Furman University

Furman University

Furman University is a private, coeducational, liberal arts university located in Greenville, South Carolina.The university is nationally acclaimed for its academic excellence, Engaged Learning program, and campus beauty.Founded in 1826, Furman was initially started as a men's academy and theological institute in Edgefield. The original school building was later shifted to the current Greenville campus.In 1933, students from the Greenville Women's College began attending classes with Furman students. This led to the merging of the two schools to form the present institution.The new campus started construction just five miles north of downtown Greenville in 1956, which was completed and opened its doors, in 1958. This school was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention until 1992, and has now become non-sectarian.The 750-acre campus contains a lake, 36 major buildings including a 500,000-volume library, science building, scientific equipment, computer science and mathematics building, high-tech social sciences building, 2,000 seat auditorium, music complex with recital halls and technology lab, theatre, visual arts building, infirmary, classroom building with Humanities Center, student center, residence halls, dining hall, physical activities center, and chapel.The campus also houses a 16,000-seat football stadium, athletic fields, tennis center, soccer stadium, multi-purpose arena, and 18-hole golf court.The university offers degrees in 42 fields of study with top-quality academic assistance. In addition to art facilities, research - one of the five pillars of Engaged Learning - is also offered by Furman.The university primarily focuses on undergraduate education and emphasizes "engaged" learning, where professors encourage undergraduate students to author articles, participate in internships, and volunteer in their respective fields of study.Furman is best known for its chemistry, history, music, political science, and psychology departments.Presently, Furman enrolls approximately 2,600 undergraduate and 500 graduate students on its campus. There are two residence complexes - Lakeside and South Housing.The university libraries provide resources, services, and technology to meet the curricular and research needs of students and faculty.The James B. Duke Library is the main library for the Furman University community and houses all general collections and services.Branch libraries include the Maxwell Music Library in the Daniel Music Building and the Ezell Science Reading Room in Plyler Hall.

Lloyd Ellis Batson and Courtney Tollison

Dr. Lloyd Ellis Batson, Trustee Emeritus at Furman University, and a 1947 graduate of Furman. Dr. Batson is also a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Furman in 1987. He served as the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and chair of the Furman Board of Trustees. In this 2004 oral history, Dr. Batson discusses his time as a Furman student, knowing John Johns as a student, his favorite professor Dr. Glipatrick, the old campus downtown, as well as his interactions with President John Plyler. He speaks of his service as a trustee from 1963 to 1993, highlighting the hiring of President Gordon Blackwell, the desegregation of Furman, working with President John Johns, and Joe Roberts. Dr. Batson gives details about Furman's history and relationship with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. He discusses the separation from the Convention, and he concludes the interview discussing Furman's religious identity and his hopes for Furman's future.


In 1826, the South Carolina Baptist Convention chartered the Furman Academy and Theological Institution several years later, they recommended the creation of an archives for essential Furman Academy records and notable documents of the Baptist denomination. Although the concept of a Special Collections and Archives department surfaced very early in the university&rsquos history and there were efforts to collect and preserve university materials, it was many years before the collection had an identity and many more years still before it had staffing and suitable accommodations. In 1890, Harvey Tolliver Cook, Professor of Classics, designated this collection the Baptist Historical Collection. Loulie Latimer Owens served as Furman&rsquos first Special Collections Librarian when Furman moved to its new campus in the late 1950s. In the library renovation and expansion in 2003-2004, the current Special Collections and Archives department on the second floor of Duke Library was reconfigured and housed. We have a large research room, microfilm and a/v viewing facilities, lockers for readers and a lobby/gallery space that hosts three or so exhibitions each year. Class visits take place either in the Simms Research Room or in the adjacent Pitts Room, a fully-equipped smart classroom with facilities for allowing the hands-on close examination of rare materials in a seminar setting.

Special Collections and Archives contains several components: the Furman University Archives a rare book collection manuscript collections the South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection the South Carolina Poetry Archives some music special collections and a Furman authors collection in addition to textiles, artifacts, and furniture.

