Spelman College

From Academic Kids

Spelman College is a four-year liberal-arts college for women in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1881, the historically black institution began as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary. Spelman enrolls about 2,100 students. The college is part of the Atlanta University Center academic consortium of historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta.

Spelman has amassed an endowment fund of over $215 million and has been ranked in the top 75 of the nation's liberal arts colleges (currently the school is at 66) in U.S. News and World Report. Bill Cosby is one of the school's highest-profile donors. For its prestige and importance in higher education, Spelman has been described as the Radcliffe College of historically black colleges.

Spelman's mascot is the Jaguar. The sports teams, including basketball, golf, cross-country, soccer, tennis, and volleyball compete in NCAA Division III athletics.



Spelman College is located on a 32 acre (129,000 m²) campus west of downtown Atlanta next to Morehouse College. The campus has a total of 25 buildings. The oldest building, Rockefeller Hall, was built in 1886 and now houses the college administration offices. Sisters Chapel contains an auditorium that seats over one thousand people. Spelman shares the Robert W. Woodruff Library with the other schools of the Atlanta University Center.


Spelman was founded in 1881 in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, by two teachers from Massachusetts: Harriet E. Giles and Sophia B. Packard. Miss Giles and Miss Packard began the school with 11 black women, one girl and $100 given to them by a church congregation in Medford, Mass. The school was originally named the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary. In 1882 the two women returned to Massachusetts to bid for more money, and they were introduced to wealthy businessman John D. Rockefeller, who promised he would get in contact with the women again if they "stuck" with the mission they had set out on.

Giles and Packard indeed stuck. In 1883, the school relocated to a nine acre (36,000 m²) site in Atlanta relatively close to the church they began in, which originally had only five buildings to support classroom and residence hall needs. The school was able to survive on generous donations by the black community in Atlanta, the efforts of volunteer teachers, and gifts of supplies.

In April 1884 Rockefeller visited the school and decided that he liked what he saw, so he settled the debt on the property. The name of the school was changed to the Spelman Seminary, in honor of Rockefeller's in-laws the Spelmans, longtime activists in the anti-slavery movement. Rockefeller's gift precipitated a flurry of interest from other benefactors, and their investements allowed the school to flourish.

Rockefeller also donated the funds for what is currently the oldest building on campus, Rockefeller Hall; in 1887 Packard Hall was also established. Packard was appointed as Spelman's first president in 1888, after the charter for the seminary was granted. The first college degrees were awarded in 1901.

Spelman presidents

Since its inception Spelman has had nine presidents:

  • Sophia B. Packard, then Harriet E. Giles, under whom the school gained a charter and granted its first college degrees
  • Lucy Hale Tapley, under whom the school decided to focus on higher education, the school officially became Spelman College (1927), and Sisters Chapel, one of the main buildings on campus, was erected.
  • Florence Matilda Read, under whom the school established an endowment fund of over $3 million, the school came into agreement with Atlanta University and Morehouse College to form the Atlanta University Center (later Clark College, Morris Brown College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and the Interdenominational Theological Center were added), the Arnett Library was built, and Spelman earned approval from the American Association of Universities;
  • Dr. Albert E. Manley (the first black and first male president of Spelman), under whom study abroad programs were established, the fine arts center was built, and three new dormitories and several classroom buildings were renovated;
  • Dr. Donald M. Stewart, under which the departments of women's studies and chemistry were founded, and three strategic programs were formed: the Comprehensive Writing Program, the Women's Research and Resource Center, and the Ethel Waddell Githii Honors Program, and a continuing education department and a computer literacy program were established;
  • Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (the first black female president of Spelman), under whom the collge received $20 million from Drs. William and Camille Cosby for the construction of the Cosby Academic Center and instituted the Cole Institute for Community Service;
  • Dr. Audrey F. Manley (the first alumna president of Spelman), under which Spelman gained a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Spelman was accepted as a provisional member of NCAA Division III athletics, a state-of-the-art Science Center was finished;
  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, who was appointed in 2002 and under whom the renovation of Sisters Chapel was begun

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

See also

External links


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