The Re-Branding of Voorhees College

Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, was founded in 1897 by Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a 23-year-old black woman who had been educated at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Seed money for the new college was provided by New Jersey philanthropist Ralph Voorhees. At that time, only a high school curriculum was offered.

In 1924 the American Church Institute for Negroes, a division of the Episcopal Church, agreed to provide funding for the college. The affiliation with the Episcopal Church continues to this day. In 1947 Voorhees became a junior college and in 1962 it was accredited as a four-year institution.

Cleveland L. Sellers Jr., the new president of Voorhees College, is leading an effort to make the college a premier liberal arts institution. He wants to double enrollments and add a number of new majors and departments. Sellers, who previously headed the African-American studies program at the University of South Carolina, went to Voorhees when it was a high school.

Sellers recently unveiled the university’s new Web site which includes its new slogan, “Changing Minds and Changing Lives.”

Dr. Sellers’ efforts appear to be paying off. The college received 2,689 applications this year, up from 1,791 a year ago. This fall Voorhees has the largest number of new students in a decade. There are 650 students in total enrollments this fall, up 14 percent from 2008.