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No Ordinary College

A History of The University of Virginia's College at Wise
Brian Steel Wills
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BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 6.13 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813922935 · $34.95 · Oct 2004

"You are making history today," the University of Virginia Extension Division agent Samuel Crockett observed to a gathering of students and faculty on September 15, 1954, in Wise, Virginia. The occasion was the opening convocation of what would become Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia, and the 109 students assembled, many of whom were Korean War veterans or women, were indeed part of something quite special. People in Southwest Virginia and friends in Charlottesville—not the least being University of Virginia President Colgate W. Darden Jr.—had worked tirelessly to make this day possible. A snowbound discussion at the Colonial Inn in Wise had resulted in the conversion of the local County Poor Farm into the only branch of the University of Virginia.

Since those humble beginnings, the College at Wise has flourished, growing from a two-year certificate-granting institution into a four-year baccalaureate-degree-granting college in the late 1960s. In 1999 the college completed a transition from Clinch Valley College to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Having journeyed over uncertain ground with respect to its student population and its relationship with the University of Virginia, the College at Wise has in recent years boasted its highest historical student enrollments, garnered a national reputation as a public liberal arts college, and still operates as the university’s only branch.

Published for Wise’s fiftieth anniversary in September 2004, Brian Steel Wills’s history is essential reading for the college’s alumni, faculty and administrators, and for anyone interested in a heroic chapter in the history of public higher education in Virginia.

About the Author(s): 

Brian Steel Wills, Professor of History and Philosophy at Wise, is the author of The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia (Virginia).

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