These materials are maintained separately from the general library collections due to their uniqueness, fragility, significance and format. With the exception of the book collections, these materials are organized, maintained and accessed differently from other library materials, and information on how to identify and locate materials can be found on our website.

Materials housed in Special Collections are not available for public browsing. Researchers can request materials and use them in the William Gilmore Simms Research Room. All cataloged holdings of the department (books and periodicals) may be identified through the Library's online catalog. Guides to archival, manuscript, microfilm, and digital collections can be found on the department's website.

Materials in the Simms Research Room include Furman and Greenville Woman's College yearbooks, the Furman alumni magazine, the student newspaper, books from the South Carolina Poetry Archives , and books by and about William Gilmore Simms.

Students planning to teach social studies in secondary schools must complete a major in the field to obtain a teacher certificate, which must include:

  • at least two courses focused on the history of the United States
  • at least two European history courses with one or more numbered between 200 and 399

In addition to those prescribed courses in the major, students must also complete:

  • ECN-111 Introduction to Economics
  • EDU-111 Perspectives on American Education
  • EDU-120 Human Development
  • EDU-221 Students with Exceptionalities
  • EDU-350 Curriculum and Methods for Teaching Grades 9-12
  • EDU-433 Foundations of Literacy Instruction
  • EDU-434 Content Literacy Strategies and Modifications for Diverse Learners
  • EDU-453 Teaching Social Studies Grades 9-12
  • EDU-460 Critical Issues in Secondary Education
  • EDU-472 Practicum: Secondary Teaching
  • EDEP-670
  • GGY-230 Principles of Geography
  • POL-101 Introduction to American Government
  • POL-102 Introduction to World Politics
  • PSY-111 General Psychology
  • ​SOC-101 Introduction to Sociology    or SOC-201 Social Problems    

Teacher Certification

Students interested in teaching social studies in secondary schools may take advantage of our teacher certification program at the undergraduate level or pursue certification through Furman’s Master of Arts in Teaching. Consult with the Education Department ( to learn about the programs of teacher education.


A more complete telling of Furman's story

It was a day of tears and hugs, song and pride.

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, community and family members of Joseph Vaughn ’68, Furman’s first African American student, came together on Jan. 29 to celebrate Joseph Vaughn Day and to reflect on his historic achievement. It was on that day in 1965 that Vaughn had enrolled as a student, setting the university on the course to desegregation.


“Today’s event will lay the foundation for ongoing programming and initiatives, celebrating a paramount time in the university’s history that started us on a journey toward becoming a more inclusive, equitable and just community,” Furman University President Elizabeth Davis said during the day’s ceremony

In 2018, Furman’s Task Force on Slavery and Justice released the “Seeking Abraham” report, which documents the school’s early ties to slavery and makes recommendations. The report recommended the creation of Joseph Vaughn Day, an increased scholarship in his name, a sculpture of Vaughn to be placed in front of the library, and the placement of markers and plaques throughout campus to tell a more complete story about the people and actions that shaped Furman. The university selected artist Steven Whyte to sculpt the statue, which should be completed by next year’s Joseph Vaughn Day.

Since receiving approval from the Board of Trustees, the university also has removed “James C.” from Furman Hall and installed a plaque that honors the entire Furman family, noting “the diverse community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who study, work and gather” on campus. The plaque acknowledges that while James C. Furman, the university’s first president and the son of its namesake, worked to build and save the university after the Civil War, he was also a vocal proponent of slavery and secession.

