WVSU | West Virginia State University

Brief Historical Sketch of West Virginia State University

West Virginia State University was founded under the provisions of the Second Morrill Act of 1890 to provide education to black citizens in agriculture and the mechanical arts.  Like many other states at that time, West Virginia maintained a segregated education system.  On March 17, 1891, the Legislature passed a bill creating the West Virginia Colored Institute to be located in the Kanawha Valley. Federal funds provided $3,000 for faculty salaries and the West Virginia Legislature appropriated $10,000 to purchase land and to construct a building.  We now celebrate March 17 each year as the official “Founders Day” of West Virginia State University.
 
In 1915, the West Virginia Collegiate Institute began offering college degrees, academic programs were expanded and new buildings were constructed. In 1927, the Institute received accreditation from the North Central Association and in 1929 it became West Virginia State College.
 
After the 1954 United States Supreme Court historic decision outlawing school segregation, the Institution welcomed integration and met the unprecedented challenges of enrollment that quadrupled and transformed the institution into a racially and culturally diverse college. At that time, land-grant status was lost due to a decision of the West Virginia Board of Education. The College regained land-grant status in 2001, by an act of Congress and leveraged the accompanying federal funding to strengthen its mission of teaching, research and service to the community.
 
The first graduate degree programs were established in fall 2003 and with the passage of Senate Bill 448 during the 2004 legislative session, the Institution became West Virginia State University.
 
The University is a distinctive “living laboratory of human relations,” attracting students of all races, creeds, and backgrounds. In 2011-2012, WVSU's student population was 61 percent White, 12.5 percent Black, 1 percent Asian, 1 percent Hispanic, 0.5 percent American Indian and 24 percent of students who preferred not to identify race.   Those who work and learn at WVSU do so in an environment that more accurately reflects the diversity of America than any other college or university in West Virginia. For more information about WVSU, click here.
 
As a 21st Century, master’s-level university, WVSU has attained national prominence as a historically black institution (HBCU) of higher education that is filling a need for higher education for students who want to obtain the knowledge and leadership capabilities to compete in a global marketplace.
 
The University has a fully accessible, multigenerational population of faculty, staff and students. Currently, WVSU has an enrollment of approximately 2,644 undergraduate and graduate students, served by approximately 200 full- and part-time faculty members, in 15 academic departments. Ninety percent of entering freshmen receive financial aid.
 
WVSU students have become judges, educators, mathematicians, chemists, nurses, pilots, activists, dentists, ministers, actors, athletes, lawyers, military generals, artists, musicians, NASA personnel, CEOs, biotechnologists, coaches, and one Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
 

Past Presidents

West Virginia State University has only had 10 presidents in its history. The first three were technically called "principals" .
The first administrators lived in Fleming Hall, a multipurpose facility, that was the first building constructed on the campus. It was James McHenry Jones who selected the dormitory, East Hall, as his residence. Five of the president's resided there raising their families and entertaining distinguished visitors to the campus.
Dr. Harold McNeil was the last president to live there. A new president's home was completed in 1990. East Hall was named to the Register of Historic Places and refurbished. The Planning and Advancement administrative area and the WVSU R & D Corp. are currently housed in the building.


James Edwin Campbell

1892 - 1894
The first president was James Edwin Campbell a poet, free-lance writer and mathematician from Pomeroy Ohio. At age 24, he was responsible for starting the new school. With experience in both administration and teaching, he also had a book of poems to his credit. The Campbell Conference Center is named for him.
 

John H. Hill

1894 - 1898
The second president (1894 - 1898) was John H. Hill, a lawyer, teacher, administrator and soldier, who oversaw the first commencement. He resigned to fight in the Spanish-American War and later returned as an instructor. Hill Hall is named for him.


James McHenry Jones

1898 - 1908
James McHenry Jones was the third president (1898 – 1909). He is responsible for adding a "normal" department. Mr. Jones is buried in the cemetery near the Rehabilitation Center on Barron Drive. Jones Hall is named for him.


Byrd Prillerman

1909 - 1919
Byrd Prillerman, a faculty member and one of those responsible for having the land-grant school located in the Kanawha Valley, was the fourth president. During his tenure, academic programs were expanded and the institution was given a new name “The West Virginia Collegiate Institute.” Prillerman Hall is named for him.


John W. Davis

1919 - 1953
John Warren Davis was the fifth president (1919 – 1953). He focused on recruiting the best black faculty members he could find and developing the curriculum. He persuaded noted historian, Carter G. Woodson, to assist him as Academic Dean. During his tenure the school was first accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1927. The name became West Virginia State College in 1929. Davis is the longest-serving president. Davis Fine Arts Building is named for him.

William J.L. Wallace

1953 - 1973
The sixth president was William James Lord Wallace (1953 – 1973). The greatest challenge of his presidency came following U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional. Following that, the historically black West Virginia State College opened its doors to all students. Dr. Wallace not only met the challenge but set an example for the world to follow. The ease with which the College was integrated gave rise to the motto, “A Living Laboratory of Human Relations.” Wallace Hall is named for him.


Harold M. McNeill

1973 - 1981
Harold M. McNeill served as the seventh president from 1973 to 1981. During his tenure, the community college component was established; a building was erected for community college programs; and Ferrell Hall and the Drain-Jordan Library were renovated. The McNeill Physical Facilities Building is named for him.


Thomas W. Cole, Jr.

1982 - 1986
The eighth president was Thomas W. Cole, Jr. (1982 – 1986). During his administration Dr. Cole made several organizational changes in the institution creating new academic divisions and establishing a planning and advancement unit. Dr. Cole left West Virginia State in 1986 to become Chancellor of the West Virginia Board of Regents. The Cole Complex is named for him.


Dr. Hazo W. Carter, Jr.

1987 - 2012
Shortly after he became the ninth president in September 1987 Dr. Hazo W. Carter,Jr began a what would be a 12-year quest to regain the College’s land-grant status that had been transferred in the 1950s. Since "State" was the only institution to have the status removed, there was no precedent for recovering it. By the year 2000, West Virginia State was once again recognized on both the state and federal levels as an 1890 land-grant institution with accompanying funding to carry out its mission.
With the birthright land-grant status restored , the quest began for West Virginia State to be designated a university. West Virginia State University became a reality in 2004. These achievements, accompanied by two highly successful accreditations by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the addition of graduate programs highlight his administration.
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