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History

Belhaven University is an innovative and academically progressive institution built on the timeless principles of scholarship, service, and biblical Truth. Since its founding, Belhaven University has sought to fulfill the mission expressed in its motto: "to serve, not to be served.

Today's Belhaven is the culmination of three separate institutions of higher learning which merged over the years. Belhaven University, now Belhaven University, was founded in 1883 in Jackson, Mississippi as a privately-owned institution. In 1911 Belhaven was merged with McComb Female Institute, and in 1939 merged with the Mississippi Synodical College. The founding date of the latter institution, 1883, was adopted by the Board of Trustees as the official founding date of Belhaven University (now Belhaven University).

In 1894, Dr. Lewis Fitzhugh established Belhaven University for Young Ladies on Boyd Street at the former residence of Colonel Jones S. Hamilton. The College took the name of the house, Belhaven in honor of Hamilton's ancestral home in Scotland. A fire destroyed the main building in February, 1895, but with the help of Jackson citizens the College reopened in the fall of 1896 at the same site.

Fitzhugh served as president until his death in 1904, upon which his heirs sold the College to Dr. J. R. Preston. He operated Belhaven until it was again destroyed by a fire in 1910, then he donated the title of the College to the Presbyterian Church. In September, 1911, the school was reopened by the Central Mississippi Presbytery, as Belhaven Collegiate and Industrial Institute, at a new site on Peachtree Street. Dr. R. V. Lancaster of McComb Female Institute became the third president as the two institutions merged. In 1915, the Board of Trustees changed the school's name to Belhaven College. During these years improved curricula guidelines and student services were established. Dr. W. H. Frazier succeeded Lancaster as president from 1918-21, and during his tenure enrollment grew to 230 students.

In 1921, the Reverend Guy T. Gillespie of Lexington, Mississippi, began a presidency that would last 33 years. In Gillespie's tenure Belhaven was first accredited, an endowment fund begun, and scholarship aid made available. Through depression, war, and unstable economic times, Belhaven maintained its mission.

Dr. McFerran Crowe succeeded Gillespie in 1954, and over six years he expanded and upgraded the faculty, while modernizing business operations. It was also in 1954 that the Board of Trustees voted to make Belhaven fully coeducational, thus ensuring continued growth. In 1960-61, Dr. Robert F. Cooper served as acting president until the Board selected Dr. Howard J. Cleland. An ambitious expansion program resulted in six major new buildings, while enrollment and the College budget tripled during Cleland's 17-year tenure. Another significant change came in 1972, when the Synod of Mississippi transferred ownership of the College to the Board of Trustees.

In March, 1978, Dr. Verne R. Kennedy became the first Belhaven alumnus to serve as chief executive of his alma mater. In eight years as president, he reaffirmed the commitment to Christian service and the covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church and installed a more efficient administrative structure.

Another alumnus of Belhaven, Dr. Newton Wilson, became president in June 1986. His nine-year term saw the greatest growth in College history, from just over 600 students to more than 1,100. By 1995, over 80 percent of Belhaven's faculty held doctoral or equivalent degrees. The College also extended its outreach in nontraditional venues, with expanded course offerings for adult and evening students. Dr. Daniel C. Fredericks served as acting president in 1995.

Dr. Roger Parrott became the tenth president of Belhaven in January, 1996. Under his leadership Belhaven has added seven major buildings, a variety of new undergraduate academic majors and graduate programs, intercollegiate football, campuses in Orlando, Houston, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, online programs, the World View Curriculum, and earned national accreditation in all four arts. The size of the student body has tripled during his tenure. On January 1, 2010 the name was changed to Belhaven University.