At the first student convocation of the 1965-66 school year, Lenoir Rhyne College officially began celebrating its 75th anniversary. The observance of the Diamond Jubilee year will continue until September 1966 when the Lutheran institution will culminate the observance with a mass convocation featuring a noted speaker on or near the 75th birthday.

Lenoir Rhyne college first opened its doors on Sept, 1, 1891, to a student body of 169 pupils and six professors.

It was founded by four Lutheran ministers of the Hickory area: Dr. R.A. Yoder, Dr. J.C. Moser, Dr. W.P. Cline, and Rev. A.L. Crouse. Their purpose for starting the school was to establish an institution which would provide leadership training for the Lutheran church and prepare young people for the teaching profession.

The founders were aided in starting the school by the will of Captain Walter Lenoir of Watauga County, which made the present college campus available to any group willing to build a college on the land.

Opening under the name of Highland college, the name was changed four months later to Lenoir college in memory of the donor of the school site.

The first classes met in a small frame building which had formerly housed a private academy on the campus. Less than two years later, the school had moved into its two-floor brick structure, built through the efforts of the founders and other friends of the institution.

Although Lenoir college was closely identified with the Lutheran church from its very beginning, the relationship was not formalized until 1895, when the sponsorship and support of the institution was official assumed by the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod, which included a large number of North Carolina congregations.

In 1921, when the synod merged to become the United Evangelical Lutheran Synod of North Carolina, the sponsorship and support of the college was taken over by the new synod.

One of the founders, Dr. Yoder, served as first president of the college. Upon his resignation in 1901, Dr. R.L.Fritz, a member of the first faculty of the college became the new president.

During Dr. Fritz’s 19-year administration, significant changes in the physical facilities, the academic curriculum, and the student body itself were made.

Oakview dormitory for women and Highland hall for men were erected.

The college church, St. Andrew’s Lutheran, was constructed, and a three-floor science building, named in memory of Dr. Yoder was opened. The interior of the main building was also completed, and the indebtedness of the building was removed.

During the period, two campaigns were conducted for the purpose of raising the endowment, and the college earned a top rating from the North Carolina State Board of Education for training teachers.

When founded, the institution, although called a college, had relatively few students enrolled on the collegiate level; most of the pupils in attendances were registered in pre-college courses, ranging from the first grade to the twelfth grade. During the Fritz administration, however, enrollment in the collegiate department was gradually increased until by 1922 the pre-college departments had been discontinued and all students were taking college-level work.

Dr. J.C. Peery served as president from 1920-1925, during which period the college built Cline gymnasium and enlarged the campus by the purchase of 19 acres and constructed an athletic field. The curriculum was also revised to permit students to choose among 13 major fields of study.

During the same period, the college received substantial gifts for its endowment from D. E. Rhyne of Lincolnton. In recognition of Mr. Rhyne’s generosity, the name of the college was changed to Lenoir-Rhyne in 1923.

Dr. H. Brent Schaeffer became president of the college in 1926. The following year the struggling institution suffered its most serious setback when the main building was destroyed by fire. The building housed all of the campus offices, the library, a 700-seat auditorium, and most of the campus classrooms.

Before long, however, a new administration building stood in its place given by Mr. Rhyne and named in his honor. Also built about the same time were Mauney hall for women and the college dining hall.

In 1928, the college was admitted to membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the official accrediting agency for this region.

Dr. Schaeffer resigned the presidency in 1934 and was succeeded by Dr. P. E. Monroe who served for 15 years, retired in 1949. During Dr. Monroe’s administration, the college erected Schaeffer hall for women, a library building given by Mr. & Mrs. Carl A. Rudisill of Cherryville and their children and following World War II increased its enrollment from 400 to 700.

Upon retirement of Dr. Monroe, Dr. Voigt R. Cromer became the sixth president of the institution and still serves in the office. His presidency has been marked by and enrollment growing to over 1,200, an expansion of curriculum, the addition of 12 building and other improvements.

[Hickory Daily Record, 50th Anniversary. September 11, 1965]
Courtesy of Janey Deal, Patrick Beaver Library, Hickory, NC

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