Paine College was founded by the leadership of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, now United Methodist Church, and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, now Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Paine was the brainchild of Bishop Lucius Henry Holsey, who first expressed the idea for the College in 1869. Bishop Holsey asked leaders in the ME Church South to help establish a school to train Negro teachers and preachers so that they might in turn appropriately address the educational and spiritual needs of the people newly freed from the evils of slavery. Leaders in the ME Church South agreed, and Paine Institute came into being.
On November 1, 1882, the Paine College Board of Trustees, consisting of six members, three from each Church, met for the first time. They agreed to name the school in honor of the late Bishop Robert Paine of the MECS who had helped to organize the CME Church. In December, the Trustees selected Dr. Morgan Callaway as the first President of the College and enlarged the Board from six to nineteen members, drawing its new membership from communities outside of Georgia so that the enterprise might not be viewed as exclusively local.
Bishop Holsey traveled throughout the Southeast seeking funds for the new school. On December 12, 1882, he presented the Trustees of Paine Institute with $7.15 from the Virginia Conference and $8.85 from the South Georgia Conference. In that same month, Reverend Atticus Haygood, a minister of the ME Church South, gave $2,000 to support President Callaway through the first year. Thus, a $2,000 gift from a white minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and $16 raised by a CME minister – penny by penny from former slaves - became the financial basis for the founding of Paine College.
In 1883, a Charter of Incorporation for The Paine Institute was granted, and the Trustees elected Dr. George Williams Walker as its first teacher. In January 1884, classes began in rented quarters located on Broad Street in downtown Augusta. On December 28, 1884, the Reverend George Williams Walker was elected President of Paine Institute following the resignation of Reverend Callaway. In 1886, the College moved to its present site on Fifteenth Street.
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The year 1888 was a very significant one for Paine College. Reverend Moses U. Payne, an MECS minister from Missouri, gave $25,000 to Paine for the endowment. Also in 1888, Trustee W. A. Candler presented a resolution to the Trustees authorizing President Walker to employ John Wesley Gilbert, Paine’s first student and first graduate, to become the first Black member of the faculty. The hiring of Mr. Gilbert launched Paine’s continuing tradition of having a biracial faculty. President Walker died in 1910 after having headed Paine for twenty-six years. The Paine Institute began with a high school component and gradually developed a college department. Initially, advanced students received special instruction on an individual basis, but by 1903 sufficient college-level work was provided to justify changing the school’s name to The Paine College. Paine continued its high school department until 1945, because there was no public secondary school for Blacks in Augusta until that year.I-3 Source: Paine College Catalog and the Internet (General\History) Under the leadership of President Edmund Clarke Peters, 1929-1956, Paine College was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools as a Class “B” institution in 1931 and then as a Class “A” institution in 1945.
President E. Clayton Calhoun served as President from 1956 to 1970. During his leadership, Paine was approved by the University Senate of The Methodist Church in 1959, and the College was admitted to full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1961. Dr. Lucius H. Pitts was elected President of Paine College in 1971. He was the first alumnus and first Black President of the College. He died in his office in 1974. Dr. Julius S. Scott, Jr. served as President of the College on two separate occasions: 1975 to 1982 and 1988 to 1994. Paine alumnus, Dr. William Harris, served during the period of 1982 to 1988. In 1994, Dr. Shirley A. R. Lewis became Paine College’s first female President. Dr. George C. Bradley became the fourteenth President of the College on January 1, 2008.
Under the leadership of President George C. Bradley, in the spring of 2009, the College established a Master Planning Committee. The committee examined previous master planning efforts and began the process of developing a new master plan to guide the College through the next 25 years. The Paine College Master Plan is an extension of the Strategic Plan, a document developed by the college staff and trustees. Needs and aspirations for the next century outlined in the Strategic Plan are quantified and given physical definition by the Campus Master Plan. The Strategic Plan, which seeks to support the College’s mission, sets out an ambitious program for improvement and growth with the goal of becoming a leader in the area of undergraduate liberal arts education.
During 2010, changes in the Physical Plant became apparent. Haygood Holsey Hall, constructed in 1977, received a massive $1.1 million makeover that extended the life of the 33 year old structure while transforming the curb appeal along Fifteenth Street, a major thoroughfare. During October 2011, the College reached another historic milestone in its Physical Plant. Renovation of the Randall A. Carter Gymnasium commenced. Out of the renovation, the new 43,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art Health Education Activities Learning Complex (HEAL Complex) will emerged. The HEAL Complex will become the new home for the Department of Athletics and will offer a modern facility while providing services to meet contemporary needs of the College and the community.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $3 million to support academic programs and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The College witnessed and upswing in alumni giving and donations from all constituents beginning with Dr. Bradley’s tenure in 2008. Specifically, the percentage of alumni giving rate increased from 3% in 2007 to 19.5% in 2011. On July 1, 2011, Paine College reorganized its academic units into two schools: the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Professional Studies. Each school governed three departments in which there are 16 majors that lead to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Prior the restructure of the academic programs, the College offered courses in five divisions. The new academic structure will move the institution closer to its vision of being recognized regionally as a premier liberal arts institution of higher education in the region.
The College remains a small, predominantly Black, coeducational, church-related school, gratefully related to its founding denominations and open to all.