Meredith College concluded its 125th anniversary party Friday with the announcement of a $75 million fundraising campaign.
It marked the public phase of an effort that has already brought in $52 million. Momentum was bolstered during a one-day online drive Wednesday that raised more than $277,000.
Friday’s event capped a yearlong anniversary celebration.
Although it was chartered in 1891, the idea for Meredith was hatched decades earlier by Thomas Meredith, who thought it important to create “a first-rate course of female education.” There was an evolution of names – first Baptist Female University, then Baptist University for Women and, finally, Meredith College.
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Now, with 2,000 students, Meredith is one of the largest of the 42 remaining women’s colleges in the United States. Its enrollment has declined from a high of about 2,300, but the college has not faced serious questions of survival. Its brand tagline, “Going Strong,” launched in 2013, hammers that message home at a time when some women’s colleges could be described as shaky.
“The longevity of Meredith speaks to our reputation for excellence that has never wavered,” said Meredith President Jo Allen. “I think it speaks to the power of our faculty and staff to invest not only their teaching and knowledge and all that in our students, but the true shaping and guiding and coaching of women to recognize their power and to make good decisions.”
One by one in recent years, women’s colleges have closed or admitted men to shore up their financial futures. A few miles away, Peace College admitted men in 2012 and became William Peace University. Last year, Sweet Briar College in Virginia announced it would close, until alumnae raised money and won a court battle to keep it open.
Meredith has a $91 million endowment. In recent years, it has diversified with graduate programs that admit men and a certificate program aimed at people seeking graduate study in health fields. It has added a science emphasis and a dual enrollment program in engineering with N.C. State University. A strategic plan adopted in 2012 focused the college’s resources and goals.
In 2014, Meredith wove its “strong” theme into a program called StrongPoints, which incorporates academic advising, financial literacy education and career coaching for all students, who start off with an assessment of their individual strengths when they arrive.