A Short History
Virginia B. Schreiber
|*[This summary was probably written when the
institution was located in the Children's Home building
on Merrimon Ave, near Gracelyn Road.]
A Brief History
Asheville-Biltmore College has had a glorious but uphill past. Opening in 1927 as the first public junior college in North Carolina, it brought to its doors many students eager to learn. It was first called Buncombe County Junior College, and tuition was free. After the depression, however, small tuition fees were charged and some barter was accepted. The college was unique.
Many times the college could have closed its doors, but because a small but dedicated faculty and a willing board of trustees were reluctant to give up, the college survived.
It survived because local public school teachers gave monthly from their small salaries; it survived faculty salaries as low as $1,100 yearly; it survived four former locations; it survived because parents and students sacrificed; it survived World War II when most of the boys went into service - many never to return.
But chiefly A-B survived because behind it had been a dream - a dream to bring education to Buncombe County. Students walked miles to reach the college, and faculty members often transported students. A school bus brought students to and from Barnardsville. Professors spent voluntary hours conferring with interested parents. Without pay, the faculty worked in the summer enlisting students. No secretaries and receptionists. Only by 1960 did the college have a secretary. Faculty members hauled "gift" books for the library, and again hauled books when the college moved each time.
Student projects were financed by students. A champion girl's basketball team traveled as far as Texas. Plays entered in State drama contests ranked first at Chapel Hill in (1) originality of writing, (2) superior acting. The literary magazine, Bluets, won first place and medallists awards in national contests.
During early years of the college, philosophy, Greek, astronomy, creative writing, speech, Bible, home economics, industrial arts, and methods in education were among electives offered. Later, curricular for majors leading to the A.B. and B.S. degrees were offered as well as terminal courses in some fields. German, French and Spanish courses were taught, some students excelling in both languages and sciences.
We read that A-B will soon be a "good" college. Among those who attended the college are the following: Congressman Roy Taylor, Legislators Gordon Greenwood and John Shuford, Novelists Wilma Dykeman Stokeley and John Ehle, school principals, including Mr. Domer, the principal of Lee Edwards, head of Buncombe County Welfare Department, the Buncombe County Attorney, former president of Asheville branch of the American Association of University Women, the chairman of Asheville city school board, a Buncombe County school supervisor, supervisors of Southern Bell Telephone Co., a woman publisher (New York), college professors now at Duke, Davidson, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Mercer, Boston University, and Brevard; newscasters, missionaries (David Swain and June Parha), preachers, doctors, dentists, optometrists, lawyers, teachers, librarians, musicians, editors (Robert Campbell of Winston-Salem), architects, physicists, chemists, industrialists, head of Legal Aid Bureau, Chicago; former Mayor of Macon, Ga., former pub. chairman of Asheville Chamber of Commerce, generals (US aviation), commanders (US Navy), news reporters, including woman's editor of the Citizen, instructor in nursing, Memorial Mission Hospital, outstanding woman psychiatrist, brokers, photographers, leading businessmen, ad infinitum.
Many of these students could not have attended college and could not have furthered their education elsewhere except for the instruction given them at A-B College. Does Buncombe not have equally as fine minds today wanting an education at reasonable cost? Where are these students?
In recent years educators had planned to extend the services of the college to continuing education for mature students and adults. Citizens voted for the bond issue, thinking that a college for the community (purpose for which A-B was founded) would bring education to thousands of local graduates, to adults, and to personnel in industry and business.
At last, A-B has "come home" to beautiful buildings, a lovely campus, and higher salaries. These accomplishments are wonderful, but they do not make a college. The purpose for which the college was founded has been forgotten. Although A-B is now a state-supported school, it should take another appraisal of its responsibility to our community. Why worry about expensive dormitories, extra expenditure, and new problems which dormitories will represent? Compared with problems the college has surmounted in previous years, the loss of dormitories this year is small.
Let's reevaluate. Let's remember the dream - the dream that offered an educational opportunity to graduates like Wilma Dykeman and Roy Taylor.
Mrs. Virginia B. Schreiber
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