While looking back at the history of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Chancellor William E. Highsmith, anticipating the future of the institution, wrote, “the overall picture is one of a university that will continue its mission of providing students with a strong liberal arts education…The university has never lost sight of the need to be of public service…UNCA has attracted an outstanding faculty and administration, people who are dedicated to the dream of continuing to build in Asheville an institution that is recognized nationwide as a unique center of learning.” UNCA’s history is reflected in Chancellor Highsmith’s words; founded as a junior college under the Buncombe County school system, the college has grown to become one of the most respected public liberal arts universities in the United States. The brief history of the university which follows documents not only the many changes that have taken place over nearly eighty years, but also the college’s unceasing dedication to students and to its liberal arts mission.
The first campus of what is now the University of North Carolina at Asheville was created in 1927 under the leadership of A.C. Reynolds, former Superintendent of Buncombe County Schools. In May of 1927, Reynolds' school, called Buncombe County Junior College, was established as part of the Buncombe County public school system. The college shared a campus with Biltmore Elementary School and Biltmore High School on Hendersonville Road, providing a continuous educational experience for the community. As part of the Biltmore Schools public system, the college operated under the direction of W.H. Jones, Superintendent, and Sinclair B. Conley, named the first dean of men in 1927. Both men retained their positions until 1932. The college was a free public institution until 1930, when the economic hardships of the Depression forced it to begin charging tuition.
William H. Jones, the first chief executive officer for Buncombe County Junior College was an educator and administrator in Buncombe County Schools. In 1927, Jones was slated to become principal of the new Biltmore High School. However, A.C. Reynolds, the superintendent of schools, changed Jones' title to superintendent of Biltmore schools, a move which placed Jones in charge of Biltmore Elementary School, Biltmore High School, and the soon-to-be completed Buncombe County Junior High School.
Established in 1928, the College of the City of Asheville held classes for two years on the campus of Asheville's Lee H. Edwards High School on McDowell Street. In 1930, this junior college, which was under-funded because of the Depression, ceased operation. Many former students enrolled at Buncombe County Junior College, which was renamed Biltmore Junior College.
Alonzo Carlton Reynolds, who had been instrumental in starting Buncombe County Junior College, left his position as superintendent of Buncombe County schools in 1932 to become the first President of Biltmore Junior College. He had previously served as the president of Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School. As president, Reynolds recognized the need for an outside group to hold legal responsibility for the school and to connect the community to the faculty and administrators of the Junior College. In 1934, Reynolds formed a Board of Trustees and turned over all legal authority for the college to the new board, who replaced the faculty who had held governing authority for the previous three years.
In March 1934, the new college was chartered under the name Biltmore College. From 1934 to 1940, Biltmore College was housed in a wing of David Millard Junior High School at the northeast corner of Oak and College Streets. An architectural landmark, David Millard Junior High School was designed by W.H. Lord, a noted local architect and father of architect Anthony Lord.
In 1936, the Asheville City School Board agreed to accept Buncombe County Junior College into the city school system and changed the school's name to Asheville-Biltmore College, though it was still popularly referred to as Biltmore College. Also in 1936, Reynolds announced that he would resign as soon as the Asheville City School Board could assume responsibility for the management of the college. The alignment of Asheville-Biltmore College with the Asheville City School System provided additional funding for the school from the City Administration. By 1939, the city and the county both provided revenue to support the institution.
The first edition of the college year-book, The Summit of 1939, pictured the faculty, including Virginia Bryan, whose married name was "Schreiber," and who was acting as Dean of Girls. Virginia Bryan Schreiber (front, center) is standing next to Dean C.A. Lloyd, in the dark suit, to her right. Virginia Bryan Schreiber was the daughter of Solon Bryan, who was the founder and owner of the Piedmont Bureau and the Piedmont Circuit Lyceum, organizations that planned tours for artists on the lyceum and Chautauqua model throughout the southeastern United States.
Charles A. Lloyd became dean of Asheville-Biltmore College upon A.C.
Reynolds' resignation. An English professor at Asheville-Biltmore,
Lloyd was a notable public figure who avidly promoted the use of
proper English through his radio program, "Our Mother Tongue," and
his book We Who Speak English. Dean Lloyd held his position
until his death on November 10, 1940.
In 1940, the college leased Lawrence Hall, a building on the campus of Asheville College, formerly known as Asheville Normal and Teachers College. The site is now occupied by Memorial Mission Hospital. Though classes were scheduled so that the two colleges would not interfere with each other, the arrangement was unsatisfactory. In 1942, Asheville-Biltmore College relocated to the former Buncombe County Children’s Home. The educational building of Grace Covenant Church on Merrimon Avenue now occupies the site.