The board also approved changing the name of Lakeside Housing to the Clark Murphy Housing Complex in honor of Clark Murphy, an African American who worked for decades as a groundskeeper at the Greenville Woman’s College, which later merged with Furman University. A plaque placed at the front entrance of Judson Hall tells his story


Adare Smith ’20 holds a print of the city of Greenville’s Joseph Vaughn Day Proclamation. Lillian Brock Fleming ’71, who serves on the Greenville City Council, stands with her inside Furman’s Daniel Chapel after the historic walk from the library. Fleming was one of the university’s first female African American students when she enrolled in 1967, and in 1995, she became Furman’s first female African American trustee


Vaughn stands on the steps outside the James B. Duke Library. Though he died in 1991, his legacy lives on through a scholarship that the university expanded in 2018, and now, through the observance of Joseph Vaughn Day. The community will now recognize the historic day every Jan. 29, coming together in remembrance, celebration and hope.

Upcountry South Carolina is bordered on the north by North Carolina, including the Piedmont section of the Appalachian Mountain chain on the west by Georgia, and it extends to the central plains of South Carolina. Its fifteen counties include: Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg, Cherokee, York, Anderson, Laurens, Union, Chester, Abbeville, McCormick, Greenwood, Edgefield and Newberry. The rich heritage and culture of the “Upcountry” identity distinguish the region from South Carolina’s “Low Country.” This distinction began when the region was an Indian frontier and continues today as this political and economic hub is now identified as the “Upstate.”

In 1983, the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission formed a new section 501(c)(3) educational, not-for-profit corporation titled the Historic Greenville Foundation. Over the next decade the Foundation and its mission shifted from a focus on building preservation toward the goal of promoting greater public awareness of the history of Greenville and the Upcountry of South Carolina through educational programming.

By 1993, the Foundation began to formulate plans for its ultimate goal, the creation of a history museum in which the public would be provided with a comprehensive review of the region’s unique past. The Foundation’s Board reaffirmed its commitment to the goal of a museum facility in late 1995, and in July 1996, engaged the Foundation’s first full-time Executive Director. Over the next two years, the Foundation worked to develop a vision for the Upcountry History Museum.

In January of 1999, under the leadership of Alester G. Furman III, Chairman of the Foundation’s Advisory Board of Governors, property was secured at the corner of Buncombe and Atwood Streets in downtown Greenville for the construction of an educational facility.

The Museum structure was completed in 2002 and five years later, opened to the public. The Museum sits at Heritage Green in downtown Greenville and proudly promotes the rich history of the Upcountry’s 15 counties.

In 2012 Furman University and the Upcountry History Museum entered into a partnership that united the intellectual and cultural resources of both institutions to advance the Museum’s mission of promoting, presenting, and preserving the history of Upcountry South Carolina.

The University-Museum relationship offers a unique opportunity to meld historical scholarship, educational goals, and memorable experiences in ways that empower the public to understand the value of their own stories, consider the world from different perspectives, and hone their ability to think critically.

Today the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University remains committed to helping people make meaningful and personal connections to history.

Bainbridge: How old Furman campus became prized site for billion-dollar development


If you lived in Greenville 70 years ago, you might remember the curving drives, flowering shrubs and tall trees of the Furman University campus. Overlooking the Reedy River at Main Street, the university’s park-like campus was the pride of Greenville.

Buildings —the bell tower and the Italianate Old Main as well as the others, less distinguished and rather haphazardly located, had the patina of age.

If you arrived in the 1970s, you might have shopped at the Bell Tower Mall. Without even a hint of landscaping, its acres of vacant parking edged up to a Woolco, Edwards Department Store and a Winn-Dixie.

It wasn't until the 1920s that the university's curving drive and shaded campus was landscaped into a park-like setting. (Photo: Courtesy of Furman University)

And if you are a more recent Greenvillian, you probably have visited County Square with its Family Court, tax office, Register of Deeds and conference rooms. With plenty of parking and nicely landscaped, it’s now, evidently, soon to be demolished in favor a billion-dollar development and an undetermined number of multi-story buildings.

Before that happens, however, perhaps a bit of history is in order.

In 1947 Furman was bursting at the seams. Veterans had flooded the campus, doubling enrollment in two years. (In 1946, 25 trailers were provided for married students there were 64 barracks for single men at “Vetville” on the old Graham baseball field.)

