Cumberland College Historical Marker
Dedicated as Williamsburg Institute in January 1889, this private educational institution has a rich history steeped in servant leadership. The school, founded shortly after the U.S. Civil War and later known as Cumberland College (until 2005), is a liberal arts college affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. University of the Cumberlands has an annual enrollment of approximately 6,000 students. Many of the buildings on campus are as old as the institution itself.
Backstory and Context
As a result of plans made by Baptist members to provide higher education to the people of the surrounding mountain communities; Williamsburg Institute, was dedicated in January 1889. On April 6, 1888, the Kentucky state legislature approved the incorporation of the college. In the early 20th century, the school bought Highland College and the institute’s name was changed to Cumberland College. The school became the University of the Cumberlands in 2005, not to be confused with Cumberland University located approximately 164 miles southeast of Williamsburg in Lebanon, TN.
Shortly after the U.S. Civil War and The Reconstruction that followed, this institution has continuously served students from the Appalachian mountain region. The university took a significant role in the shaping of public education as the school has been known primarily for programs of elementary and secondary education since the onset.
The school boasts that the vision to provide affordable college education, in an under served area, drew the institution the support of oil industry billionaire businessman, John D. Rockefeller and steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie. Keeping with the school’s initial mission to instill servant leadership qualities in students, the university’s website notes that past graduates include two governors, five military generals, an admiral, five college and university presidents, a U.S. Congressman, ministers, missionaries, legislators, and judges. Among those are: Dr. Ergun Caner (former president of Liberty Theological Seminary),Betty Siegel (former president of Kennesaw State University), Bert Combs (former Governor of Kentucky), Edwin Morrow (former Governor of Kentucky), and Major General Benjamin Baker (U.S. Air Force). Undoubtedly, the university has played a key role in the history of Appalachia in producing educated leaders post Civil War through modern day.