After Lloyd’s death in 1940, J. J. Stevenson, Jr. accepted the position of dean. Stevenson had previously been a social sciences professor and bursar for Asheville-Biltmore College. During the years that Asheville-Biltmore College was located on the Asheville Normal College campus, and through most of WWII, Dean Stevenson worked not only as Dean but also as a history and government professor. Stevenson was an ideal man to manage the institution under the trying conditions of the war; his scholarly manners and excellent teaching quietly maintained the routines of students and faculty of Asheville-Biltmore College. Dean Stevenson resigned his position at the end of the 1944 academic year.
Dr. William H. Morgan accepted the position of Dean of Asheville-Biltmore College in 1945. Except for some adjustments made to the city school board and Asheville-Biltmore College’s Board of Trustees, school politics were reasonably quiet during the last year of the war. After Dean Morgan became ex officio secretary of the Board of Trustees, his first motion was that the school should be referred to as Asheville-Biltmore College, the school's legal name since 1936, rather than Biltmore College, as it was commonly called. The official chartered name Asheville-Biltmore College first appeared in the college catalog for 1946, shortly after Dr. Morgan resigned his position as dean in the summer of 1946.
Morgan was replaced by Clarence Gilbert, who had previously taught government at the college. Gilbert quickly realized the limitations that wartime had imposed on the school. At the end of World War II, the G.I. Bill’s offer to pay tuition and fees for returning veterans created an influx of veteran-students. Asheville-Biltmore College was inundated with veterans, and the increase in enrollment necessitated a re-evaluation of building space and faculty. The Board of Trustees saw the need for a gymnasium, an auditorium, and more classrooms while federal funding was available for such facilities.
Despite the consensus that changes needed to be made at the college, there was heated debate over what should be changed. In a proposal presented to the Board of Trustees in May 1947, Gilbert suggested eliminating the positions held by C.A. Sumner, a part-time drama teacher who had been with the school for many years, and Adele Lawrence, instructor of the secretarial science courses. Gilbert planned to use the funds saved by removing these positions to hire more full-time teachers of core subjects. The Board of Trustees rejected this plan and immediately reappointed the two teachers and raised their salaries. Gilbert and the Board continued to argue until Gilbert finally resigned, stating that, pay raise or not, he would not return as long as the drama and secretarial science positions were filled. Many students supported Gilbert’s decision to remove the two faculty positions, adding to the growing conflict between students and the Board of Trustees. The students, many of whom demonstrated in a parade down Merrimon Avenue, claimed that Gilbert was being manipulated out of his position as dean because he was competing with the chair of the Board of Trustees. However, because Gilbert had already refused to stay on as dean, the board could do little to appease the students.
The board of trustees appointed R.A. Tomberlin Interim President while they attempted to find a suitable candidate to replace Gilbert. Tomberlin served in this capacity for the summer session in 1947. Tomberlin was appointed President instead of Dean because the Board of Trustees had decided that the current size of Asheville-Biltmore College required a President.
President Bushey also had to address the issue of the school’s expanding enrollment and student organizations. In the winter of 1949, Evelyn Seely, daughter of the notable entrepreneur E.W. Grove and widow of Fred Seely, builder and manager of the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore Industries Homespun Shop, offered to sell her former home, Seely Castle, to Asheville-Biltmore College. Mrs. Seeley had moved into the new Battery Park Hotel in Asheville but did not want to see her family home deteriorate. She also knew that the school would not be able to afford the estate on Overlook Mountain, so she offered to sell Seely Castle for $125,000, and told the Board of Trustees that she planned to contribute $50,000 of that price. In response to her generous offer, the Board of Directors launched an extensive development campaign and a committee of citizens organized to implement the plan to purchase the Seely estate and additional property on Sunset Mountain. President Bushey emphasized how well the school had met the community’s needs without much public support and stressed the college’s growing dependence on outside funding. The general public enthusiastically responded to the fund-raising campaign; 1,464 individuals contributed to the purchase of Seely Castle, and the school even overshot their fund-raising goal by about $2,000.
The move to Seely’s Castle in 1949 was a major milestone in the development of the institution. Asheville-Biltmore College became known as “The College in the Sky,” and students were proud of their new campus. There were problems with the new campus, though; access was difficult in bad weather, and the steep terrain left little space for either parking or expansion. Space soon became an issue. In 1949, it appeared that the move would provide the school with plenty of room for many years to come. However, the college quickly outgrew the Overlook property. In 1958, residents of Buncombe County voted three-to-one in favor of a bond issue to expand and improve Asheville-Biltmore College. The architectural firm of Six Associates offered, free of charge, a plan for enlarging the Sunset Mountain campus, but since the mountain location was severely limited, Board members began to consider moving the college to a more accessible and convenient location.
