A look into the past

Charleston Southern University, formerly Baptist College at Charleston, is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate degrees, more than 20 graduate degree programs, two doctoral degrees, 29 online degree programs and enrolls more than 3,400 students. The university has graduated 21,000 students in its 59-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 convention wide, 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. From 2005 to the present, several significant buildings have been added including the Science building, the Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership, the Athletic Performance Center, the Singleton Baseball Complex and the Health Science building. New programs in physician assistant studies and a doctor of education in leadership, and doctor of physical therapy have been added.

Dr. Jairy C. Hunter retired in May 2018, and Dr. Dondi E. Costin became the third president on July 1, 2018.

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.


  • 1955 Official deliberation held at the South Carolina Baptist Convention General Board regarding the establishment of a college in the Lowcountry
  • 1964 Trustees elected by the SCBC
  • 1964 Dr. John A. Hamrick elected first president of the Baptist College at Charleston
  • 1965 First semester held in the fall
  • 1966 Buildings on campus ready to receive students
  • 1969 Founding class graduated
  • 1971 School gained accreditation
  • 1984 Dr. Jairy C. Hunter Jr. elected second president of the Baptist College at Charleston
  • 1986 Graduate studies program in Education became accredited
  • 1990 The College of Business began to offer a Master of Business Administration
  • 1990 University achieved university status
  • 1990 Baptist College at Charleston renamed Charleston Southern University
  • 1993 College of Education began offering Master of Education in Educational Administration
  • 1999 Master of Science in Criminal Justice added as a graduate offering
  • 2005 Science Building officially opened
  • 2006 L. Mendel Rivers Library renovated and Java City added
  • 2007 Wingate by Wyndham Inn opens
  • 2012 New Athletic Center opens
  • 2013 Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership opens
  • 2014 Chick-fil-A Express opens, and Hunter Reception Center expanded and renamed the Jairy C. and Carolyn K. Hunter Center, in recognition of Dr. and Mrs. Hunter’s 30 years of service to CSU
  • 2014 CSU celebrates its 50th Anniversary
  • 2017 Athletic Performance Center opens
  • 2018 Singleton Baseball Complex and Health Science Building open
  • 2018 Physician Assistant Studies program begins
  • 2018 Dr. Dondi E. Costin elected third president of Charleston Southern University
  • 2018 The first doctoral program is announced for a Doctor in Education – Leadership
  • 2019 Bachelor of Science in engineering launches
  • 2020 Dewey Center for Chaplaincy launches
  • 2020 First collegiate Aeronautics program in South Carolina announced