Piedmont College

Piedmont College

Piedmont’s Founding

In 1897, opening a college in the wilderness of northeast Georgia must have seemed like folly. But under the direction of a Methodist minister, the Rev. Charles C. Spence, a youthful band of entrepreneurs obtained a charter from the State of Georgia, organized a board of trustees, bought books, hired a faculty, and secured space for classes and dormitories. On the first Wednesday of September 1897, amid much fanfare and ceremony, the opening exercises for the J.S. Green Collegiate Institute were held in downtown Demorest, and the entire student body, from first grade to college juniors, marched up the hill from the square to begin their studies.

In its first year, the J.S. Green Collegiate Institute (the name was changed to Piedmont College in 1903), enrolled 367 students, an astonishing number given the rural nature of the area and the scant population.

Growth of Piedmont

By 1899, enrollment was strong at just under 400 students, but the support the College founders had hoped for from the state’s Methodist churches was not forthcoming, and the Rev. Spence turned to the Congregationalist churches for help. The Congregational Church had been founded by the Pilgrims in 1620 and had a long history of supporting higher education. As yet, they had no college in the South, and so in 1901, the American Missionary Board of the Congregational Church took Piedmont under its wing. While remaining an independent institution governed by its own board of trustees, Piedmont has enjoyed a close relationship with Congregational churches ever since.

Over the years, Piedmont’s enrollment has grown to more than 2,300 students at campuses in Demorest and Athens. In recent years, the college has added new facilities for art, science and mathematics, music, theatre, mass communications, and nursing.

A Bright Future

Today, more than 120 years after its founding, Piedmont sees students arrive from all over the world, still carrying that same unquenchable thirst for education. Some are third, even fourth generation Piedmont students. Some are the first in their families to venture beyond high school. But all of them find at Piedmont College an experience much like that of the students who paraded up the hill in 1897— a small college town where the faculty and students form a community with a rich academic tradition—where anyone with a desire for knowledge is welcome.