During 1959, the land-owners sold their property to the college at rock-bottom prices. Six Associates then began working on plans for the new campus.
The first two buildings on the campus were completed and occupied by the fall term of 1961. Phillips Hall housed offices, the library, and some classrooms, while Rhoades Hall served as the main classroom building. Further funding in 1961 from the legislature and from a second local bond referendum provided for the construction of five additional buildings. The five additional building included the Justice Center (1963), the Physical Plant (1963), Lipinksy Hall (1964), D. Hiden Ramsey Library (1965), and Oliver C. Carmichael Humanities Building (1966).
|UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT ASHEVILLE - THE CHANCELLORS|
|Dr. Anne Ponder represents the 6th Chancellor to head the institution referred to as the University of North Carolina. Prior to her selection as Chancellor in 2005, she was preceded by a distinguished series of Presidents and Chancellors. The following individuals brought to the campus their unique contributions and each left their stamp on the institution. The following brief biographies and records of accomplishment outline the many contributions that have helped to shape the institution's history and have helped to create the foundation on which Dr. Ponder, as the 6th Chancellor, will build her own unique administration.|
In 1962, Glenn Bushey resigned after serving as president of Asheville-Biltmore College for fifteen years. He was replaced by Dr. William E. Highsmith, a native of Eastland, Texas. Highsmith received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and held masters and doctoral degrees in history from Louisiana State University, where he had also taught. A veteran of the Army Air Force, Highsmith served as a corporal during World War II but never saw combat since he stayed in the United States for the duration of the war. Before becoming president of Asheville-Billtmore College in 1962, Dr. Highsmith was dean of the faculty at Jacksonville University in Florida, a school that had recently converted from a junior college to a four-year university. At the time of his appointment, Asheville-Biltmore College was a two-year college, but the State Board of Higher Education was already considering a proposal to make the school a four-year university. Dr. Highsmith’s experience at Jacksonville was considered invaluable for the conversion of Asheville-Biltmore from a junior college to a senior institution. Highsmith believed that the university should develop responsible students and become a cultural center for art, music, public events, and discussion of philosophy.
Though there had already been a proposal to make Asheville-Biltmore College a four-year university before Highsmith became president, without his help, the college would not have been granted four-year university status. Highsmith pushed for the change and even had a personal meeting with the governor, Senator Bob Reynolds; in this meeting, Highsmith convinced the Governor of the need for the Asheville-Biltmore College to become a four-year university. The next step was gaining the approval of the Board of Higher Education and the General Assembly. On May 10, 1963, the Omnibus Higher Education Act of 1963 was passed, allowing the college to become a four-year institution under a new Board of Trustees. On July 1, 1963, all legal documents for all school property, including land and building titles and all money within the university, transferred to the state of North Carolina, and the institution officially became a state-funded university. The next year was spent developing academic programs and recruiting faculty to meet the required higher standards.
The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in June of 1966. Full accreditation as a four-year institution was granted in late 1967, retroactive to the graduating classes of 1966 and 1967, and in 1969, Asheville-Biltmore College became the University of North Carolina at Asheville, one of six members of the Consolidated University. Later that year, the ten remaining state-supported institutions were merged into a unified sixteen-campus University of North Carolina. The transition from a junior college to four-year member of the University of North Carolina system was not the only change that happened under Highsmith’s long tenure. In 1962, there were only two buildings, Phillips Hall and Rhoades Hall. Presently, there are over thirty buildings on campus, most of which were built during Highsmith’s time as chancellor. The first building completed under the direction of Highsmith was the Justice Center, which opened in 1963. It was the first of twelve buildings constructed during Highsmith's time as Chancellor. Some of the largest buildings on campus were constructed during this time, including Owen Hall (Charles D. Owen Management and Art Building), which is three stories high and encompasses 48,000 square feet, containing an art gallery and a conference room that seats 100 people.