With two campuses, the women’s on College Street and the men’s a mile away in the West End, the university had location problems. No new buildings (except Sirrine Stadium) had been erected since 1930, and little maintenance had been done on existing ones.

Furman University held commencement ceremonies at Timmons Arena in Greenville on Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Photo: Pam Dunlap/Contributor)

The university had to expand. Because no vacant land lay around the women’s college, expansion could only happen around the men’s campus. When word leaked out that Furman was buying property, prices zoomed upward. So in 1948 the Board of Trustees decided to sell both campuses and move the university to a new site. In 1950 the board decided on a location near old Duncan Chapel close to Buncombe Road.

The Furman Co., the university’s long-term Realtor, assembled more than 11,000 acres from 26 different plots, ranging from 848 acres to a single lot. Ground was broken for the new Furman in 1953.

In the fall of 1955, the first students —102 men of the class of 1959 and six senior counselors — moved into the first completed dormitories.

It was a lonely, barren campus (workers were planting 1,400 trees at the same time), but nine holes of a golf course had been finished and there were tennis courts, although there was no heat in the classroom building until December.

This aerial view of the Furman University campus shows the placement of its buildings. The botanical gardens developed in the 1930s can be glimpsed at the rear. (Photo: Courtesy of Furman University)

Having three campuses just didn’t work. After that experimental year, the university waited until 1958 to officially abandon the men’s campus and install all male students and senior women on the new campus.

In 1961, when the women’s residence halls were complete (they had air-conditioning and fancy parlors that men didn’t need), women joined the men on the Poinsett Highway. Their 12-acre College Street campus, the home of the Greenville academies (1821-1854), the Greenville Female College (1855-1915) and the Greenville Women’s College (1916-1933) was abandoned and became the site of Heritage Green.

But the men’s 90-acre campus (40 acres south of University Ridge) was a problem. Realtor Alester Furman Jr., a trustee, noted that income from the land was needed to ensure the future endowment of the school.

Trustees assumed the land would be leased and developed into a shopping center. The Furman Co. would serve as leasing agent in order to distance the university from any direct involvement in the mall’s operation.

In 1961 the company commissioned a feasibility study from Hammer and Associates of Atlanta that supported the concept, although the planning group warned that there could be competition. Options had already been taken, Hammer noted, on the McAlister farm on newly extended Pleasantburg Highway, and the Hughes Development Co. was planning a Kmart 2.5 miles south on Mills Avenue.

Furman University (Photo: File)

The Furman Co. sought potential developers and anchor tenants for the site in New York and Atlanta, but it wasn’t an easy sell. Greenville was perceived by developers and national retailers as a mill town.

In the early 1960s, University Ridge was widened and straightened, and in 1964 a fire destroyed the old main building, Richard Furman Hall. When the university decided to dismantle the bell tower, its most significant building, the old bricks crumbled.

(The Furman family covered the cost of building an exact replica on the new campus.)

At the same time, the Furman Co. began leasing and selling land on the south side of University Ridge where the president’s home and Graham Field had stood. One site became an office complex, the 300 Building. Another became the Greenville County Health Center in 1966, a third became Scott Towers (now demolished).

But about 40 acres lay north of University Ridge and it too needed to be developed. A preliminary plan had suggested an upscale “Lenox Square”-type development, including high-end anchor tenants, heavily landscaped parking, and condominiums along the rear of the development.

But the Hammer study had more modest recommendations. It suggested a partially enclosed central “Demonstration Area,” featuring the relocated Furman bell tower, lots of parking, and a national mid-level retailer like Sears as the anchor tenant.

Four years passed. Nothing happened. The company asked Hammer for a second feasibility study, which was as upbeat as the previous one. Finally, in November 1965, Bell Tower Associates unveiled plans for a 345,000-square-foot enclosed, air-conditioned (in capital letters and with exclamation marks) shopping center with discounter Woolco as its prime tenant.

