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History

149 Years of Leadership

Peyton Finley and George N. Card
ASU is a direct descendent of Lincoln Normal School at Marion established in Perry County, Alabama, in 1867. Although many people worked to establish Lincoln Normal School, Peyton Finley – the first elected black member of the State Board of Education--contributed most in the early years to make the institution permanent. Through his efforts and with the assistance of the institution’s first president George N. Card, the school became a state-supported educational institution in 1874.

William Burns Paterson
In 1887 the Legislature authorized the establishment of a university, allocated $10,000 for a land purchase and building construction, and set aside $7,500 annually for operating expenses. Montgomery citizens pledged $5,000 in cash and land and donated the use of some temporary buildings. Under the leadership of President William Paterson, the university opened in Montgomery at Beulah Baptist Church with a faculty of nine members. Eight months after the enabling legislation, the university taught its first class on October 3, 1887.

1889 was a pivotal year in the university’s development when $3,000 pledged to the state was given to authorities along with land for development of a permanent campus at the university’s current location between Decatur and Hall streets. The university erected Tullibody Hall the next year as its first permanent building. That building burned in 1904 and was rebuilt in 1906 as the university’s first brick structure, which also was named Tullibody Hall.

John William Beverly and George Washington Trenholm
Paterson, who had guided the university through the early years, and who is generally considered the founder because of his 37 years of service, died in 1915. During the following decade, presidents John William Beverly and George Washington Trenholm organized the institution as a four-year teacher training high school and added a junior college department. In the early 1920s the university began operating on the four-quarter system and added the departments of home economics and commerce. This decade of growth and change also saw the purchase of additional land, including an 80-acre farm which constitutes the bulk of the university’s current holdings. The state also appropriated $50,000 for the construction of dormitories and dining facilities.

Harper Councill Trenholm
In 1925 G. W. Trenholm died and was succeeded by his 25-year-old son, Harper Councill Trenholm—who served as president for 37 years. He oversaw the change from a junior college to a full four-year institution, a process completed in 1928 which enabled the college to confer its first baccalaureate degree in teacher education in 1931. In 1940 Trenholm initiated a graduate degree program, and State Teachers College awarded its first master’s degree in1943. The school also established branch campuses in Mobile and Birmingham.

Trenholm was eager for the institution to develop and gain recognition. Thus, he worked to improve the physical facilities in concert with advances in the quality of academic programs. During the economic expansion that followed the end of the Great Depression, the university constructed eight permanent brick buildings, a swimming pool, and a stadium. To reflect changes in its programs, the Legislature authorized the institution to change its name to State Teachers College in 1929, Alabama State College for Negroes in 1948, and Alabama State College in 1954. In 1935 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited the college’s programs.

Levi Watkins
In 1962, after Trenholm’s illness an interim president, Levi Watkins, became president. In 1969, the State Board of Education, then the governing board of the college, approved a name change and the institution became Alabama State University. During these years, the university began a path of steady growth and development in its current role as a comprehensive university. In 1975, the Legislature established an independent board of trustees for the university.

Robert Lee Randolph
In 1981, Robert Lee Randolph was appointed president, a position he held until 1983. During his tenure, Title III received its largest federal government funding. WVAS-FM was planned, construction began on the Tullibody Fine Arts Center, and the University Apartments were constructed.

Leon Howard
After serving 10 months as interim president, Leon Howard was appointed president in 1984, a position he held until 1991. During his presidency, ASU saw dramatic increases in student enrollment, an aggressive student retention program was started, and the social work program received national accreditation. The largest capital campaign, the Endowment for Excellence, raised $1.5 million. Two new dormitories were completed.

C.C. Baker
C.C. Baker, a 1954 alumnus, served as president from 1991 to 1994. During his tenure, the enrollment reached an all-time high of 5,600 students; programs were reaccredited; athletic programs flourished; the Olean Black Underwood Tennis Center and C. Johnson Dunn Tower were opened in January 1994; and the Acadome was dedicated in 1992.

William H. Harris
When William H. Harris became president in 1994, his commitment was to transform ASU into a comprehensive regional university through excellence and diversity. Significant investments were made in technology, the student body became more diverse, and community outreach was emphasized through partnerships with K-12, civic and community organizations. The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture, Business and Technology Center, and Center for Leadership and Public Policy were established. Degree programs in health information management and occupational therapy and graduate programs in accountancy and physical therapy were created. Improvements in the living and learning environment were made, including renovation to Paterson Hall and the $4.2 million restoration of historic George Lockhart Hall.

Joe A. Lee
Dr. Joe A. Lee became president in 2001 and served until 2008. His vision focused on a students-first philosophy, which emphasized development of a comprehensive student retention program, renovation/construction of a student union building, and completion of the John L. Buskey Health Sciences Center. Accreditation for the university and for academic programs was reaffirmed; and educational leadership, policy and law became the first doctoral degree program offered at ASU. A transitional doctorate in physical therapy was introduced, the university experienced a record enrollment, and the women’s basketball team earned national recognition.

William H. Harris
In 2008 Dr. William Harris returned to ASU as president. His vision focuses on transforming Alabama State University through excellence in teaching, research, service and a diverse population. Harris is known as the architect of ASU's Vision 2020 plan.

Joseph H. Silver Sr.
Dr. Joseph H. Silver Sr. was officially announced as the 13th president of Alabama State University during the Board of Trustees’ meeting on June 22, 2012.

Gwendolyn E. Boyd
Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd returned to ASU - her alma mater - to become the University's new president on February 1, 2014. Boyd earned her undergraduate degree from ASU, with a major in mathematics and a double minor in physics and music. She received a fellowship to pursue graduate work at Yale University, where she was became the first African-American female to earn a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from this Ivy League institution. She also has earned both the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry degrees from Howard University. Boyd comes to ASU with an extraordinary career of leadership and public service that has spanned more than three decades in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.

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