One building Highsmith was extremely proud of was D. Hiden Ramsey Library, where he fittingly spent the last years of his life doing research for his book, The First Sixty Years, which relates the history of the university. Like many of the other buildings on campus, Ramsey Library has changed in the years since its construction. By 1984, the library owned 140,000 volumes and had exceeded its maximum capacity. The library was no longer big enough for the university's needs, so an addition was proposed. This addition would add 67,000 square feet to the library, more than doubling its size. The addition would wrap around the existing library in order to preserve the boundaries of the quad. Construction was supposed to start in 1987 but was postponed because the first two bids were too high. In the course of creating plans for the addition, it became apparent that the old section of the library needed a major renovation, primarily to remove asbestos. In 1988, construction started on the addition. The new section of the library, finished in 1990, included the Malcolm E. Blowers Gallery and Cafe Ramsey. The renovation of the old library building was finished in 1995, and in 2001, the Glass House was completed, covering a previously exposed patio.
|DR. DAVID G. BROWN|
On May 11, 1984, UNCA announced that David G. Brown would become chancellor of the university on July 1, following the retirement of William Highsmith. Brown received his undergraduate degree at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and a Masters and Doctorate in economics from Princeton. Prior to accepting the post, he had been president of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky and had served on a study of the American College Presidency with Clark Kerr, former President of the University of California system, and Harvard sociologist David Riesman. Brown began his academic teaching career as an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1960s, where he received the Tanner Award for “excellence in the inspirational teaching of undergraduate students.” Brown left Chapel Hill in 1966 and spent the next fifteen years holding appointments as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, first at Drake University and then at Miami University (Ohio), while continuing to teach economics. In 1978, Change: The Magazine for Higher Learning, listed Dr. Brown among the Top 100 Young Leaders in Higher Education. At the time he accepted the UNCA post, he had written four books (Leadership Roles of Chief Academic Officers , Leadership Vitality , The Mobile Professors , and The Market for College Teachers ), was chairman of the Higher Education Colloquium, and had chaired the American Council on Education’s Council of Chief Academic Officers, the American Association of Higher Education, and the Academic Council of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges
Officially installed as chancellor on March 31, 1985, David Brown was instrumental in the founding of the Asheville Institute on General Education, a development program designed to help colleges and universities bring about general education reform. He led a team of faculty, community leaders, and administrators to develop the concept of a center for older learners which established the university's Center for Creative Retirement in 1988. During Dr. Brown's tenure from 1984-1990, UNCA's first graduate program --offering a Master of Liberal Arts degree --was launched, the honors program and honors scholarships were created, research funding increased over 300 percent, and average SAT scores of incoming freshmen increased substantially. The university's endowment increased six fold, and enrollment went up nearly 25 percent. The main construction project under Chancellor Brown was Robinson Hall, an addition to Rhoades Hall; upon completion, the building was renamed Rhoades-Robinson. The library addition anticipated by Chancellor Highsmith was completed during Chancellor's Brown tenure. Overall, more than $50 million in classroom, library, and student housing facilities were added, and the size of the campus expanded by 30 percent.
When David Brown left UNCA at the end of July 1990 to become Provost and Professor of Economics at Wake Forest University, the university had sponsored the first National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), become a founding member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), and gained national visibility and prominence, due in large measure to his leadership. UNCA had become a model of the concept of the "small public Ivy," an institution marked by a rigorous interdisciplinary core curriculum taught by top faculty in small classes. In 1989, the American Association of Colleges and the National Endowment for the Humanities named UNCA as one of nine "mentor" colleges for the nation in core curriculum reform. That same year, US News and World Report cited UNCA as one of the nation's 32 "up and coming" universities.
|DR. ROY CARROLL, Interim Chancellor 1990-1991|
Though Carroll was only on campus a short time, he made a positive impact on the university. Arriving on campus as a largely unknown figure, he left having won the respect of the community-at-large after providing a year of stability, problem-solving, openness in administration, and a period of consolidation following six years of rampant growth and change.
|DR. SAMUEL SCHUMAN|
Dr. Samuel Schuman arrived as Chancellor in 1991. He received his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in Iowa and his M.A. from San Francisco State University. He earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1969. He has written five books and over fifty articles on Renaissance British drama and modern American literature. Schuman taught Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa from 1970-1977 and was an associate professor of English and Director of the Honors Program at the University of Maine from 1977-1981. He served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, between 1981-1991. From 1991-1993, he was Chancellor and professor of literature at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. After Schuman's tenure as Chancellor ended in 1993, he remained as a professor of literature until 1995, when he left Asheville for the University of Minnesota at Morris to serve as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the university. He was later named Chancellor of that university.
