Charleston Southern University, formerly Baptist College at Charleston, is the largest accredited, private university in South Carolina. Affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the university offers 57 undergraduate degrees, 18 graduate degree programs, one doctoral degree and enrolls 3,600 students. The university has graduated more than 18,000 students in its 50-year history.
The urgent need for another college in the Lowcountry became a matter of active and organized consideration in 1954. South Carolina Baptists made its establishment a matter of official deliberation at a meeting of the General Board in September 1955.
After considerable study by official education committees, both locally and conventionwide, the Capital Needs Committee of the State Convention brought a recommendation which initiated efforts to begin seeking both a site and funds for the establishment of a college. The South Carolina Baptist Convention agreed to support the plan, and more than 70,000 individuals made contributions ranging from $1 to $20,000.
Former Charleston mayor, J. Palmer Gaillard Jr., was instrumental in helping supporters acquire 500 acres of land 16 miles from the city limits of Charleston, at the northeast intersection of Interstate 26 and Highway 78. In 1964, trustees were elected by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Dr. John A. Hamrick, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston and founder of First Baptist Church School, was elected the first president of the university by the Board of Trustees in November 1964. The first semester of Charleston Southern University was in the fall of 1965, in buildings of the First Baptist Church of North Charleston. Administrative offices were located in the First Baptist Church of Charleston. Professors from The Citadel and the Medical University offered to serve as part-time professors to supplement the small faculty. The old St. John Hotel, now The Mills House Hotel, offered to rent rooms to house students.
By September 1966, buildings on the campus were ready, and the university's second year began amid construction, landscaping and the physical development of the campus. By the third year, a 60-member faculty was in place, and majors were offered in 17 academic areas. In 1969 the founding class graduated, and by 1971 the school gained accreditation.
In 1984 Dr. Jairy C. Hunter Jr. became the second president of Charleston Southern University. The Graduate Studies Program in Education became accredited in 1986. It was expanded to include concentrations in elementary and secondary education beginning with the 1988 spring term. The College of Business began to offer a Master of Business Administration degree in 1990. In 1993, the College of Education began offering a Master of Education in Educational Administration. In 1999, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice was added to the graduate offerings.
In 1990, the school achieved university status and changed its name to Charleston Southern University.
The university has grown from an initial student body of 588. There are now many significant campus buildings to provide for the needs of the university. From its beginning the university has sought to provide not only excellent academic opportunities, but has, in all its planning, held to the ideal of the development of the total individual. Employment of personnel deeply committed to assisting each individual student to attain his maximum potential within a Christian environment has made this institution distinctive.