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On this date in 1870, Benedict College was established in Columbia, S.C., one of over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in America.
Originally Benedict Institute, it was founded under the auspices of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Mrs. Bathsheba A. Benedict of Pawtucket, R.I., provided financial support, adding to a small legacy from her husband. This purchased an 80-acre plantation near Columbia to educate recently emancipated people of African descent. Benedict set out from humble beginnings to prepare men and women to be "powers for good in society."
During the first 25 years of its existence, Benedict's educational program tackled the severely limited economic and social conditions of the Blacks in the South. Its original objective was to train teachers and preachers, and its first curriculum was limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Later it added an industrial department offering carpentry, shoemaking, printing, and painting. On November 2, 1894, it was chartered as a liberal arts college by the South Carolina Legislature, and the name "Benedict Institute" was changed to "Benedict College."
The year 1930 signaled the succession of Black presidents at the college. The college maintains a liberal arts tradition while meeting complex societal demands through the scope and depth of its varied programs and services. The college offers bachelor's degree programs in 25 major areas of study.
Of the 20 independent colleges in South Carolina, Benedict has the largest undergraduate student body and is the second-largest overall, with an undergraduate population of over 2,500 students. Benedict College is ranked 2nd in the nation in producing Black physics majors, as reported by the Education and Employment statistic Division of the American Institute of Physics, and it became only the 2nd HBCU in the nation and the 1st in South Carolina to receive national accreditation for its Environmental Health Program (EHAC). These and more rankings attest to its excellence.
Benedict College 2000 has been engaged in a strategic planning process for the 21st century. The college is implementing a $50 million campus improvement plan, including land acquisition and completing a comprehensive athletics complex.
The college is celebrating nearly 140 years (as of 2009) of providing quality education to its students and meritorious service to this community. Over the years, more than 10,000 graduates of this institution have succeeded in all areas of human endeavor. The productive graduates are the most important part of the success story of this premier historically Black College. Notable alumni include Modjeska Monteith Simkins.