North Carolina Education - Cleveland County

Year County Established

County Webpage Herein

County Seat Webpage Herein


Cleveland County


Gardner-Webb University, a co-educational Baptist institution, was founded in 1905 as Boiling Springs High School. Supported by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the school is the youngest North Carolina Baptist college or university. In 1907, construction began on campus, and in May of that year, J. D. Huggins became the first president. The first class consisted of roughly two hundred (200) students. One of the earliest pupils was W. J. Cash, author of "The Mind of the South."

By the 1920s, the expansion of public high schools in North Carolina resulted in declining enrollments at sectarian institutions. In response, Boiling Springs High School re-organized as a junior college in 1928 as did other schools such as Mars Hill School and Buies Creek Academy, which later became Mars Hill College and Campbell University. A series of campus renovations began in the 1930s that were completed in 1942 and with the acquisition of funds from former North Carolina governor Oliver Maxwell Gardner and his wife Fay Webb Gardner.

In recognition of the Gardners’ donations, the school changed its name to Gardner-Webb Junior College in 1942. In 1946, the North Carolina Baptist Convention began supporting Gardner-Webb with a $750,000 grant for the construction of a power plant on campus.

Gardner-Webb College, as the school became known in 1969, graduated its first four-year class in 1971. Ten years later, the institution offered its first graduate program in education. During the 1980s, Gardner-Webb established an international study curriculum with Japan’s Dhoto University, and added a master of business administration program. In addition, the school added a divinity school, later named the Christopher White School of Divinity in honor of the then sitting school president.

In 1993, the college became Gardner-Webb University. By the early 2000s, the school had more than thirty-two hundred (3,200) students and one hundred-thirty-five (135) faculty members. The school currently offers thirty-nine (39) undergraduate major fields in thirteen (13) departments. The main campus is situated on two hundred (200) acres. There are seventeen (17) satellite campuses located across the state. The university also offers a dual engineering degree program with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The first doctoral program, in divinity, began in 2001.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


© 2016 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved