The Beginning: President William Wightman (1854-1875)
December 2, 1850 - The Rev. Benjamin Wofford of Spartanburg dies, leaving a bequest of $100,000 to found a college "for literary, classical and scientific education in his native district." Trustees are to be elected by the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church.
August 1, 1854 - The college opens for its first session with an enrollment of seven students. A future Methodist bishop, William Wightman, is the first president. Five of the original six buildings, including "Old Main," still stand on the campus and are in daily use.
July 1856 - Wofford confers its first degree upon Samuel Dibble, a transfer student from the College of Charleston. Dibble goes on to enjoy a distinguished business and civic career in Orangeburg, SC, and, in the 1880s, serves four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
July 12, 1859 - With Charles Petty as the first president, the first alumni association is organized. The motto, originally in Greek, is “We, the adopted, honor the mother who nourished us.”
May 1864 - Trustees invest virtually all of the college's endowment in Confederate currency, bonds, and other soon-to-be-worthless securities.
1869 - The first Greek letter social fraternities, including a still-active chapter of Kappa Alpha, are installed on the campus.
President James H. Carlisle (1875-1902)
1875 - James H. Carlisle becomes president, serving through 1902. Sometimes called the "greatest South Carolinian of his day," Carlisle was known throughout the South as an inspirational teacher of ethics and morals.
January 1889 - The first issue of the Wofford Journal appears; it is thought to be the oldest continuously published college literary magazine in the South.
"Sweet Sixteen"1889 - Wofford graduates a distinguished class known as "the Sweet Sixteen." Its members included a United States Senator, the first president of Duke University, the bishop who founded Southern Methodist University, and a chemical engineer who made breakthrough discoveries in paint and varnish technology.
December 14, 1889 - Wofford and Furman play South Carolina's first intercollegiate football game.
November 6, 1895 - Professors Henry Nelson Snyder and A.G. Rembert represent Wofford as 10 leading colleges and universities meet in Atlanta to form the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which became the regional accrediting agency. Primarily because some faculty members taught in the "fitting" or "preparatory" school, Wofford does not become a charter member, but meets SACS standards in 1921. (The founder of this organization is considered to be the distinguished Chancellor James H. Kirkland of Vanderbilt University, an 1877 Wofford graduate).
President Henry Nelson Snyder (1902-1942)
1902 - Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder begins his 40-year administration as president. He is generally credited with establishing Wofford's academic reputation. In his first decade as president, he secures the funds needed to build a science hall, a library building and a large new residence hall.
August 1942 -
1904 - Trustees decide to admit only men as students, ending a period when women had attended Wofford as "day students." (Between this date and 1975, a few faculty wives and daughters were accepted as students, and women were admitted as graduate students during a period when master’s degrees were offered.)
December 29, 1919 - Wofford becomes one of the first church-related colleges in the United States to receive a unit of the infantry Reserve Officers' Training Corps. While participation has never been compulsory, the military science department has remained an integral part of Wofford since that time. Approximately 2,000 Wofford graduates have received officers' commissions in the Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard.
February 1928 - 21 Wofford students, under the direction of Professor James A. "Graveyard" Chiles, form a club they call the Deutscher Verein. Seeing the need for an international honor society devoted to the study of German language and literature, the Wofford group goes on to form Delta Phi Alpha, which has grown to more than 30,000 living members with a headquarters at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Wofford's Alpha Chapter is still active.
June 1933 - Faculty and staff finish a Depression year during which they work without pay for seven months. Wofford has accumulated an operating deficit approaching $187,000, and almost one-third of the $700,000 endowment is "non-productive." Emergency measures are necessary, but within four years, Wofford is relatively comfortable and again operating in the black. By 1942 and the coming of World War II, the college is debt-free.
Installation of Phi Beta Kappa
January 14, 1941 - Wofford receives a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious liberal arts honor society. Today, there are 250 of these chapters across the country and only three in South Carolina. The independent colleges and universities in the Carolinas with Phi Beta Kappa chapters are Davidson, Duke, Furman, Wake Forest and Wofford.
President Walter K. Greene (1942-1952)
The only alumnus or alumna to serve as president of Wofford, Dr. Walter K. Greene (1903), takes office as Dr. Snyder retires. He serves as president of both Wofford and Columbia Colleges for a brief period in the early 1950s as the Methodist Church tries to decide what do to with its colleges.
February 22, 1943 - Wofford classes move to Converse and Spartanburg Junior Colleges while the Army uses the campus to train "pre-flight" aviation cadets. Although most young men are in the armed services, some civilian classes resume on the campus in September 1944.
Spring 1948 - Wofford begins the "King Teen" program, one of the first merit scholarship competitions in the country. Its successor program, Wofford Scholars, continues today.
President Francis Pendleton Gaines (1952-1958)
September 1,1952 - Francis Pendleton Gaines becomes president. His major achievement is attracting Spartanburg textile executive Roger Milliken to the Wofford Board of Trustees.
1953 - The Spartanburg County Foundation presents Wofford with a small planetarium for use by the college and youth groups in the community. For a generation, this is the only public planetarium in South Carolina, and hundreds come to the campus to enjoy faculty-student presentations on astronomy.
President Charles F. Marsh (1958-1968)
September 1958 - Charles F. Marsh becomes president. During his administration, enrollment is allowed to rise gradually to a self-imposed ceiling of 1,000 men. Many new buildings are constructed, including the Milliken Science Building, the Sandor Teszler Library, the Burwell student and food service center, and three new residence halls.
June 30, 1972
May 12, 1964 - Wofford Trustees issue a formal statement that prospective students will be judged according to standards uniformally applied “regardless of race or creed.” When Albert W. Gray of Spartanburg enrolls in the fall, Wofford becomes one of the first historically white independent colleges in the “Cotton Belt” South to admit African-Americans voluntarily. Today, about 9 percent of Wofford students are African-Americans, and their retention and graduation rates are higher than those for the student body as a whole.
January 1968 - Wofford adopts the 4-1-4 academic calendar, which allows students to spend the month of January working on a special "project." Many use this opportunity to do independent study or undertake travel-study tours with faculty. President Marsh lists this innovation as the major accomplishment of his administration.
President Paul Hardin III (1968-1972)
September 1, 1968 - Paul Hardin III becomes president, serving for almost four years before leaving to become president of Southern Methodist University and, later, chancellor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. During a time of turmoil on college campuses, Hardin institutes a number of reforms, including "The Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities." Beverage alcohol is now permitted in certain places on campus, and compulsory "chapel" assemblies are abolished.
President Joab M. Lesesne, Jr. (1972-2000)
- Joab M. Lesesne Jr. becomes president.
July 2000 -
1973 - The golf team, coached by Earle Buice, is host for the NAIA national championship tournament and wins it. This achievement is believed to represent the first national championship won by a South Carolina college or university in any sport.
June 1973 - Wofford receives $400,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to implement a revised and expanded humanities curriculum. The approved proposal provides for graduation requirement changes, two new majors, seminar-type humanities courses, and reading and writing laboratories.
September 1973 - South Carolina Tuition Grant program is implemented, with about 100 students receiving $150,000. By 1974, this number had climbed to 201 with a total of $283,000.
December 1973 - C. Edward Coffey '74 is selected as the fifth Rhodes Scholar from Wofford. (Dr. Coffey now heads the department of psychiatry at Detroit’s internationally respected Henry Ford Medical Center).
September 1974-The South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church approves a plan to expand the Board of Trustees from 21 to 27 members and abandons a traditional quota of 11 lay members and 10 clergy Trustees. “Old Main,” the four original faculty homes, and the surrounding section of the campus are designated as a National Historic District.
Full Coeducation Instituted by Trustees
October 1975-After a thorough study, the Board of Trustees approves the faculty's recommendation to institute full, residential coeducation at Wofford. By the fall of 1978, the freshmen class is composed of 221 men and 79 women.
May 1977-The Truman Scholars program begins, and Wade Ballard '79 is South Carolina's first winner. Since then, four more Wofford students have claimed the prestigious honor.
March 1980 - Trustee "Gus" Papadopoulos '54 provides the funds for a weekend faculty/staff retreat to Fripp Island. Small groups discuss "The Essence of Wofford's Future." The concept is so successful that it becomes an (almost) annual event. Papadopoulos later becomes the first Wofford alumnus to pass the $1 million milestone in lifetime contributions to his alma mater.
June 1980 - First sessions of a Summer Program for Academically Talented Students (Grades 5-9) are held.
January 1981 - $4.2 million Campus Life Building opens with a basketball game against The Citadel and a Theatre Workshop Production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
November 1983 -U.S. News & World Report publishes the first in its series of higher education ratings, placing Wofford among "America's Best Colleges." Wofford continues to do well in these annual surveys, ranking in the top three among "Southern regional liberal arts colleges" for five straight years before being promoted to a "national liberal arts college."
December 1983 - Wofford receives a $500,000 gift from The Abney Foundation of Greenwood, SC, to establish the John Pope Abney Memorial Scholarship Fund. Subsequent contributions have continued to increase the endowment and scope of this program.
December 27, 1983 - Fisher DeBerry ’60 is named head football coach at the Air Force Academy. In his second season as head coach, he posts a 12-1 record, wins a bowl game, and is chosen the NCAA Division I coach of the year. As of fall 2004, DeBerry is still going strong as the Falcons’ head coach, earning respect for his hard work and integrity while winning consistently against tough opposition.
January 1985 - Danny Morrison '75 becomes Wofford's first full-time director of athletics. This sets the stage for Trustee approval of a plan for Wofford to join the NCAA. Morrison's highly successful administration of the athletics program continues through 1996, when he is promoted to senior vice president.
March 1985 - President Lesesne becomes the first Southerner to be chairman of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). During the eighties, he also serves on the board of directors of the prestigious American Council on Education, and as president of the Southern University Conference.
November 1985 - Collier Slade '87 travels around the world studying the problem of global deforestation as the first annual Presidential International Scholar. Normally a rising senior, this individual is personally chosen by the president as the singular student best fitted to benefit humankind. Following their year of travel, the Scholars return to the campus to complete their studies.
June 1986 - Dr. Talmage Skinner '56 becomes the college's campus minister, improving spiritual life on the campus and developing student volunteer programs.
October 1986 - The Neofytos D. Papadopoulos Building opens and becomes "Wofford's New Front Door." The dedication of this new building on North Church Street is followed by extensive landscaping projects, including the Thomas B. Butler Circle and its trident fountain, designed by Harold Crisel of Bridgehamption, New York. The adjacent and incorporated Hugh S. Black Hall is extensively renovated for use by the admissions and financial aid offices in observance of the building's centennial in 1988.
May 1987 - Trustees approve the year-long work of a planning task force chaired by President Lesesne and Trustee Chairman Russell King '56. Adoption of this Masterplan signals new momentum and sets dramatically new goals for the college. The total cost estimate for fully implementing the Masterplan exceeds $100 million.
September 1989 - The F.W. Olin Foundation announces a $5.5 million gift to Wofford for a new academic building featuring first-rate computer and video teaching technology. The building is dedicated in May 1992, in colorful ceremonies.
The Campaign for Wofford
June 1990 - College launches The Campaign for Wofford: An Investment in People, a $33.3 million drive to provide the first one-third of the funding for the 1987 Masterplan. Successful completion of this effort is announced in December 1991, after three gifts of $1 million each from Trustee Roger Milliken, Milliken & Company and the Reeves Foundation, Inc.; and $500,000 from the Close Foundation.
September 1990 - Construction of a new dormitory for women begins, increasing residence hall capacity to 962 students.
September 1991 - Wofford has its first Goldwater Scholar, Jay E. Harris '93, and launches the Bonner Scholars Program to provide financial aid for deserving students and to encourage volunteerism.
May 1992 - The new John E. Reeves tennis center is dedicated, and the golf team plays host to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
July 1992 - Wofford shares in the estate of Mrs. Charles E. Daniel. Her will establishes three professorships ($2.25 million) and provides an additional $10 million for the general endowment.