Bell Tower mall in all its glory the day before its grand opening on June 11, 1970. With 325,000 square feet of space on 34 acres, it was the second-largest enclosed mall in the state. (Photo: Submitted photo)

Bell Tower Mall’s New York and New Jersey developers leveled the old campus, creating 2,000 parking spaces. Woolco opened first, late in 1969. The grand opening in July 1970 boasted full occupancy, including a Winn-Dixie grocery, an Edwards Department Store (a Charleston-based chain), and a multiplex theater. An 18-foot replica of the bell tower stood in its central space.

Although it was initially profitable, Bell Tower Mall’s size, location, and store mix did not succeed. Residential development was moving east, and the old West End did not have the population base to support even a low-end mall. In less than a decade, it began losing tenants. By 1982, when Woolco closed, the mall was dying, although a few stores hung on briefly.

The huge vacant shopping center with acres of empty parking spaces was an embarrassment (and a financial loss) to the university and to the real-estate industry, but then, in a remarkable turnaround, the lemon was turned into lemonade.

County government needed office space, and county commissioners were investigating making a major investment in a new building when Furman Realty approached them in 1984 with an idea: Why not bring all county offices (including those in the recently condemned Family Court Building) together on one site?

Parking was more than adequate, and space was not an issue. The facility could house social services, probate and family courts, tax offices and meeting spaces.

The formal invitation to the dedication of County Square was issued to the entire community. It was a tremendous improvement on the previously far-flung and dilapidated county offices. (Photo: Submitted photo)

County Council agreed, purchasing the mall for $5 million in May 1984. Three years later, the newly named County Square, thoroughly renovated and redesigned by the architectural firm Craig, Gaulden and Davis, and with heavily landscaped parking, opened in 1987.

There were problems, of course. It was a long walk from one end of the office complex to the other. (“I need a skateboard,” one employee complained.) Security was difficult. And County Council members were certainly aware that the 32-acre property was valuable.

In December 2013, members announced that they were considering redeveloping the site. The future of the old campus is still taking shape today.

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540 Buncombe Street
Greenville, SC 29601 &bull Map It

Operating Hours:

Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday: CLOSED

Last Admission at 4:00 pm

Holiday Closings:

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and 4th of July

America needs history and civics education to promote unity

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Governor of South Carolina Richard Riley.

In the wake of the storming of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, and amid a climate of political polarization in the country, six former U.S. education secretaries get behind an education initiative aimed at restoring a belief in the “world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” In an opinion piece appearing in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the six secretaries – Lamar Alexander, Arne Duncan, John King, Rod Paige, Furman University’s Richard Riley and Margaret Spellings – say our country sits at a “crossroads,” and our democracy is in “grave danger.”

The solution toward a more united United States? – The Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy, the result of a 19-month collaboration among more than 300 scholars, educators, practitioners and students from diverse backgrounds. The plan intends to re-establish civics and American history as essential components of education, and it “lays a foundation to deliver opportunities for excellence in civic learning equitably to all students.”


Furman University, the oldest private institute of higher learning in South Carolina, was founded in 1826 and named for clergyman Richard Furman. The university has landed on prestigious national lists for years. From its’ extraordinarily beautiful campus to some of the highest rated academic programs in the country, Furman is ranked one of the top universities in the nation. It’s also ranked at the top of our list of places to have a picnic.For native Greenvillians, nothing says Furman like the Bell Tower that stands in the center of the peninsula on the lake. The eighty-eight foot tall tower is an exact replica of the original one built in 1854. The first tower was built on what once was the Men’s Campus overlooking the Reedy River. Brick and mortar used in the construction were made from the red clay of the riverbank. The bells announced fires, deaths of alumni and teachers, and Civil War victories. In later years, the bells would sound when the football team won games at Sirrine Stadium.

The Bell Tower stood for the university. Pun intended.

When it was decided to move Furman campus from downtown to a new location on Poinsett Highway, officials wanted to move the Bell Tower, brick by brick. Furman engineer, Carl Clawson, carefully examined the structure. The bricks disintegrated on touch. Not wanting to lose the symbol of the university, The Alester G. Furman family donated enough money to build a new tower. Clawson measured every brick to the last inch and the original Bell Tower was recreated.

