Matriculation Day Convocation 2014: Celebrating Claflin University’s 145th Anniversary

Aug 26, 2014
Claflin's 145th Anniversary LogoClaflin will hold its 2014 Matriculation Day Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 4, in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center. This year’s event will celebrate the University’s 145th year while signaling the official start of the 2014-2015 academic year.

The program will begin at 11 a.m. The theme for this year’s celebration is “145 Years: Celebrating Traditions, Pursuing Transformative Change.” Classes will be dismissed at 10:30 a.m. and resume at 2 p.m. The community is invited to attend.

The Matriculation Day Convocation is held each year to celebrate achievements and advance a vision for the institution’s future. During his convocation address, President Tisdale will outline the state of the University to faculty, staff and students, as well as unveil any new initiatives for the academic year.“This year’s convocation is especially notable because we are celebrating the founding and legacy of this great University,” President Henry N. Tisdale said. “For 145 years, Claflin University has honored its rich traditions while embracing and pursuing transformative change. The University has overcome many challenges to become recognized as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education. It has a compelling story of access and success.”

This year’s convocation will also serve as the kickoff for a yearlong series of events in celebration of Claflin’s 145th anniversary.

Notable Moments from Claflin University’s First 145 Years

Claflin University opened in the buildings of the former Orangeburg Female College on October 27, 1869, and was chartered by the State of South Carolina later that year, on December 18. It was named in honor of Lee Claflin, a prominent Methodist layman from Boston, and his son William Claflin, then governor of Massachusetts.  

With “the only admission requirements for prospective students being the possession of good moral character and a conscientious desire to learn,” Claflin offered – for the first time in South Carolina – quality higher education for men and women “regardless of race, complexion, or religious opinion.” The University awarded its first bachelor’s degrees to Nathaniel Middleton and William Bulkley in 1882. 

Dr. Alonzo Webster was appointed the institution’s first president on January 31, 1870. Since its founding, the University has been served by eight presidents – Webster, followed by Dr. Edward Cooke (1874-1884); Dr. Lewis M. Dunton (1884-1922); Dr. Joseph B. Randolph (1922-1945), Claflin’s first African-American president; Dr. John J. Seabrook (1945-1955), the University’s first alumni president; Dr. Hubert V. Manning (1956-1984); Dr. Oscar A. Rogers (1984-1994); and Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, who began his illustrious tenure as Claflin’s leader in 1994. 

The University’s trademark building – Tingley Memorial Hall – was constructed in 1908 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other notable constructions include Ministers’ Hall in 1919, H.V. Manning Library in 1967, W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center in 1968, the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center in 1980, the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel in 2005, the Molecular Science Research Center in 2010 and the University’s latest addition, Claflin Commons, which is slated for completion in September.

Student Etta Butler Rowe penned Claflin’s alma mater in 1903. In 1927, the campus newspaper, The Claflin Panther, was established. The University’s first summer session was held in 1947. On December 7, 1961, Claflin was admitted to full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the University achieved active member status in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II on September 1, 2008.

The Claflin Honors College – now known as the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College – was established in 1994, and The Freshman College began in 1996. The Center for Professional and Continuing Studies was started in 1997.

During its 2008 Matriculation Day Convocation, the University unveiled the tagline “The World Needs Visionaries.” Claflin’s vision statement is to “be recognized as one of the premier undergraduate teaching and research universities in the world that prepares effective and visionary leaders with global perspectives.”

For more information about Claflin University, visit

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