University of Lynchburg was founded as Virginia Christian College in 1903 by Dr. Josephus Hopwood, a pioneer in Christian coeducation. From its earliest days, University of Lynchburg has maintained an association with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), since it was through the support of Disciples of Christ ministers and businessmen that the College was established.
The Hopwood Years
Dr. Hopwood was serving as president of Milligan College in Tennessee when he was approached about starting a college in Lynchburg, Virginia, on the site of a failed resort, which was available for sale. Impressed by the resort’s setting and the area’s natural beauty, Dr. Hopwood declared, “Boys, we’ll take it.” The property was purchased for $13,500 on April 18, 1903, Dr. Hopwood’s 60th birthday.
An educator who believed that the future of the world depended on Christian education, Dr. Hopwood had a clear vision of his mission. His wife and professional colleague, Sarah Eleanor LaRue Hopwood, shared his beliefs and vision and worked with him to establish one of the oldest coeducational colleges in Virginia.
When the College opened its doors, 11 faculty members were on staff to teach 55 students, but coeducation proved to be popular, and enrollment increased rapidly. The first graduating class, the Class of 1904, consisted of five men and three women. Today, University of Lynchburg has 190 full-time faculty members and 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students from throughout the United States and around the world.
Dr. Hopwood’s strong commitment to Christian education guided the institution in its early years, and his philosophy was reflected in the College’s first motto, “Christian Education – the Hope of the World.”
Westover Hall, a large rambling gray frame building designed along the lines of a French chateau, was the founding building of University of Lynchburg and its heart for 67 years.
Built as a resort hotel in 1891, the West Lynchburg Inn, as it was then known, became the physical plant for the new college and was a multi-purpose facility that housed a dormitory, offices, and classrooms. The old hotel dining room was converted to a chapel, the bar to a dining hall, and the large parlors and the porches served as classrooms.
Throughout its history, Westover Hall was home to students, dining services, health services, administrative offices, student activities facilities, and even a gymnasium.
Building and Expansion
In 1909, construction was completed on Main Hall, the first academic building (later named Hopwood Hall), and Carnegie Hall, a men’s residence hall, partially funded by a gift from industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Dr. Hopwood declared that Carnegie would “stand for a thousand years unless destroyed by dynamite or earthquakes.”
From these beginnings, a continuous building program has been carried out in accordance with the College’s original campus master plan that called for future buildings to form an elliptical pattern that would exemplify Dr. Hopwood’s guiding principles of faith and reason. As part of this plan, Hopwood Hall (1909) and Snidow Chapel (1966) were built at the east and west ends of campus, completing the ellipsis. The period from 1964 to 1983, saw the largest building expansion in College history, increasing the number of major buildings on campus from nine to 19. Today, more than 40 buildings, many of Georgian style architecture, grace the campus.
A New Name
Virginia Christian College became Lynchburg College in 1919, to avoid confusion with another institution in the area and to reflect the expansion of the College’s church constituency beyond Virginia.
Claytor Nature Study Center
In 1998, the College expanded into Bedford County with the creation of the Claytor Nature Study Center, a 470-acre outdoor classroom for environmental study. The 18th century farm and plantation house were donated to the College by the late A. Boyd Claytor III to create an education and research center for environmental study and to preserve the land for future generations. Freshwater streams, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, rare plants, and wildlife abound at the Center, which includes Cloverlea, the original farmhouse; the A. Boyd Claytor III Education and Research Facility with laboratories and conference facilities; the Belk Astronomical Observatory; the Chandler Eco-Lodge, a 16-bed facility built with environmentally friendly materials and energy-saving technologies; a hiking trail system; a small group campground; and an amphitheater.
St. Lucia Partnership
University of Lynchburg began a partnership with the island nation of St. Lucia in 2003 to provide learning opportunities in special education and school counselor training.
Historic Sandusky Partnership
A partnership between University of Lynchburg and Historic Sandusky, an important Civil War site, was established in 2011, offering students real-world museum and research opportunities. In 2016, the College accepted ownership of the historic landmark, built in 1808.
In 2014, LC’s women’s soccer team won the NCAA Division III championship, the first team national championship in the history of the College.
Through the years, University of Lynchburg has maintained its commitment to the liberal arts, while also encouraging professional preparation in the belief that the two areas of study support and complement one another. And now, more than a century after its founding, University of Lynchburg continues to lead the way in educational opportunities, standing as a tribute to the Hopwoods’ pioneering spirit.
- Dr. Josephus Hopwood (1903-1911)
- Dr. S.T. Willis (1911-1912)
- Mr. G.O. Davis (1912-1914)
- Mr. George P. Coler (Acting, 1914-1915)
- Dr. John T. Hundley (1915-1936)
- Dr. Riley B. Montgomery (1936-1949)
- Dr. Orville W. Wake ’32 (1949-1964)
- Dr. M. Carey Brewer ’49 (1964-1983)
- Dr. George N. Rainsford (1983-1993)
- Dr. Charles O. Warren (1993-2001)
- Dr. Kenneth R. Garren (2001-2020)
- Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar (2020-present)