You guys know me. When I first began research for this story, I tried to find a legend, a ghost or controversy surrounding the tower. It makes for a fun read, right? Believe it or not, I came up dry. The only thing remotely close to what I wanted to find was a superstition of sorts. It is believed that if a couple kisses under the tower, they will marry. Apparently, it’s a well known “thing” across campus.

Furman University is a perfect blend of old and new. The eight hundred acre picturesque campus sits at the foot of Paris Mountain. Views from the grounds are as majestic as the ones of the grounds.

Old Furman Campus

Located on the banks of the beautiful Reedy River from 1851 to the 1950s, most of the Furman University campus is today merely a parking lot, County Offices condemned to demolition, and roads names to commemorate the school's history. New construction is about to unfold and, like the Reedy River Park, reveal the secrets of what lies "beneath"--the foundations of Greenville's university.

The area is rich in documented history far before the university. In the 1740s, explorers witnessed Cherokee transactions in the area. In 1760, Richard Pearis was the first colonist to occupy this area, the northern part of the Reedy River. Pearis built a grist mill, saw mill, and Indian trading store along the banks of the river in 1776. This year was an ominous sign for Pearis, because after siding as a Loyalist to the British Crown, he lost all his assets to the new United States government (who would not verify his claim to the land).

It wasn’t until 1817 when a man named Vardy McBee began to build large scale mills in downtown Greenville. This was the start of the many thriving businesses downtown, and this is the condition James C. Furman and the Baptists found it when they decided to move their struggling school, the "Furman Academy & Theological Institute" here, rebranding the institution as a liberal arts college named "Furman University."

Over the years after 1851, the relationship grew, and most Greenville residents had some connection to the University. Still, we have to remember that when the school was founded, being across the river from the main town gave quite a feeling of separation. Only in 1873 was the first significant bridge (the Gower Bridge) created across the river. In 1889 a new steel bridge was built to replace the Gower Bridge and symbolized the core of downtown. Tug-of-war games between freshmen and sophomores at Furman, played across the Reedy River over the decades of the early twentieth century, make iconic the link between Furman and their home on the Reedy River.

It wasn’t until the 1930s when the gardening societies and botanists decided to revitalize the river that Greenville residents began to see the beauty of the college, and to think of Furman University along this bank as a public visiting place for all (much as it is on its gorgeous campus today). But when Furman moved away, and shopping malls and big highways moved in, the area again was forgotten as a resource. In fact, roads even covered the Falls from view, as you may already know.

Seventy years later, in 2000, a $7.5 million project to rebuild the West End gave another round of hope to the area. A “Free the Falls” campaign was created in 2001. The first item on the list was to remove the bridge that covered the river's falls. Although highly controversial among natives (many who had grown up with the river as an stinking eyesore and high crime area), the Greenville mayor Knox White and others began to rally around the idea of a new park. The May 2002 Reedy River Master Plan, a collaboration between Clemson University, the City of Greenville, and Greenville County, and drawn up by Andrea Mains, made the final call to the city: the road would come down and the falls made visible in a park. With some negotiation, it happened.

The rest of this tour will make a nice hike--but you should be warned that it will not be as beautiful as the park. The grounds of the school were leveled and paved over. Hopefully, forthcoming plans for the area will make it just as beautiful as the park it sits over.

Enjoy your historical journey!

Sawyer, Richard D. 10,000 Years of Greenville County, South Carolina History: The Reedy River Falls Historic Park. Richard D. Sawyer, 1997.

John Boyanoski and Knox White. Reimagining Greenville: Building the Best Downtown in America. History Press, 2017.

King, Charles. Furman Hornet, Volume 40, Issue 28, Microfilm LD1871.F76H6, 1954. Furman University Special Collections.

Watch the video: Furman University. TikTok Day in the Life Summer 2021 (January 2022).