With the end of the Civil War in 1865, Furman University was able to reopen, but not without many struggles. Because the south was suffering a great economic depression, the university reopened with very few students. After several presidents kept the school alive, it was really able to improve under the leadership of Dr. Charles Manly. Up until this point, Dr. Manly was pastor of the Greenville First Baptist Church. Here he gained much popularity, which promoted his ability to get the position at Furman in 1881. At the start of Dr. Manly’s tenure as president, money was a scarce commodity, as were students. In his first year, Furman opened with only 21 students and had an endowment of $18,246. By the end of the school year that number was up to 35, and by the end of the next year was at 50 students. With this growth in students, Dr. Manly saw a need to increase Furman’s endowment, which, in 1884 stood at $25,350.
Dr. Manly took an active role in education. He added an M.S. degree, which was called Master of Mathematical and Mechanical Philosophy. In 1883 Dr. Manly led an effort to establish political science as a course. It stressed international law, constitutional history, and political economy. These additions brought the school more popularity, from both possible students and donors.
Until the 1885-86 school year, students were required to live at home to encourage upright morals, which were assumed to be taught in the home. This year however, Dr. Manly opened up the rules a little more and said that students who could not afford to live off-campus could live in an on-campus “mess”. In the first year of this program, 17 students participated, living in five rooms. Their meals were prepared and served by a school janitor. Furman did not charge these students for their rooms.
While Dr. Manly ultimately stressed the importance of a good education, he wanted to experiment with social activities. He assisted in establishing social and religious organizations. Dr. Manly encouraged athletic organizations on a limited basis. As a result of this action, Furman played its first intercollegiate football game on December 14, 1889 in Spartanburg. Secret social fraternities were formed in 1892, but were outlawed by the South Carolina Legislature in 1898. Although these social activities did not directly help the school, Dr. Manly felt it would lead to a better rounded student body. While these activities were important, Dr. Manly made sure the university’s mission was known. He released Furman’s purpose in 1889 which stated, “The purpose of this institution is to give training in knowledge and virtuous excellence.” Through these years, the efforts by Dr. Manly increased Furman’s financial status. The Trustees meeting in June of 1888 show much monetary progress. By 1891, the school’s endowment had increased to $75,500. This led to the establishment of more scholarships in 1894. One student per county was able to receive one. In 1892 he was able to add Bible Study as a department at the University.
In 1897, Dr. Manly had to resign from the position of university president in order to continue his work in the ministry, which required much travel. He left the school in much better condition than that of when he arrived. His final year at the school saw a student body of 170 and an endowment of $77,500. Considering the state of the south when he inherited the job, Dr. Charles Manly led incredible efforts to lead the university on the path to where it stands today.
Daniel, Robert Norman. Furman University, a History. Greenville: Hiott Press, 1951