If you looked back in time one hundred years, would you recognize Randolph-Macon College?
In 1900, the college was one of five members of the Randolph-Macon System of Colleges and Academies which offered secondary and collegiate instruction for both men and women but at different locations. Operating under one board of trustees, chiefly composed of Methodist ministers, the system included R-MC in Ashland (founded 1830), and the Randolph-Macon academies in Bedford City (1890) and Front Royal (1892) for men. Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg (1893) and Randolph-Macon Institute in Danville (1897) were open to women. William W. Smith, a former R-MC president, was the system chancellor.
For the Fall 1900 term, Randolph-Macon enrolled 127 undergraduate students and five postgraduates. (The entire system included around 600 students.) All but a handful of the college's all-male students hailed from within the state. Many came because of their family connections with the Methodist Church. Most arrived by train, often seeing the college for the first time as the train pulled into Ashland.
The 1899-1900 college catalog describes Ashland's location - on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, 16 miles north of Richmond, upon the most elevated plateau between that city and Fredericksburg, Va. The location was distinguished for healthfulness and accessibility because severe pneumonia and violent fevers of the mountains and the malarial diseases of the Tidewater regions are comparatively unknown.
Today, the college's enrollment is almost 10 times what it was one hundred years ago. Last fall Randolph-Macon opened its doors to 1,134 students. The admissions office reported this year's freshman class to be one of the largest in the history of the college, with students hailing from 24 states and 6 foreign countries.
In addition to Randolph-Macon College, only Randolph-Macon Woman's College and Randolph-Macon Academy still exist today, each as separate institutions with their own boards. Known today as a private, independent, coeducational institution of the liberal arts and sciences, Randolph-Macon continues to maintain a relationship with the United Methodist Church, and, in fact, is the nation's oldest Methodist-related college in continuous operation.
The college still places much emphasis on the advantages of its location, but for new reasons. Within a small-town atmosphere, Randolph-Macon enjoys a connection with metropolitan Richmond and the nation's capital. Both provide students with internships opportunities and cultural outlets.
While few things remain the same - you can still catch the train at the station adjacent to campus - Randolph-Macon is indeed a different place. Read on to learn more about how a century can change a college.