As Chancellor for two years, Samuel Schuman's major accomplishments included building an increasingly selective student body (average SAT cumulative average for entering students rose from 960 to 1055) while maintaining broad access, and improved state, private and corporate/foundation funding. Successful campus facilities projects during his tenure included a new dining hall and parking deck, residence hall, gymnasium expansion, the UNCA Center for Public Service, and a $4 million library renovation. Karpen Hall was the major construction project completed under Schuman.
|DR. PATSY REED|
Dr. Reed was very involved in the community during her time as Chancellor. She served on the board of directors of the North Carolina Arboretum, the Western North Carolina Development Association, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, WCQS Public Radio in Asheville, the Pigeon River Fund Board, and the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities. Dr. Reed served as Chancellor until 1999.
|DR. JAMES H. MULLEN, JR.|
James H. Mullen, Jr., was elected Chancellor on April 9, 1999, by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors; he took office on August 1, 1999. He receive an undergraduate degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, graduating magna cum laude. He received a masters in public policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a scholar of the American Presidency and of presidential campaign history and is a much sought-after lecturer on Public Policy. Dr. Mullen previously served as assistant to the president, dean of planning, research and development, vice president for fiscal and development affairs, and executive vice president at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts. He then moved to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1995, where he served as vice president for strategic planning and community relations. In 1996, he was promoted to vice president for student services, and in 1997, he became the senior vice president and director of Project 2002, in which he was responsible for Trinity's comprehensive master plan for the future and for shepherding a $300 million public and private revitalization which transformed the neighborhood surrounding the college.
Dr. Mullen has been an active member of all the communities in which he has lived. While in the Capital Area, he served on the boards of the United Way of the Capital Area, the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, the Capital City Technical-Community College, the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Middlesex Community College Foundation, and the American Textile History Museum.
Under Chancellor Under Chancellor Mullen's leadership, several major projects were completed, thanks to the 2000 Higher Education Bond Referendum. Approved by North Carolina voters, this program appropriated $50.2 million towards upgrading UNCA's buildings and facilities. The Higher Education Bond Referendum money was used to construct Highsmith University Union, New Hall, Zeis Hall, and the Facilities Management Building, and to renovate Zageir Hall. The new Highsmith University Union replaced the older and smaller university student center in 2004. Other campus construction under Mullen included the Reuter Center, home to the Creative Retirement program, and the Governors Hall dormitory building, the first phase of an ongoing project to replace Governor's Village, built in 1967. Both of these buildings were completed in 2003. New Hall, which houses the departments of classics, foreign languages, history, humanities, philosophy, and women's studies, was completed shortly after Chancellor Mullen left in 2005 to become President of The College of Our Lady of the Elms, a Catholic liberal arts college in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
DR. ANNE PONDER
The university remains small by choice and emphasizes excellence in the
classroom, both from students and teachers. As the university
Mission Statement explains, "The ultimate aim of the university is to
provide students the best possible opportunity to acquire the skills,
knowledge, and understanding necessary to pursue their goals, to find
meaning in their lives, and to take their places as contributing
citizens of a changing society." In 2002, the university
identified seven institutional goals:
Student enrollment continues to increase; currently, there are over 3,300 undergraduate students at UNCA. About 2,900 students come from North Carolina, with over 1,700 students from Western North Carolina. There are over 30 majors offered, leading to Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. The university also offers a Master of Liberal Arts degree.
The physical appearance of the campus has continued to change in
response to the needs of the university community. Currently, there are
thirty buildings on campus, with the newest building, New Hall,
completed at the end of 2005. Also in
2005, construction began on the Steve and Frosene Zeis Science and
Multimedia Building, which will house the departments of Biology, Chemistry,
and Multimedia Arts and Sciences; and the Facilities Management Building, both of
which are currently under construction. Plans are also underway for the
North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness, which will be home to
the Health and Wellness Promotion major and programs focusing on
regional issues such as childhood obesity, workplace wellness, and
senior citizen wellness. Construction of the facility is funded by
private funds and $35 million in state funds, approved by the 2004 North
Carolina General Assembly. Pisgah House, the new
Chancellor's residence slated to be built on South Campus, is also in
the planning stages.
As UNCA changes and adapts to the demands of the twenty-first century, it retains a keen sense of its past and values. Dr. Ponder's remarks to the campus community on the day of her appointment convey the optimism and sense of accomplishment held by the university community and UNCA's dedication to ongoing leadership in liberal arts education:
"I'd like to give you an image that is very familiar to you --both as a physical image and as a literary allusion. This won't be the last time that you hear a literary allusion from me. The physical image is Pisgah. If you stand on the front steps of the library and look across the Quad, in the distance, framed and orienting the campus is that Old Testament Pisgah. That physical orientation gives this University a keen sense of place. One I understand because generations of people I'm related to and that you are related to, have grown up in, born, lived and died in the shadow of, within sight of, Pisgah. We can see Pisgah from here. As a literary allusion, of course, Pisgah is about the promise of the future. The University of North Carolina at Asheville is at a very strong point in its life. And its promise, almost immediately, is even brighter. And what we can look for, lift up, is the image that makes the same phrase true for the whole University: We can see Pisgah from here."