Stillman College, authorized by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1875, held its first classes in 1876 and was chartered as a legal corporation by the State of Alabama in 1895. At that time, the name was changed from Tuscaloosa Institute to Stillman Institute. The Institute was a concept initiated by the Reverend Dr. Charles Allen Stillman, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa. The mandate for the Institution expanded over the years and it acquired its present campus tract of over 100 acres. A junior and senior high school was organized and the Institute established a junior college program, which was accredited in 1937. In addition, between 1930 and 1946, it operated a hospital and nurse training school.
Under the administration of Dr. Samuel Burney Hay (1948-1965), the school sought to expand into a senior liberal arts institution and in 1948 the name was officially changed to Stillman College. The following year, Stillman expanded into a four-year college and graduated its first baccalaureate class in 1951. The College was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1953. Under Dr. Hay, seven new buildings were constructed: a gymnasium, a library, an administration-classroom building, two women’s residence halls, a prayer chapel, and a student center.
Dr. Harold N. Stinson (1967-1980) was the first African American to assume the presidency. Under his dynamic leadership, new programs designed to improve educational quality were instituted, and the physical plant was expanded with the addition of two men’s residence halls, faculty apartments, a maintenance building, and a mathematics-science center. Snedecor Hall, Batchelor Building, and Birthright Auditorium were renovated.
Under the leadership of the College’s fourth president, Dr. Cordell Wynn (1982-1997), the appearance of the campus improved dramatically; Winsborough and John Knox Halls were renovated; and the Marie Lundy Wynn Hall and Johnson/Robinson Student Health Center were erected. The enrollment grew beyond 1,000 students; the endowment increased significantly; and the educational program was broadened to include the Stillman Management Institute and a community-service component.
On July 1, 1997, Dr. Ernest McNealey was named the fifth president. Since then, Stillman has garnered national attention in the areas of technology, athletics and scholarly pursuits. One of the leaders in wireless computing, the College received the National Innovation in Technology Award by Apple Computers and continues to be on the cusp of technological innovations in higher education. The College’s football program and marching band were revitalized and the College experienced its largest enrollment in the history of the institution. Dr. McNealey infused new life into the academic component by strengthening the curriculum, and attracting a highly qualified faculty (84% hold terminal degrees), improving admissions standards, and enhancing the value of a Stillman education with the addition of guaranteed outcome programs. Notwithstanding, in 2004 the College received its first-ever ranking among top tier schools in U.S. News and World Report and continues to hold this distinction.
The McNealey administration has transformed the campus in order to create a sense of place. A stately, iron and brick fence and formal entrances were constructed and all campus buildings were renovated. Additionally, four new structures were erected (School of Education building, Wynn Fine Arts Center, Roulhac Residence Hall, and the stadium with accompanying playing fields, buildings, and a NCAA regulation track). This sense of place is further manifested in the current construction of the Thomas E. Lyle Band Center and NCAA regulation tennis complex. With a focused vision, Stillman celebrates its past as it advances confidently into the future, embracing excellence for the common good.