Each week in February, in observance of Black History Month, The Greenville News, Spartanburg Herald Journal and Anderson Independent Mail will profile South Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This is part of a project that will conclude in March with a look at the state of HBCUs in South Carolina.
Benedict College, located in downtown Columbia, was founded by a woman. Now, after 15 years, the college is being led by one.
Dr. Roslyn ln Clark Artis was appointed as Benedict’s first-ever female president and CEO in 2017.
Arits is the 14th president of Benedict, one of the state’s oldest Historical Black Colleges and Universities and has been making positive changes and impacts since taking the helm, according to Kymm Hunter, Benedict’s assistant vice president for marketing and communications.
She has renovated the Charles W. Johnson Football Stadium, where the South Carolina High School Football Championship games are held. The football stadium has also been beautified with more turf and a high-tech scoreboard has been added.
Now, Hunter said, “You really have all the bells and whistles when you’re recruiting students. That has really helped, particularly when they come and play in the championship and they see this great facility. They can see themselves playing for us.”
Campus-wide, Artis has done landscaping, repaved sidewalks, and renovated buildings “that just needed a little love or a lot of love, in some cases,” Hunter said.
“She’s just doing a fantastic job elevating the look of the campus, letting students know we care about them and letting the alumni know that we care about the school,” she said.
History of Benedict College
Benedict, a private co-educational liberal arts college, is home to nearly 2,000 students.
Founded in 1870 by Bathsheba Benedict, an abolitionist from Rhode Island, the idea to establish a college for recently emancipated slaves was her husband’s, Hunter said.
When Stephen Benedict died in a fire, his wife wanted his legacy to live on. So, she worked with the American Baptist Mission Home Society to found Benedict College, Hunter said.
Bathsheba Benedict provided $13,000 towards the purchase of an 80-acre plantation near Columbia as the site for the college initially named “Benedict Institute,” the school’s website said. The school was established to “prepare men and women to be a power for good in society,” and operated on a former slave master’s mansion, the site said.
The college campus, with its main entrance on Harden Street, has since greatly expanded to other areas in downtown Columbia and the historic Waverly community, in which a portion of the campus sits.
Dr. David Swinton, who served as Benedict’s president and CEO for 23 years, built the Swinton campus center on Oak Street, followed by the bookstore, dormitories, and then further out more dormitories, tennis courts, and other facilities toward Two Notch Road, Hunter said.
Two Notch Road is where the Charlie Johnson Football Stadium opened in 2006. Not far from the stadium is Benedict’s Business Development Center, which houses its Women’s Business Center.
Last year, Benedict celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation, a partnership with neighboring HBCU Allen University.
Over the years, the corporation has been awarded grants to purchase dilapidated houses in the surrounding community and flip them with the help of YouthBuild program, Hunter said.
“With them as our contractors, we’ve been able to take dilapidated homes and turn them into beautiful homes that some of our faculty and staff live in,” she said. “Some of the homes, we sold back to the community.”
Some of the renovated homes are also being used to house college services, including the health center and the campus police department. The community, Hunter said, is happy to see the development in the spirit of collegiate athletics and community partnership,”
“We are part of the community and have been for 150-plus years. We want the community to reflect our success,” she said.
Benedict College’s curriculum
Benedict’s first curriculum included reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, and religion. The curriculum was later expanded to include traditional college disciplines, which also included an industrial department offering carpentry, shoemaking, printing, and painting, the website said.
Today, the offerings include 25 baccalaureate degree programs, with high-demand fields of study in STEM, Mass Communication, Sport Management, E-sports Administration, Business Administration, Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, and Education.
The college has added new majors that are popular with students. Among them is e-sports, and Benedict is outfitting different areas of the campus for e-sports classroom and tournament spaces, Hunter said.
The college already offered cyber security as a major, Hunter said, but received money to create a cyber security center. Additionally, Hunter said, Benedict is partnering with ECPI to enable students to get their master’s degree while at Benedict, she said.
Music is another major that Benedict is revamping. It is housed in a newly renovated building and has new, updated equipment.
“A large percentage of the students here at Benedict, whether they are in music or not, are really invested in being their own musician, producer, composer,” said Andrew Hutchens, Benedict’s instructor of music industry and woodwinds.
The students in the program, he said, are taught how to refine what they do on their own so they can work in studios or start their own business.
On November 2, 1894, the South Carolina Legislature chartered Benedict as a liberal arts college and its as formally changed to “Benedict College,” the website said
From its founding, Benedict College had been led by northern white Baptist ministers and educators. Starting in 1930, the college was led by African-American male presidents.
Football coach Chennis Berry has spent the last 30 years working on the campus of an HBCU, but he’s found something extra special about being at Benedict College, where he was hired in 2020 to lead the Benedict Tigers football team.
