Livingstone College has history of producing leaders
By Sarah Campbell
Since its inception in 1879, Livingstone College has been committed to providing a quality education through a Christian-based environment.
The school has also been a leader in the community, reaching out to students from all racial and social backgrounds, as well as a firm foundation for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Livingstone president Dr. Jimmy Jenkins Sr. said the college will continue to be involved in the overall economic development of Salisbury.
“We see the college as a very critical and important corporate citizen of this community with an economic impact of nearly $100 million,” he said. “We believe we are a cornerstone that needs to be nourished.”
Jenkins said as enrollment continues to grow the college is starting to make plans to construct new buildings for the first time in nearly 30 years.
“We see us becoming more and more as a reservoir for our community and for the city,” he said.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz said Livingstone is an integral part of Salisbury’s history.
“When you look at the history of the college and when you ride by and see how beautifully it’s been restored, it’s amazing,” she said.
Livingstone’s campus is housed on 272 acres consisting of 21 brick buildings, with seven campus structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“But more than the building, it’s the people,” Kluttz said.
Kluttz said she is impressed by the caliber of graduates who have gone on to become leaders in the community.
Alumnus Pete Kennedy works with Kluttz on the Salisbury City Council, and alumni Jean Kennedy and Kay Wright Norman serve on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
“I’m always amazed by the types of leaders that Livingstone produces,” she said. “Livingstone graduates have just contributed so much to the city.”
Education for all
Joseph Charles Prices chartered Livingstone College with the idea of creating an educational institution for the training of black youths.
Today, that vision extends to all races and ethnicities.
“Being a Historically Black College, we see our mission as being very special,” Jenkins said. “First and foremost to maintain an open door policy for anyone.”
As the college sets goals for the future, Jenkins said it’s important to remember the past.
“We recognize historically that this institution was established to take the just-freed slaves’ children where they were and take them where they needed to be in order to equip themselves educationally to be contributing citizens of the global economy.”
Jenkins said his goal is to make sure students who graduate from Livingstone match up with graduates from other institutions.
“They will be qualified and capable,” he said.
That’s why he’s created the Bridge Program, which provides students who might not otherwise be able to attend college a chance.
“It fits because the only reason for an institution like Livingstone College today is that we are still prepared to do what we were designed to originally do,” he said.
Jenkins said the school is committed to taking the disadvantaged and creating the kind of learning environment where they can demonstrate their intellectual skills.
“We believe that no child should have to be penalized because of the circumstances of their birth,” he said.
Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary were orignally founded as Zion Wesley Institute in Concord for the purpose of training ministers.
Although Hood has acted as a separate, independent institution since 2001, its roots were planted at Livingstone.
Students enrolled in the first class of a new bachelor of divinity program in 1903.
The theological department was upgraded to a school in 1904, and the AME Zion Church began raising money to built a seminary.
The seminary was complete in 1910 and dedicated in 1911.
In 1965 the AME Zion Church erected a new building for the Seminary on a parcel of land adjacent to the college, donated by Bishop and Mrs. Jacob Walls.
Today, Hood Theological Seminary thrives as a graduate school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools to award the master of divinity, master of theological studies, and doctor of ministry degrees.
Although Livingstone and Hood are no long affiliated, Livingstone remains entrenched in Christian values.
Joseph Charles Price, the college’s founder and first president, believed in using faith as the cornerstone for education.
“We have said nothing of Christian education; but it is reasonable to conclude that (regardless or race of ethnicity), under the influences of Christian intelligences; (we) are prepared to solve all the problems peculiar to our earthly state for Christianity level all distinctions...,” he said during a speech at the National Education Conference.
Dr. Gary Callahan, dean of Livingstone’s Holistic College, said the college is staying true to its original mission by permeating the campus with religious values.
“We want them to have spiritual growth while they’re here,” he said. “We are Christian-based so we pray before meetings and students generally accept that.”
Livingstone is one of two colleges under the AME Zion denomination.
“The church has no treasure more valuable than the institutions of higher learning founded and nurtured by it,” George L. Blackwell, former Secretary of Christian Education, said in a speech to the 41st General Conference. “The A.M.E. Zion Church has always counted on the marriage of liberal learning and vital piety as being the most profound form of faithfulness in the gospel.”
Mayor Kluttz said Livingstone’s work with the church also makes it a valuable asset to the community.
“(Livingstone) has really given us recognition around the world with their work in the AME Zion Church,” she said. “They have a reputation throughout the world with its church and the fact that it’s located here is very much a positive for the city.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.