Furman University and Greenville Woman’s College (GWC) had a 53-year relationship from 1853-1908 (Bainbridge 184). They had the same board of trustees until 1908 when each college split off in its own direction. The only relationship Furman University and GWC had after their split in 1908 was that they both participated in the South Carolina (SC) Baptist Convention. Unfortunately, about 20 years later, GWC was having severe financial problems. Although they had a growing endowment, it was still below the amount needed to be considered an accredited college. Also, there was not an increase in income. This was a result of fewer students, meaning less tuition paid, as well as former students were not making payments on their loans.(Bainbridge 175-176) Furthermore, this made it very difficult to raise the school's academic programs and teachers’ salaries in order to become an accredited college.
At the SC Baptist Convention in December 1924, “a committee on the Future Maintenance and Development of South Carolina Baptist Schools and Colleges” was formed (Baptist Courier 11/26/1925). It discussed the fate of all the colleges in South Carolina, but focused on Furman and GWC. The commitee's proposal recommended that Furman be the head of the state system of Baptist colleges since they were accredited, endowed, and a beneficiary of The Duke Endowment. The committee also proposed that Furman establish a college for women and felt GWC should be this college. This would allow the women to obtain a stronger education and a recognized diploma. Combining the schools would also make Furman large enough for admission to the Association of Universities (Baptist Courier 11/26/1925). The committee tried to make clear that it was not in favor of men and women in the same classroom and GWC should keep its identity and traditions. David Ramsey, president of GWC at the time, was not in favor of this proposal at all. When the time came to officially present the proposal at the next SC Baptist Convention, there was so much uproar about the committee’s ideas that the committee was dismissed. Furman and GWC remained as they were (Bainbridge 184-185).
It was not until 1929 that the schools again discussed coordinating. David Ramsey had discussed with a few Furman trustees about the possibility of coordination. The result was there would be no coordination of the two institutions, and the only suggestion for combination was to convert GWC into an annex of the men’s college (Ramsey Report 5/27/1929). As GWC continued to have a falling enrollment and insufficient tuition, a plan of affiliation was approved in November 1929. However, it was never agreed upon at the SC Baptist Convention. Instead, another committee was appointed to solve the problem in Greenville (Bainbridge 194-195). The continuous formation of committees to solve problems involved with coordination bothered Ramsey and he eventually retired on August 1, 1930 (Bainbridge 196-197).
After Ramsey’s retirement, the GWC trustees worked very hard to work out “a merger of some sort with Furman’s trustee executive committee” (Bainbridge 198). The merger was proposed at the SC Baptist Convention in December 1930. The proposal stated that “Furman would provide transportation, set up a study hall for women on the ground floor of the library, and award degrees jointly” (Reid 53). It also said the “[i]nstruction of women at Furman would be mainly on the junior-senior level, and the Woman’s College would maintain its identity, but management would be consolidated” (Reid 53). The boards of trustees of Furman and GWC were “authorized to unite the two institutions under the charter of Furman with one board of trustees and one administration, but maintaining the identity of Greenville Women’s College, which shall be known as 'Greenville Woman’s College of Furman University' ” (State Convention 1930). The agreement said that before coordination would officially take place, the debts from the colleges must be paid off (Greenville Piedmont 1/12/1931). This would take quite a few years because the United States was in a depression.
The coordination of the two schools was a slow process. In May 1932, it was understood that there “would be a single administration, but finances would remain separate” (Reid 59). It took until November 1937 to raise almost all of the money to pay off the debts. At this point the SC Baptist Convention approved the schools’ coordination. The 1936-1937 catalog was the last separate issue for GWC. Many aspects of education, social life, and organizations progressively changed during the merger and the following years. This was the final step of merging Furman University and the Greenville Woman’s College until they moved to the new campus in 1961.
Bainbridge, Judith. Academy and College. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2001.
The Baptist Courier. 26 November 1925.
Bonhomie. Furman University: 1932.
"Furman and GWC Should Coordinate." Greenville Piedmont. Greenville, SC. 12 January 1931.
Ramsey Report. 27 May 1929.
Report of the Committee of Fifteen. Annual of the State Convention of the Baptist Denomination in South Carolina, 1930. Furman University Archives: Greenville, SC.
Reid, Alfred Sandlin. Furman University: Toward a New Identity 1925-1975. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1976.