of additional success. The average SAT scores, Honors College enrollee rate, capital giving dollars and the number of research grants awarded to Benedict College have all increased. Also growing are the numbers of valedictorians and high achievers choosing the school as their first choice for higher education.
Students attending Benedict College have the opportunity to earn four-year, liberal arts degree from 30 different disciplines. These include: accounting, art, biology, business administration, chemistry, child and family development, computer science, computer/information science, criminal justice, early childhood education, economics, elementary education, English, environmental health science, history, mathematics, music education, physics, political science, recreation, religion and philosophy, and social work.
Receiving an academic education is only part of the Benedict College experience. Service to the community also defies their students. To encourage their community toward fairness and equality, Benedict College started The Center of Excellence for Community Development in 1997. This center is comprised of four programs: Educational Excellence, Child and Family Program, Business and Economic Development, the Democracy and Government. Each program is designed to help solve a distinct set of problems afflicting American society and in particular African-Americans.
The goal of the Education Excellence Program is to improve the standardized test scores and performance of African-American students. Innovative test-taking skills will be taught to participating students using a variety of life experiences as teaching and learning aides. Success in searching this goal will assist the program in reaching another important goal of reducing the dropout rate of African American students.
Solving problems associated with growing up in a disadvantaged home is the mission of the Child and Family (Excellence) Program. This part of the Excellence Center develops strategies, tactics, and programs to help African Americans deal with problems related to poverty, drug addiction and child abuse.
Encouraging small business ownership, and business improvement, particularly among African-American, is the goal of the Business and Economic Development Program. The Excellence Center focuses on teaching the principles and practices of entreprenuership and equates ownership with empowerment.
Community participation in the governmental process is the overall goal of the Democracy and Government portion of the Benedict College Center of Excellence. Of particular interest are the efforts this program makes to encourage voting. The eventual goal is to "enable our American democracy to work effectively not just for some of its people, but for all of its people", said Swinton.
Benedict College has a long history of producing high achievers. Some notable alumni include: Maj. Gen. Matthew Zimmerman, Dr. LeRoy Walker, and president emeritus of the US Olympic Committee. Other distinguished graduates include: I.S. Leevy Johnson Esq., the first African American President of the SC Bar Association; Modjeska Simkins, often referred as the mother of the South Carolina Civil Rights Movement; and Maria Pyles, 1990 SC Teacher of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year finalist.
Benedict College has also hosted many distinguished entertainers and visitors as part of its performing arts and lecture programs including Dr. Marion Wright Edelman, Tramaine Hawkins, the late Eartha Kitt, Clifton Davis, and Julianne Malveau. Additionally, Benedict has hosted several political and community leaders such as Michelle Obama; Senator Hillary Clinton; John Edwards, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman James E. Clyburn and Former Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.
Columbia's business and institutions have noticed the school's progress. Benedict College enjoys healthy relationship with many of them including: Policy Management Systems Corporation, The Medical University of South Carolina, Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation). Wachovia Bank, Bank of America, Carolina First Bank, Colonial Life, Chatham Steel Corporation, SCANA, Corporation, and others.
But for all of its progress, Benedict College still looks to the future.
"Clearly, with our momentum, Benedict College is in good hands for the years to come. We are thankful for that because we feel our great challenges and opportunities still lie ahead", said Swinton.