“The relationships that I’ve built in my short period here makes it worth coming to work everyday,” Berry said. “The people are amazing. I love it here.”
It’s a familial type of love; one that swayed Mya Schofield’s decision to attend the college after touring the campus in 2017.
“I think that’s something you want when you attend (college),” said Schofield, the reigning Miss Benedict College and a 2022 graduating senior. “You want to feel comfortable. You want to feel like you’re at home away from home.”
Schofield, a native of Atlanta, said an HBCU was a college consideration because her mother and stepfather both attended HBCUs.
Part of her decision to attend Benedict came down to getting a scholarship and having a school within the college that focused on her major – business administration, with a concentration in management and a minor in marketing.
“My mom made it clear to me, ‘We’re not paying for college. It’s too much money out here for you to pay for college,'” Schofield said. “When I applied to Benedict in 2018, I got a presidential scholarship.”
During her tour, Schofield said she was introduced to the Tyrone Adam Burroughs School of Business and Entrepreneurship and all the great things about it, including that it is the namesake of an alumni who is also a member of the Board of Trustees.
That information was a draw and helped secure her decision. Over the years, she’s been able to flourish and “make so many connections.”
“I would tell anyone this is a great institution where you can learn, be yourself and make connections,” Schofield said. “Being a former SGA president and now Miss Benedict, I’ve met so many people, shook so many hands, and been able to introduce other students to other people.”
Schofield’s little sister is also a student at Benedict, which is “wonderful” for her mom, just knowing both kids are connected and safe, she said.
Elijah Kelly, a native of New Jersey, is the Students Government Association’s secretary at Benedict. He never ran for an office in high school.
“When I came to college, everybody was like ‘you should run for something. I think a lot of people would vote for you,’” he said. “I was like, ‘You know, I missed out in high school. Let’s do it now.’”
He is also now vice president of Brothers in Unity and was the sophomore class president. He credits the “HBCU love.”
The school is also preparing him for a prosperous career. TD Bank reached out to Kelly, a junior majoring in business finance, and has offered him an internship and a full-time position upon graduation.
Fast facts about Benedict College
Fall 2021 – 1,908, an increase of 200 students from the 2020 Fall enrollment numbers.
Tuition: For the fall 2021 semester, non-boarding was $8,746 and boarding was $11,939/$12/139 (12-19 credit hours). For the summer session, tuition is $200 per credit hour with fees of $50 per credit hour.
Areas of study include high-demand fields of study in STEM, Mass Communication, Sport Management, E-sports Administration, Business Administration, Engineering, Computer Science, Biology, and Education.
President Donald Trump visited Benedict in 2019 for an event billed as a keynote speech on bipartisan success in criminal justice reform.
Benedict College President Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis was elected to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College Board of Trustees.
Benedict College is one of six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) that received funding to add a men’s volleyball team back in 2019.
In 2021, Benedict became one of 15 HBCUs to receive funding through the $3 million Impact Grants made possible by Apple’s nationwide investment in racial equity and justice, and its support of the Propel Center, an innovation and learning HBCU collaboration.
Benedict is part of The Home Depot’s Retool Your School competition which strives to give back to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by providing campus improvement grants. Benedict wants to use the grant funds to an outdoor seating area for events.
Skincare industry leader Palmer’s announced in October 2021 its partnership of over $850,000 with the Tyrone Adam Burroughs School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Benedict College in support of scholarships and professional development programs for students.
Notable graduates include:
Sanford Greene- an accomplished comics illustrator whose work has been published by DC Comics, Dark Horse, and others. Sanford is also co-creator of Bitter Root comic series. Actress Regina King will direct and produce the feature adaptation of Bitter Root, ET online announced in 2021.
Senator Darrell Jackson – is a Democ
ratic member of the South Carolina Senate, representing the 21st District since 1992.
I.S. Leevy Johnson Esq.- the first African American President of the SC Bar Association
Dr. LeRoy T. Walker-president emeritus of the US Olympic Committee.
Modjeska Monteith Simpkins-known as the mother of the South Carolina Civil Rights. Leader of African American public health reform and social reform.
Septima Poinsette Clark- highly respected educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting rights and civil rights for African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement.
Kris Bruton – Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 1994 NBA Draft. He was with the Bulls for two pre-seasons before a serious thigh injury ended his career. Bruton currently plays with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Walt Simon -professional basketball player who played seven seasons in the American Basketball Association for the New Jersey Americans/New York Nets and Kentucky Colonels.
Howie Bell – actor, writer, and comedian known for Detroit Unleaded (2012),
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Benedict College is one of South Carolina’s oldest private HBCUs