Richardson Building, Gibbs Stadium, and the Panthers
May 1994 - Jerry Richardson ’59 is the owner and founder of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. To attract the team’s summer training camp to Spartanburg, the people of the city and various agencies contribute the money needed to build the Richardson Physical Activities Building and Gibbs Stadium on newly acquired land north and east of the campus. The Panthers make their first visit to the college in July and August 1995.
September 1995 - Wofford becomes a member of NCAA Division I in athletics, competing at the I-AA level in football. Wofford fields additional women's sports teams in soccer, golf and track. In December, Wofford accepts an invitation to join the Southern Conference, effective with the 1997-98 academic year. The Terriers are very competitive in their first season and capture conference awards for sportsmanship and graduation rates among student-athletes.
December 1996 - A study by the Institute for International Education of Students reveals that Wofford leads the nation in sending students abroad to earn academic credit. Almost one of every five students during the year 1994-95 studied in a foreign country, with the experiences ranging from a full-year at a foreign universities to travel projects during the January Interim.
1997 - The distinguished historian of Southern politics, Dr. Dewey Grantham, comes to Wofford for the spring semester as the first Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in the department of history. The endowed chair had been established in April 1996 with a gift from Mr. and Mrs. George Dean Johnson Jr. In September, A $1 million gift from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation of Wichita Falls, TX, creates an endowed chair in the department of religion for the chaplain of the college.
March 1997 - Wofford alumni Rudy Mancke ’67, host of the award-winning SCETV program Naturescene, and the late, pioneering radiologist Dr. Eugene P. Pendergrass ’16 are inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Science and Technology.
March 1998 - Trustee respond to a matching gift challenge from Trustee Roger Milliken and approve plans to build a new residence hall and science building. The William Preston Few organ is installed in Leonard Auditorium.
President Benjamin B. Dunlap (2000-Present)
Benjamin B. Dunlap, Chapman Professor of Humanities, becomes Wofford’s tenth president. He replaces Joab M. Lesesne Jr., who retires after serving since 1972.
April 2001 - The Roger Milliken Science Center opens, housing the departments of biology, chemistry, physics and psychology.
October 2001 - The “voice of Wofford,” the original college bell cast by the famous Meneely Foundry in West Troy, NC, is restored and again rings out proudly from the west tower of “Old Main.” It is part of an ongoing effort to preserve and modernize the historic academic building.
April 2002 - the United Methodist Education Foundation names Biologist Dr. Ellen Goldey the Outstanding Educator of the Year. Ben Foster ’02 wins the Arthur Ashe Jr. Award as the outstanding male African-American College Athlete (Black Issues in Higher Education magazine).
September 2002 - Freshman humanities classes enjoy "The Novel Experience” as part of their orientation. They read the novel Middle Passage, write essays for publication, and hear from the author, Charles Johnson. This idea of "The Novel Experience" has continued and is now a key part of Orientation each year, introducing many notable authors to the Wofford campus.
November 2002 - The entire 150-acre campus is designated as the “Wofford Arboretum” in ceremonies featuring horticulturalist Michael Dirr and landscape architect Rick Webel. The college is a member of the American Association of Botanical Arboreta. Nearly 4,500 trees were planted between 1992 and 2002, representing 97 native varieties.
November 2003 - The Terrier football team sweeps through its Southern Conference season undefeated and advances to the NCAA-Division I semifinals. Mike Ayers is the 2003 winner of The Sports Network's Eddie Robinson Award, signifying Division I-AA's National Coach of the Year.
February 2004 - The Russell C. King Field opens, making the return of Terrier baseball to a campus venue. Allyn Steele ’05 is selected as a second team (top 40) member of USA Today’s 2004 All-USA College Academic teams. He is the only representative of a South Carolina college or university.
2004 - The Anna Todd Wofford Center in a renovated portion of Andrews Field House provides additional office and meeting space for women’s organizations and other student groups. Ongoing improvements to the Campus Life Building include a new commons area and the McMillan Theater.
2007 - Renovation of "Old Main" classrooms, offices and Leonard Auditorium completed.
For a more detailed chronology covering the years 2000-the present, click here.