“Enter to Grow in Wisdom; Go Forth to Apply Wisdom in Service.” ~Huntingdon College motto

Huntingdon College campus in Montgomery in the early 1920s
The Huntingdon College campus in Montgomery in the early 1920s

Tuskegee Female College

For more than 160 years, Huntingdon has upheld a mission of faith, wisdom, and service as it has created pathways to fulfilling lives for thousands of alumni.

The charter of Huntingdon College was signed by Alabama Governor John Winston on February 2, 1854. Chartered as Tuskegee Female College, this was the first of four names under which the College has operated.

The cornerstone on the Tuskegee campus was laid April 9, 1855. On February 11, 1856, the doors of Tuskegee Female College were officially opened under the College’s first president, Dr. Andrew Adgate Lipscomb. There were four students in the first graduating class in 1856, but by September 1859 the College’s enrollment had risen to an average of 216, with 29 women graduating that year.

Alabama Conference Female College

In 1872, the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, assumed full management and control of the College. The reincorporation created the present governing body—a board of trustees—and a change in name to Alabama Conference Female College.

Woman’s College of Alabama

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the College administration chose to relocate the campus to Montgomery, a more populous, urban environment. In 1906 Dr. John Massey, who had assumed the presidency in 1876, led the plans to move the College to Montgomery while College friends in the area began the search for a suitable site. Several citizens had initiated negotiations with landowners in an effort to persuade a donation of land, but these negotiations were unsuccessful. As a result, Dr. John Sellers, C.G. Zirkle, and William Moore approached J.G. Thomas, who agreed to sell to the men 50 acres in the Cloverdale section of Montgomery. The land was then donated to the College.

Huntingdon College campus aerial view 2012
Huntingdon College campus aerial view 2012

On August 24, 1909, furniture, equipment, and all official college records covering a period of more than half a century were moved into a rented building in Montgomery, which was to house the College until the first building on the new campus, Flowers Hall, was completed. That night, the rented building burned, destroying its contents. Other housing arrangements were made, however, and in the fall of 1910 the new campus opened under the name Woman’s College of Alabama. Since the move to Montgomery had occurred the previous year, 1909 remains the recognized founding date of the Montgomery campus.

The College’s beautiful campus was designed in 1908 by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.,  son of the designer of New York’s Central Park. Olmsted Jr. had planned the landscapes for such constructions as the Boston Park System and the Biltmore Estate. John Jefferson Flowers Memorial Hall, the first building on campus, set the architectural style for the campus and was designed in the Gothic tradition by H. Langsford Warren of England, founder of the School of Architecture at Harvard University. Warren’s plan was meant to reflect the Gothic buildings of Cambridge and Oxford and used the chapel of St. John’s College at Cambridge as the model for the building’s chapel, now known as Ligon Chapel.

Julia Pratt Hall (1912), The Hut (1922), Miriam Jackson Home (1924), Weenona Hanson Hall (1924), Seay Twins Art Gallery (1927), Bellingrath Memorial Hall (1928), and Houghton Memorial Library (1929) followed Flowers Hall in the building boom of the 1920s.  Ligon Memorial Hall (1947) and The Delchamps Residence (1949) followed.

Huntingdon College

Since its move to Montgomery, many changes have taken place for the College. In 1934, the first male student was graduated, but it was not until 20 years later—in 1954—that full-time male resident students would be admitted. Once the College became a co-educational institution, the name Woman’s College of Alabama was no longer suitable. In 1935, in recognition of its affiliation with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the name Huntingdon College was selected to honor Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, a woman who had been one of the first and most influential persons associated with the Wesleyan movement in England.

Enhancing opportunities for Huntingdon students, a number of facilities have been built on the main campus since the 1950s, including the building formerly known as Delchamps Student Center (1958), now Catherine Dixon Roland Student Center; Julia Walker Russell Dining Hall (1963); Hubert F. Searcy Hall (1970); Sybil Smith Hall, a facility dedicated to music programs (1985); James W. Wilson Center (1987); Neal Posey Field (baseball, 1994); Carolyn and Wynton Blount Hall, a residential facility, in 1995; Seay Twins Art Gallery; Gibbs Tennis Center (2012); the Huntingdon Bands Rehearsal Hall (2017); and the W. James Samford Jr. Soccer and Softball Complex (2018).

In 2000, the College expanded across Fairview Avenue with the purchase of the 13-acre former Cloverdale School property. The expansion allowed the College to host the production offices for the feature film “Big Fish,” many scenes of which were filmed at Huntingdon, and to have space to add intercollegiate football, which began in 2003. Charles Lee Field was dedicated in 2004, followed by W. James Samford Jr. Stadium in 2006, both on the Cloverdale Campus. The Dr. Laurie Jean Weil Center was renovated and renamed on the Cloverdale Campus in 2004.

Since 2003, the College’s full-time enrollment has nearly doubled and includes not only traditional day enrollments, but also full-time equivalent students from the College’s evening degree completion program, with campuses in locations across the state. In recent years, the College has added numerous properties in the Cloverdale neighborhood, contributing to a new “Huntingdon Village.”

Presidents of the College

  1. A.A. Lipscomb, 1856–1859
  2. G.W.F. Price, 1859–1863, 1865–1872
  3. Jesse Wood, 1863–1864
  4. C.D. Elliot, 1864–1865
  5. H.D. Moore, 1872–1875
  6. E.L. Loveless, 1875–1876
  7. John Massey, 1876–1909
  8. W.E. Martin, 1909–1915
  9. M.W. Swartz, 1915–1922
  10. W.D. Agnew, 1922–1938
  11. Hubert F. Searcy, 1938–1968
  12. Allen K. Jackson, 1968–1993
  13. Wanda Durrett Bigham, 1993–2003
  14. J. Cameron West, 2003– 2024
  15. Anthony J. Leigh, 2024-Current
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