Institutional Development and Leadership

Founded in 1826, Furman University is the oldest private university in South Carolina and among the 75 oldest institutions of higher education in operation nationally today. The university is named for Richard Furman, among the most important Baptist clergyman during the early decades of the new nation and an influential advocate of educational institutions throughout the country.  He maintained lifelong ties to Rhode Island College (now Brown University), and helped lead efforts to establish Columbian College (now George Washington University), South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), Furman, and Mercer University.

The Campus

The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) established Furman’s original campus in Edgefield, S.C., but over the next three decades, the campus changed locations two times before arriving in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, in 1851. Originally founded as a men’s academy and theological institute, the theological school broke away from Furman in 1858 to become the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Student Life and Alumni

Furman has always nurtured the cultivation of the whole person, and at the heart of that are myriad athletic, cultural, faith-based, volunteer, and social opportunities. Thirteen national fraternities and sororities have chapters on campus. Furman’s largest student organization is the Heller Service Corps, which places student volunteers in over 60 local nonprofit organizations.

Diversity and Inclusiveness

During the Civil Rights Movement, judicial decisions and Congressional legislation prohibited educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of race. After two years of discussion and planning, delayed in part due to the SCBC’s lack of support for desegregation, Furman admitted three African American students into its graduate education program on January 27, 1965. Two days later, Joseph Allen Vaughn, a graduate of Greenville’s Sterling High School, desegregated Furman’s undergraduate student body. In 1969, the university first offered a course in African American history and hired its first African American faculty member for the summer session. Throughout the 1970s, several African American adjunct faculty offered courses, and in 1983, Drs. Saundra Ardrey and Cherie Maiden became the first tenure-track African American professors at Furman. The student body elected its first African American president in 2007, and in 2020, the university named one of its residential complexes after Clark Murphy, a much-beloved Greenville Woman’s College janitor, handyman, and groundskeeper.

Faculty, Academics, and Innovation

In the 1930s, under the leadership of professors Gordon Blackwell and Laura Ebaugh and with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Furman faculty spearheaded a joint community-university experiment to analyze and develop programming aimed at education and social reform in Greenville. These efforts represent the beginning of nearly a century of Furman faculty, staff, and administrators’ commitment to partnerships that mutually benefit the community and the university.

Our Interactive Timeline

Vision, Mission and Values Statements

Vision, Mission and Values Statements

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