(updated February 2, 2022)
Anderson University traces its origin to one of the first institutions of higher learning for women in the United States. Founded by the Reverend William B. Johnson, a Baptist minister and the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Johnson Female Seminary opened in the village of Anderson in 1848.
Forced to close during the Civil War, in time a new generation carried on what had been begun at that institution. A group of public-spirited citizens, desiring to have an institution of higher learning in Anderson, offered 32 acres of land and $100,000 to the South Carolina Baptist Convention at its meeting in 1910. The Convention nominated a group of trustees, and Anderson College was granted a charter in 1911 by the South Carolina General Assembly. In 1912, the college opened its doors and operated as a four-year college for women until 1930. In 1929, the South Carolina Baptist Convention approved the institution’s transition to a junior college, the first in the state. The College became a coeducational institution in 1930.
In December 1989, the Board of Trust voted to return the College to its status as a four-year institution, beginning with the fall semester of 1991, and the first graduate program began in 2004. A year later, the Board of Trust voted to assume university status to better reflect the quality, breadth, and maturity of the academic program and the entire institution.
Thus, on January 1, 2006, Anderson College officially became Anderson University.
Today, Anderson University boasts a lively campus atmosphere with dozens of organizations ranging from Baptist student groups to academic and service organizations. The University competes in NCAA Division II athletics and currently has teams in a variety of sports, including men’s and women’s basketball; men’s and women’s golf; men’s and women’s soccer; men’s and women’s tennis; baseball; volleyball; softball; cross country; and men’s and women’s track and field. Always a regional leader in NCAA Division II, Trojan Athletics has taken a quantum leap forward in recent years. In 2021, men’s lacrosse became the 19th athletic program, which will be followed in 2023 with women’s lacrosse and, in 2024, football. Major construction is ongoing to modernize the Anderson University Athletic Campus to accommodate the unprecedented growth that represents a new era in Trojan Athletics history.
Today, Anderson University is among the fastest growing private universities in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac. Enrollment has grown more than 100 percent since 2002 and now numbers more than 4,000 students.
Increased enrollment only tells part of the story, however; the reason for it is Anderson’s reputation as a premier institution of higher learning and status among the best regional universities in the South as recognized by both U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranks Anderson University #25 among all universities in the United States (both public and private) for “Best Student Engagement;” and Anderson University is one of fewer than 50 colleges or universities in the United States recognized as an Apple Distinguished School—a distinction AU has received four consecutive times. Finally, Anderson University is on the honor roll of the prestigious Great Colleges to Work For program.
The community of Anderson, having given birth to the University, has nurtured and supported the institution throughout its history. In turn, the University has provided intellectual, cultural, and recreational opportunities for the citizens of the Anderson area and has made a significant contribution to the economy of Anderson County. The estimated economic impact of Anderson University to the local economy has been estimated to be more than $300 million annually. In addition, Anderson students perform more than 15,000 hours of community service in the area each year.