Did You Know Bethune-Cookman University Was Founded On This Day?

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On October 3, 1904, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune opened a training school in Daytona Beach, Florida, with “$1.50, faith in God and five little girls.” 

Eventually, that school, then called the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls— would become an accredited institution of higher learning known as Bethune-Cookman College and later Bethune-Cookman University, according to the school’s website on its historical roots. 

“Invest in the human soul,” she said. “Who knows? It might be a diamond in the rough.” 

Dr. Bethune later rose to prominence as an international figure achieving a list of noteworthy accomplishments, including advising US presidents, contributing to the creation of the United Nations, and founding the National Council Of Negro Women. She was also a founding member of the United Negro College Fund, which included Bethune-Cookman as a charter member. 

Did You Know Bethune-Cookman University Was Founded On This Day?
American educator Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955), with Group of Students after Resigning as President of Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida, 1943. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The University was the pinnacle of a long and successful career. In 1923, it merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, according to the University’s website. Cookman Institute, founded in 1872, was the first institution of higher education for Black people in Florida. This merger was completed in 1925, resulting in the formation of the Daytona-Cookman Collegiate Institute.

One significant outcome of this merger was the prestigious Methodist affiliation acquired by the school. In 1931, the institution received accreditation from the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States, recognizing it as a junior college. To honor the leadership and contributions of Dr. Bethune, the school officially changed its name to Bethune-Cookman College on April 27 of that year.

Did You Know Bethune-Cookman University Was Founded On This Day?
African-American jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor Lionel Hampton and educator and Civil Rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, with a large crowd, holding signs in a crowd, April 16, 1946. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

This HBCU continued to evolve, and in 2007, Bethune-Cookman achieved university status and added a graduate program to its academic offerings.

The school is known for its intercollegiate athletic programs and instrumental and choral groups. Over 19,000 students have graduated from Bethune-Cookman University since 1943. Notable alumni include Olympian Ronnie Ash, hair care entrepreneur, philanthropist, educator Marjorie Joyner, Civil Rights leader Harry T. Moore, and music group Allen & Allen.

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