In 1891, William Waugh Smith chose Lynchburg, Virginia as the home for his vision—“a college where our young women may obtain an education equal to that given in our best colleges for young men and under environments in harmony with the highest ideals of womanhood.”
Today, 125 years later, much has changed at the College. But the heart of the institution remains its close-knit community of faculty, staff, and students, who are dedicated to pursuing a broader understanding of the world. More importantly, Randolph College is still committed to providing women—and now men—a strong, liberal arts education that prepares them to live the “life more abundant.”
During 2016, Randolph College will celebrate its rich history as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College while looking forward to the vibrant promises of tomorrow.
Randolph College faculty, students, and staff will mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of the College. Following the ringing of the Conway Bell by Associate Dean of the College Paula Wallace, Dennis Goff, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology and co-chair of the 125th Anniversary Celebration Steering Committee, will reflect on our history and share thoughts on the importance of this anniversary.
The Founders' Day observance, with roots in the annual Ivy Day of years past, will feature the annual planting of rose bushes along the Red Brick Wall in celebration of the lyrics, “where roses tumble along sunny walls,” from the College song. The event will conclude with the traditional senior-sophomore serenade at the Sundial.
Join the College community for Commencement exercises as we celebrate the Class of 2016. Jolley Bruce Christman '69, trustee emerita, will serve as keynote speaker for this ceremony that will celebrate the College’s past, present, and future.
The College will mark the 125th Anniversary with this formal ceremony, which will feature an academic procession recognizing graduation classes through the years. More information.
Plan now to attend Randolph’s 125th Birthday Party! Bring a guest, enjoy delectable birthday desserts, and dance the night away under the stars. More information and RSVP to attend.
Randolph College was founded as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (R-MWC) in 1891 by William Waugh Smith, then president of Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) in Ashland, Virginia.
Smith sought to create “a college where our young women may obtain an education equal to that given in our best colleges for young men and under environments in harmony with the highest ideals of womanhood.”
Both R-MC and R-MWC were named for John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia, and Senator Nathaniel Macon of Warrenton, North Carolina. Both men were widely respected for their political roles in the early 19th century.
R-MWC was founded under the charter of Randolph-Macon College, which was established 61 years before with the encouragement and financial support of the Methodist Church.
The College received acclaim for its academic strength early in its history. In 1902, R-MWC was the first women’s college to be admitted to the Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools of the Southern States.
And in 1916, R-MWC was the first women’s college south of the Potomac to receive a Phi Beta Kappa charter. It was admitted to the membership in the American Association of University Women in 1919.
Enrollment was at its highest in the late 1960s, but that growth slowed as once-all male institutions opened more educational opportunities for women. Enrollment continued to be a concern in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2003, the College began a strategic planning process with the intention of identifying key strategies that would best position the institution for the future. After two years of study, research, discussion, and deliberation, members of the Board of Trustees began seriously considering coeducation.
“Given R-MWC’s circumstances, we are firmly convinced that we cannot continue as both a college exclusively for women and a college of excellence. We have chosen to go forward and flourish as a college of excellence,” said Ginger Worden ’69, interim president for 2006-2007 before the Board’s historic vote in 2006.
Author and Senior Lecturer Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley
Honoree: 2016 Pearl S. Buck Award
How the Humanities Allow us to Learn About Other Cultures
April 20, 2016
Author and Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor Emerita at Smith College
Keynote Speaker: Alumnae and Alumni Council
"Ought Women To Learn the Alphabet?": Exploring the History of Women’s Higher Education
September 17, 2016
Author, President of the Society of the Four Arts, and former President of Kalamazoo College
Keynote Speaker: 125th Anniversary Convocation
The Liberal Arts
October 8, 2016
The 125th Anniversary edition of Randolph Magazine tells the story of the College through photos, quotes, facts, and statistics from 1891 to present day.
Magazine staff combed through thousands of photos to create the commemorative edition. Too good to keep locked away, we've created a digital archive for all to see.
View hundreds of archival photos online