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Our Heritage as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College

Randolph-Macon Woman’s College was founded over 115 years ago in a world largely opposed to the “dangerous” idea of educating women.

William Waugh Smith, then president of the all-male Randolph-Macon College, had the courage to disagree, and set about making plans for a "college where our young women may obtain an education equal to that given in our best colleges for young men and under environments in harmony with the highest ideals of womanhood."

With no backing from his trustees, Smith took his cause to the road, eventually winning support of the Rivermont Land Company, which donated 20 acres of bucolic land in the quiet town of Lynchburg.

Thanks to the generosity of 150 local residents, Smith was able to raise the $100,000 necessary to officially found Randolph-Macon Woman’s College on March 10, 1891. The college welcomed its first class of 36 students and 12 professors in 1893.

From the start, R-MWC was a standout among Woman’s colleges of its day, particularly in the South. Until 1903, R-MWC was the only southern institution of higher learning for women that offered four years of study. And in 1916, it became the first Woman’s college south of Washington, D.C. to be granted a Phi Beta Kappa charter. Though the ethos of R-MWC was ecumenical, the College is proud of its historic and continuing relationship with the United Methodist Church.

R-MWC’s most famous alumna is the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist Pearl S. Buck ‘14. Hers and many remarkable generations of women have been drawn to R-MWC’s scenic campus in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains by the promise of the college’s motto: Vita Abundantior, a “Life More Abundant.”

As Buck once wrote of her experience here, "We were very proud of our College. We still exulted when I was there in the knowledge that we were being taught what men were taught. . . . We came out ready to use our heads and accustomed to work. I have always been glad of that."

Beginning on July 1, 2007, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College officially changed its name to Randolph College as part of the decision to admit men for the first time in over a century.

With such a proud history as a beacon and haven for Woman’s education, Randolph will always be something more than just a coed college. It’s a place where both women and men are taught to realize their full potential—as leaders, thinkers and communicators—and to always strive for that most abundant life.