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 3,500 students. The university has graduated more than 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 1970 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, 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. In October 2023, B. Keith Faulkner became the university’s fourth president. A member of the Class of 1998, Faulkner is the first alumnus to serve as president.

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; classes held at First Baptist Church of North Charleston
  • 1966 Buildings on campus ready to receive students; Fred K. Norris Hall and C.S. Jones Hall open with temporary spaces for the library and dining hall. Students housed in temporary housing on campus
  • 1967 Field House, Student Center, and Russell East and Russell West dormitories open
  • 1968 H.E. Ashby Hall dedicated
  • 1968 First Commencement held with 41 graduates
  • 1969 Founding class graduates with 158 graduates, most had enrolled as freshmen in 1965
  • 1970 L. Mendel Rivers Library dedicated; Dr. Billy Graham was guest speaker, and Al Hirt, trumpeter, played
  • 1970 Accreditation awarded from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Dec. 2, 1970
  • 1971 Air Force ROTC program, Detachment 772, added as a four-year program
  • 1971 Between 1971 and 1973, athletic programs began transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division I, and women’s teams were added in basketball, cross country, and tennis
  • 1975 Lowcountry seismographic stations set up by U.S. Geological survey and monitored by Dr. Joyce Bagwell of the chemistry department
  • 1975 10th anniversary of the college celebrated; All athletic teams moved to NCAA Division I on Sept. 1, 1975
  • 1977 First college to offer a bachelor’s degree through an evening school program in the Lowcountry
  • 1979 Buccaneer Track celebrated its 100th win in March
  • 1983 BCC becomes founding member of the Big South Conference
  • 1983 Dr. John A. Fincher elected interim president
  • 1983 Women’s Auxiliary Advisory Council forms to fundraise for university; name later changed to Women’s Council
  • 1984 Dr. Jairy C. Hunter Jr. elected second president of the Baptist College at Charleston
  • 1984 Lightsey Chapel Auditorium dedicated; Men’s Quads residence halls open
  • 1985 Club football begins; first marching band formed
  • 1985 Julia Yost, former campus nurse, donates money to light the Chapel spire in memory of her husband, Oliver J. Yost, former head of the music department
  • 1985 John W. Beasley ’71 was first alumnus named to the Board of Trustees
  • 1986 Graduate studies program in Education accredited
  • 1986 Dr. Jairy C. Hunter Jr. inaugurated April 18, 1986
  • 1987 Dr. June Scobee ’71 was the first woman and first graduate to serve as commencement speaker
  • 1989 Athletic Hall of Fame established
  • 1990 The College of Business offers a Master of Business Administration
  • 1990 Baptist College at Charleston renamed Charleston Southern University and achieves university status
  • 1991 Hunter Reception Center opens, and Robert M. Condra Memorial Gates added; Club football moves to NCAA Division III, and Homecoming moved to football season
  • 1992 The Gene and Fred Ott Endowed Chair of Religion, the university’s first endowed chair, established
  • 1993 College of Education began offering Master of Education in Educational Administration
  • 1993 Commencement held at North Charleston Coliseum for the first time; football moves to NCAA Division I-AA (which later became Division 1 FCS)
  • 1994 University celebrates its 30th anniversary; first Miss CSU Pageant won by Danielle Fogle
  • 1995 Derry Patterson Wingo School of Nursing building dedicated
  • 1996 Internet access added to campus, and Comcast cable added to residence hall rooms
  • 1997 The Horton family donated $1 million in memory of former chair of the Board of Trustees, W. Gregory Horton, to establish the Horton School of Music and the Horton Chair of Church Music
  • 1997 Men’s Basketball advances to the first round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to UCLA 109-75 in Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • 1998 First School of Nursing students graduate
  • 1999 Master of Science in Criminal Justice added as a graduate offering
  • 1999 Whitfield Stadium Center dedicated
  • 2000 The Brewer Center and Whittington Hall dedicated
  • 2001 First Charleston-area university to offer students free wireless internet connections in residence hall rooms
  • 2002 CSU appears in the book Great Colleges for the Real World by Michael P. Viollt
  • 2003 CSU builds its first Habitat for Humanity house with funding from Board of Trustees member Johnny Ward
  • 2004 University celebrates 40 years
  • 2005 Science Building opens
  • 2005 Enrollment passes 3,000 for the first time at 3,022
  • 2006 L. Mendel Rivers Library renovated, and Java City opens
  • 2007 Wingate by Wyndham Inn opens
  • 2007 School of Nursing chosen one of 15 nursing schools in the nation to pilot the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; dining hall renovated
  • 2008 Campus streets named; Collegiate Learning Assessment national study places CSU in top 10 percent of universities for value-added education
  • 2009 University goes tobacco free
  • 2010 Brick walkway added around Reflection Pond, and bricks sold to benefit scholarships
  • 2011 University named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the first time
  • 2012 Athletic Center opens
  • 2013 Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership opens; Nursing expansion opens; CSU Herbarium accepted for registry with the prestigious New York Botanical Gardens
  • 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; first residence hall built in more than three decades opens
  • 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
  • 2019 Major update of Bucky, the athletic logo, unveils
  • 2019 CSU breaks national record for colleges packing the most Operation Christmas Child boxes with a total of 5,249 boxes
  • 2020 CSU moved to fully online learning during spring 2020 due to COVID-19 and held a virtual commencement ceremony
  • 2020 Strategic Plan rolls out with Passport to Purpose plan
  • 2020 Dewey Center for Chaplaincy launches
  • 2020 First collegiate Aeronautics program in South Carolina announced
  • 2021 Doctor of Physical Therapy program launches; the College of Education implements Call Me Mister program
  • 2021 Major renovations to the Student Center include The Cove, a student meeting place with the Buc Stop Grill, a student conference room, and a renovated Campus Store
  • 2022 College of Business named Hans A. Nielsen College of Business after a $2 million gift from Roger Nielsen ’74 and his family
  • 2022 Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce names CSU Business of the Year for 2022
  • 2023 Intramural Field opens, serving campus recreation and the Pride of the Lowcountry, CSU’s marching band
  • 2023 First official Ring Ceremony held
  • 2023 Gift from the late Barbara “Binky” Mead for $1.5 million is largest single gift to endow scholarships in university history
  • 2023 B. Keith Faulkner ’98 elected CSU’s fourth president