The College of Charleston is the oldest institution of higher learning south of Virginia and the 13th-oldest in the United States. Founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, C of C’s birth coincided with that of the nation and, in fact, several of the college’s founders were key figures in the American Revolution: three were signers of the Declaration of Independence and another three were framers of the Constitution. A former military barracks served as the college’s first building, and in 1794 C of C graduated its first class, consisting of six students.
In 1837, C of C became the nation’s first municipal college when the City of Charleston assumed responsibility for its support. Until the 20th century, students who attended C of C were primarily born and bred in Charleston. The college began to undergo rapid changes under President Harrison Randolph, who diversified the student body by building residence halls and creating scholarships to attract students from other parts of the state and opening admission to women in 1917. Further diversification took place 50 years later with the integration of black students in 1967.
C of C became a state institution in 1970, when it began to expand its academic programs to capitalize on Charleston’s geographic and cultural strengths. Since that time, C of C has opened the Grice Marine Laboratory on James Island and the Simons Center for the Arts. In 1990, the college was chosen as one of six institutions to partner with NASA by serving as a space research facility.
The Graduate School of the College of Charleston (previously known as the University of Charleston) was founded in 1992 and now offers seventeen degree and six certificate programs.
The College of Charleston’s charming campus is lined with evergreen trees and marked by an architectural style mixing colonial and plantation-era buildings with grandiose structures in the Roman Revival style, many of which date back to the 19th century. Three of the college’s primary structures (the Main Building, library, and Gate Lodge) were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared National Historic Landmarks in 1971.
The college is currently in the midst of a building boom, renovating historic structures and adding new dormitories and classrooms. Some recent additions include the Liberty Street Residence Hall, which houses 420 students and features a contemporary cafeteria with plasma TVs and local food choices; the George Street Apartment Complex; and the Jeremy Van Warren Teacher Education Center, a 31,000-square-foot facility that includes classrooms and offices, as well as an alumni center.
Other ambitious new projects are underway. C of C seems to be beefing up its athletics program and in addition to making renovations on the Patriots Point Athletics Complex and opening up a world-class golf facility, the school is constructing a 270,000-square-foot sports complex with a 5,000-seat arena. The arts and sciences will not be overlooked during this period of expansion: a center for the arts featuring teaching studios and performance classrooms and a state-of-the-art science center are scheduled to open in the spring of 2009 and 2010, respectively.
With its rich 300-year history, scenic location, and beautifully preserved architectural and historical landmarks, it’s no wonder that "Travel and Leisure" magazine named Charleston one of the “Top Cities in the United States & Canada.” Tourists (and residents and students) delight in the city’s many charms, such as streets lined with oaks draped in Spanish moss and the ubiquitous Cabbage Palmetto.
Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charlestown or Charles Towne, named after King Charles II of England, and adopted its present name more than a century later in 1783. Owing to its coastal location, by the mid-18th century Charleston had become a bustling trade center; by 1770 it was the fourth-largest port in the colonies after Boston, New York and Philadelphia. To this day, Charleston remains one of the most productive ports in the United States.
Charleston thrived in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly during the plantation era, until the Civil War and the abolition of slavery temporarily shattered the city’s prosperity. The multitude of African-American slaves brought into the city, however, would in large part be responsible for Charleston’s unique culture, which blends West African elements with the traditional American and French. One of the area’s most notable characteristics is the continuing presence of the Gullah language, a Creole dialect spoken by African-Americans who settled on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina.
Charleston’s Downtown District has been hailed the “cultural capital of the South” and is considered by many to be a “living museum,” owing to the high concentration of well-preserved historical buildings. Since its inception, Charleston has distinguished itself as a cultural epicenter and was home to America’s first theater. In and around Charleston, visitors can tour 18th-century homes and plantations, the Battery and waterfront park, museums, the city market, and countless churches, which earned the city the nickname of the Holy City. There are also numerous art galleries, shopping centers, and restaurants, lending the city a cosmopolitan feel.
The region’s sub-tropical climate means there’s never a lack of outdoor activities, either. Charlestonians enjoy the city’s proximity to beautiful, sandy beaches and the opportunity to escape from urban life for a quiet afternoon sunbathing, sailing, bodysurfing, or ocean kayaking almost any time of the year.
College of Charleston students don’t wear the traditional cap and gown to their commencement ceremonies. In the spring, women wear white dresses and men wear white dinner jackets, while in the winter the color of dress is black. The spring commencement is always held on Mother’s Day.
On their first day, students pass through the Porter’s Lodge arch, inscribed in Greek with the words “Know Thyself,” and enter Cistern Yard to sign “the book.” On graduation day, students pass underneath the arch again, this time exiting out into the world.
Frank Blair (1934) was an early fixture on NBC’s The Today Show, serving as newsman and anchor from 1953 to 1974.
Ludwig Lewisohn (1901) was a novelist, translator, and distinguished literary and drama critic. He was also one of the founding professors of Brandeis University.
Arlinda Locklear (1973) is a nationally recognized legal expert on tribal land claims and treaty rights issues. She is the first Native American woman to appear before the US Supreme Court.
Burnet R. Maybank (1919) was a US Senator and governor of South Carolina who chaired the Senate Finance Committee and played a key role in the development of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Robert Mills (1855) is considered by many to be the first American-born architect and was responsible for designing such American landmarks as the Washington Monument and the US Department of the Treasury Building.
The Cougars play in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference (SoCon). While there are 19 C of C athletic teams in total, the school doesn’t necessarily excel in typical college sports like football — in fact, they don’t even have a football team. Instead, the Cougars bring home the gold for things like sailing (named the coed national champions in 2006 and 2007), baseball (SoCon champions 2004-2007), women’s volleyball (So Con champions 2001-2006), and women’s equestrian competition.
C of C’s school colors are white and maroon. Their school mascot is Clyde the Cougar.
The College of Charleston’s beautiful and historic campus has served as the set for many movies and television shows including General Hospital, Cold Mountain, The Patriot, Wife Swap, O, and The Notebook.
C of C’s undergraduate historic preservation program is the largest of its kind in the country.
The College of Charleston has nine residence halls and 22 historic houses. While the houses are located throughout the city and typically accommodate upperclassmen, the residence halls house freshmen and are located centrally on campus, making them convenient to classes, cafeterias, and campus life.
Joe E. Berry Hall is the only all-female dorm on campus, while Craig Residence Hall houses only males. The remaining seven dorms are co-ed, and include College Lodge, Kelly House (which features apartment-style rooms), McConnell Residence Hall, McAlister Hall, Buist Rivers (an Honors dorm), Rutledge Rivers (another Honors dorm), Warren Place (an upperclassman dorm) and the most recent addition to campus, the Liberty Street Residence Hall.
Most of the dorms (with the exception of Buist Rivers, College Lodge and the Kelly House) are arranged into four- or six-person suites with two students per room. Each suite includes a shared common area furnished with a sofa, coffee table, two chairs, a kitchenette, and at least one bathroom. The majority of the dorms are also equipped with computer and laundry facilities, as well as a study room or lounge.
Due to the lack of dorm space and an increase in the incoming freshman population, most students opt to live in one of the historic houses or choose off-campus housing after their first year.