Valdosta State University (VSU) is one of the University System of Georgia’s two regional universities. From its opening in 1913, as the South Georgia State Normal College, it has grown to a thriving university of over 12,000 students offering degrees from the associate to the doctorate. As a regional university, VSU is charged with meeting the professional and general educational needs of its South Georgia service area, which stretches from the Atlantic to Alabama, encompassing 41 counties and 31% of the land area of the state.
One of VSU’s most unique attributes is its beautiful 180 acre campus with its distinctive Spanish Mission architecture. While VSU draws students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and more than 60 countries, it never forgets its main constituents. Its programs, including those at the graduate level, are developed with specific reference to the professional educational needs of the area. This regional perspective is entirely consistent with the university’s founding and history. In 1906, a group of legislators and concerned civic leaders worked hard for the passage of legislation to establish a college. It was not until 1911, however, that the college received any funding and it did not open until 1913. In 1922, the school became a four-year college and the legislature changed its name to Georgia State Womans College. In 1950, the college became co-educational and was renamed Valdosta State College. The college integrated peacefully in 1963 and, to this day, maintains an exemplary minority recruitment record.
In 1993, Valdosta State College became Valdosta State University to better reflect the diversity of its programs and growing stature. In 2013, VSU celebrates its 100 year anniversary and 50 years of integration. Thus, it is only fitting that President McKinney’s inauguration theme is Engaged Innovation. For VSU has been, and continues to be, irretrievably linked to the people of South Georgia and serves as a vital economic force in the South Georgia region. VSU supports 194 student organizations whose members complete thousands of community service hours and many faculty incorporate innovative approaches to service learning in their courses. VSU’s innovative efforts to improve access and college completion for adults resulted in national recognition when it received the 2012 Institutional Service Award from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. VSU is also a Military Friendly School, which places the university among the top 20 percent of all colleges, universities, and technical schools nationwide for its service to military members and veterans as students. The inaugural theme also highlights the importance of VSU as a regional hub for arts and culture, featuring the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Peachtree State Summer Theatre, and Blazer athletics—since 1979, VSU's student-athletes have won seven NCAA Division II titles.
Drs. McKinney and Charlesworth have a passion for educating students and wanted to begin a scholarship fund that allowed them to reward students who showed greate promise. As the president and first lady began trying to identify the type of student population they would like to concentrate their fundraising efforts toward they considered first year students, transfer students, and students pursuing degrees in their academic disciplines (i.e., Philosophy and Communication); however, they kept coming back to their experiences teaching first-year, first-generation college students. Knowing firsthand the challenges first-year, first-generation college students face, they have decided to focus their efforts toward raising monies for this particular student population. The proceeds from the Inaugural Ball to Benefit Student Scholarships will serve as a financial foundation to be earmarked for this group of students. Drs. McKinney and Charlesworth will be designing future events to build upon this foundation and to establish a robust fund that will support these deserving young men and women.
Georgia State Womans College (1922-1950)
President Powell headed the Georgia State Womans College until 1933 when he was named dean of the Coordinate College in Athens. Dr. Jere M. Pound, President of the Georgia Teachers College, was selected to become VSU's next president. His tenure at GSWC lasted less than a year before he had to go on sick leave; he died a year later in 1935. Dr. Frank Robertson Reade assumed the job of acting president in 1934 and was named president when Dr. Pound died became president. During Dr. Reade's tenure, New Deal programs enabled the school to expand physically from three to seven buildings. The Powell Library, dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt, was the centerpiece of this construction. During World War II, GSWC emphasized politics and science in its curriculum and in 1943, the B.S. degree was added. Moody Airfield, located nine miles from campus, provided the male participants for many patriotic parties.
Valdosta State College (1950-1993)
Dr. Reade served as president until 1948 and he was followed by Dr. Ralph Thaxton. Dr. Thaxton came from University of Georgia, where he had served as professor, Dean, Director of Admissions, and Registrar. Soon after Dr. Thaxton began his service, the Board of Regents, acting on the advice of a committee which had examined the whole University of Georgia System, declared that in 1950 GSWC was to become a co-educational college and would be renamed Valdosta State College (VSC).
As in pre-medical, pre-dentistry, and pre-pharmacy programs were added, and the sciences became more prominent at VSC. Business became a popular major after 1950. By 1956 men on campus outnumbered the women. Greek organizations were formed, with fraternities leading the way, and intercollegiate athletics became a part of campus life when the Rebels, an all-male basketball team, was formed.
In 1953 VSC acquired the property of the former Emory Jr. College, a private all male school that operated from 1928 to 1953, less than a mile away, and the facilities became the north campus which now house the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration and the Air Force Reserved Officers Training Corps.
Under Dr. Thaxton's tenure, the College integrated in 1963. Over the next decade the college added African-American students, faculty and administrators.
Dr. Thaxton retired in 1966, and Dr. S. Walter Martin, former president of Emory University and Vice Chancellor of the University System of Georgia, assumed the presidency. He presided during a time of great physical expansion of the school, which included the construction of such buildings as the Odum Library, the Education Center, The Fine Arts Building, the College Union, a Science Administration Building and six dormitories. The student body grew, the School of Nursing was established, and many programs expanded, including those in graduate education.
Valdosta State University (1993-Present)
When Dr. Martin retired in 1978, Dr. Hugh Coleman Bailey assumed the post. Under Dr. Bailey, the student population had doubled in size from 4,500 to 9,000 students. From 1978 to 1993, numerous programs were added and existing courses were upgraded, which resulted in the early 1980s in an endeavor to make VSC a university. Throughout the 1980s the college established off-campus sites and course offerings and began receiving state and federal grant funds to develop curricula and programs. In 1993, all the hard work and planning to achieve university status paid off. Valdosta State College became Valdosta State University (VSU), the second regional university in the University System of Georgia. In fall 1998, Valdosta State University adopted the semester system, along with other units of the University System of Georgia. Under Dr. Bailey's leadership VSU continued to grow with the addition of the 150,000-square-foot (14,000 m2) University Center in the 1995 and a new science building in 2001.
In January 2002, Dr. Ronald M. Zaccari became the seventh president of VSU. During Zaccari's time in office VSU updated its infrastructure to accommodate student population growth, including the construction of four new dormitories and two parking decks. Dr. Patrick J. Schloss became the eight president of VSU in 2008. Dr. Schloss oversaw the opening of a new Student Health Center, Georgia Residence Hall, and the Student Union. Dr. Louis H. Levy assumed the position of interim president in 2011 and was instrumental in securing funding for the Health Sciences and Business Administration Building and oversaw the construction of the addition to the Bailey Science Center. On April 13, 2012, Dr. William J. McKinney was announced as VSU's ninth president.
Presidents of Valdosta State
Richard Holmes Powell, 1913–1933
Jere Madison Pound, 1933–1935
Frank Robertson Reade, 1935–1948
James Ralph Thaxton, 1948–1966
Sidney Walter Martin, 1966–1978
Hugh Coleman Bailey, 1978–2001
Ronald M. Zaccari, 2002–2008
Patrick J. Schloss, 2008–2011
Louis H. Levy (Interim), 2011-2012
William J. McKinney, 2012–current