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Chowan attains university status

MURFREESBORO – Standing in the middle of a campus steeped in tradition, Chowan College officials stepped out on a new path Thursday.

During a press conference that attracted nearly 600 alumni, trustees, students, employees and friends to the campus, Chowan President Dr. M. Christopher White announced the institution’s intention to become Chowan University as of September 1.

&uot;Today we honor all those who in the past years made commitments for Chowan to be the best possible,&uot; he said. &uot;We honor the past presidents, faculty and staff. We honor the thousands of alumni who proudly claim Chowan College as their own.

&uot;Today we give thanks for the present, for everyone associated with Chowan College as faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members and friends,&uot; he continued. &uot;Each of us have every right to be proud.

&uot;Today we boldly look into the future, and we like what we see,&uot; he added. &uot;We see a small college emerging as a regional, and perhaps national force in higher education.&uot;

From there, Dr. White said he believed Chowan would help lead economic renaissance in northeastern North Carolina.

&uot;Today I am pleased to announce that the Chowan College Board of Trustees, acting in regular session, has unanimously approved a recommendation to change the name of the institution to Chowan University,&uot; he announced. &uot;This is an historic and confident act. It defines not only who we are, but where we are going.&uot;

Dr. White said the name change was one of several that has taken place at Chowan. The institution was formed in 1848 as Chowan Female Institute, but changed its name three years later to Chowan Female Collegiate Institute.

The school then became known as Chowan Baptist Female Institute from 1867 until 1910 when Chowan College was given its current name.

That name didn’t stay, however, as the school closed during World War II and reopened as Chowan Junior College.

The school began the process of exploring a return to senior college status as early as 1983, but didn’t make the move until 1992. The first seniors awarded baccalaureate degrees since 1937 had them conferred in May of 1994.

After becoming a four-year institution, Chowan suffered some major setbacks and was in dire straits in terms of student enrollment and financial obligations.

That has changed in the past several years while the school has experienced a remarkable resurgence.

&uot;We now boast record enrollments, record gifts, a 50 percent increase in endowment in three years, significant campus improvements underway or planned for the near future, a reclassification of our athletic program to NCAA Division II and a significant commitment to the important of spiritual issues on campus,&uot; White said. &uot;In the near future, Chowan will begin offering off-campus classes at various locations as well as graduate programs.&uot;

During a question-and-answer period following the announcement, White said Chowan had already entered into a preliminary agreement with Halifax Community College in Weldon to provide the third and fourth years of college degrees on that campus.

He said there was hope to have to majors that could be completed there, one in business administration and another in a social science.

As for master’s level courses, White said the institution would begin offering elementary education first, because of high demand, but added that others would follow.

Included in the program were trustee Rev. Ronald McSwain, who gave the invocation, as well as a field representative from United States Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-1st).

Despite missing the announcement because of Congress being in session, the representative did send a letter of congratulations.

&uot;I am delighted to extend my congratulatory wishes to Chowan College on this special occasion,&uot; he wrote. &uot;I applaud the Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee’s recommendation to change the name of the institution to Chowan University and agree with President White that this is a ‘remarkable resurgence’ for an institution which dates as far back as the mid-1800s.&uot;

Dr. White said the name would officially become effective on September 1 because of the process of making the legal change.

&uot;In many ways, our beloved institution has become a University today,&uot; he added.

During the conference, the school honored past trustee chairs Elaine Myers, Bynum Brown and Hugh Vincent for their contributions by giving them the first hats with the name Chowan University.

The school also unveiled a new seal and a new logo.