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History of Bethune-Cookman University

In 1904, a very determined young black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls for students. Through Dr. Bethune’s lifetime the school underwent several stages of growth and development.  In 1923, it became a co-ed high school as a result of a merger with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida.  A year later, the school became affiliated with The United Methodist Church; it evolved into a junior college by 1931 and became known as Bethune-Cookman College.  In 1941, the Florida State Department of Education approved a 4-year baccalaureate program offering liberal arts and teacher education.  Dr. Bethune retired in 1942 at which time James E. Colston became president until 1946 when Dr. Bethune resumed the presidency for a year.White Hall

Richard V. Moore, Sr. became the third president in 1947.  Under his tenure, the college was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS-COC) in 1970, joined the United Negro College Fund and other academic and professional organizations.  The curriculum expanded, student enrollment increased and new buildings were constructed for residential housing and classrooms.

Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., Ph.D., an alumnus of the College, served as the institution’s president for 29 years – from 1975 until 2004 when he was named president emeritus.  Commitment to academic excellence was the cornerstone of his presidency.  Under his leadership, major fields of study increased from 12 to 37.  In addition, seven continuing education centers for students began operating throughout the state.  While maintaining accreditation by SACS-COC, Florida State Board of Education, and The University Senate of The United Methodist Church Board of Higher Education, the college added new accreditations in the Nursing and the Teacher Education programs.

Trudie Kibbe Reed, Ed.D., was appointed to the presidency in August 2004.  The first woman to serve in this capacity since Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Reed has embraced her rich legacy of faith, scholarship and service.  The institution launched its first master’s degree program in 2006 and achieved University status in early 2007.  The International Institute for Civic Participation and Social Responsibility was launched in January 2005 as a way to reinvigorate the school’s motto “enter to learn; depart to serve” as a call to action for 21st century learners to empower themselves and others, connect with their communities, and influence the world around them.  A robust effort to expand and improve the school’s physical plant is underway, with the purchase of nearby properties and construction of the Center for Civic Engagement and L. Gale Lemerand School of Nursing building already completed.  President Reed has also led successful efforts to increase enrollment and the University’s endowment, helping ensure the continued mission and financial stability of the institution.  

Since 1943, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has graduated more than 13,200 students.  Traditionally, B-CU has maintained intercollegiate athletic programs and instrumental and choral groups that have achieved national recognition.  Many alumni are employed in the fields of education, medicine, business, politics, government, science, religion, athletics and environmental sciences.


1904    Begins as Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls

1923    Merges with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida to become a co-ed high school

1924    Affiliates with The United Methodist Church; evolves into a junior college called Bethune-Cookman College

1931    Receives full accreditation

1941    Four-year baccalaureate program for liberal arts and teacher education is approved by the Florida Department of Education

2007    Achieves University status

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