The year was 1904 when a very determined young black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. It underwent several stages of growth and development through the years. In 1923, it became a co-ed high school as a result of a merger with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida. A year later, the school became affiliated with the United Methodist Church, 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. Mrs. Bethune retired in 1942 at which time James E. Colston became president until 1946 when Mrs. Bethune resumed the presidency for a year.
Richard V. Moore, Sr. became president in 1947. Under his tenure the college was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools 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.
Appointed to the presidency in 1975 by the Board of Trustees, an alumnus, Oswald P. Bronson, Sr., Ph.D., continues the development and expansion of the college. A rapidly increasing student enrollment led to construction of more student housing and classroom buildings. Major fields of study increased from 12 in 1974 to 39 in 2001. In addition, seven continuing education centers are in operation for students throughout the state.
Since 1943, the college has graduated more than 11,900 students who have provided support to the college. Traditionally, the college has maintained intercollegiate athletics programs, instrumental and choral groups which have achieved national recognition. Many alumni, are employed in the fields of education, medicine, business, politics, government, science, religion, athletics and environmental sciences.