Infinitesimal in number, as compared to the humanity they serve, are the salient figures of history. One such figure was James Solomon Russell, founder and first Principal of the Saint Paul’s Normal and Industrial School.
The newly ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church arrived in Lawrenceville, in Brunswick County, Virginia, March 16, 1882. Here he found a small group of Negro communicants in St. Andrew’s Church, and organized them into a congregation. By February 1883, the first Saint Paul’s Memorial Chapel had been constructed and was ready for occupancy. Immediately, a parochial school was organized in the vestry room of this small frame chapel. Soon these quarters of the parochial school became too small for the increasing enrollment, and a three-room frame structure was built with funds contributed by the Reverend James Saul of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today the Saul Building remains standing on the campus of the College.
On September 24, 1888, with fewer than a dozen students, the Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School was started in the building known as the Saul Building. More students came as word about the school spread. The members increased to such an extent that the Founder, the Reverend James Solomon Russell, realized the need for a program of expansion and development. On March 4, 1890 by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia, the school was incorporated as the Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School, and by that name it was given a perpetual succession and a common seal.
A collegiate department of teacher training was started in 1922 and was accredited by the Virginia State Board of Education in 1926. As a result of this development, a large percentage of the teachers in elementary and secondary schools of Virginia and the neighboring states of North Carolina and Maryland are graduates of Saint Paul’s. Since 1923 Saint Paul’s has been represented in all major contests in the field of athletics. Saint Paul’s also played an important part in the life of the community. In its early years the school supplied ice for the Southern Railroad operating between Danville and Norfolk, Virginia, and water and electricity for the town of Lawrenceville. Today, many buildings stand in Lawrenceville and Southside Virginia as mute testimony to the industrial activity of Saint Paul’s trade students.
In 1928, the founder, The Venerable James Solomon Russell, archdeacon in the Diocese of Southern Virginia, retired with the title of Principal-Emeritus. His son, The Reverend Dr. J. Alvin Russell, was elected as the founder’s successor. He continued to work in faith as the administrator, 1928-1950, and brought about many changes and improvements. The College’s charter was amended on December 30, 1941, giving Saint Paul’s the authority to grant degrees based on a four-year program. The name of the institution was changed to St. Paul’s Polytechnic Institute and the chief administrator, Dr. J. Alvin Russell, became the first chief administrator to carry the title of President. In September, 1942 degree programs leading to the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Science in Education were started. The endowment was increased and several buildings were erected, important among which were: The Julia C. Emery Hall, 1930; The William H. Scott Administration Building, 1932; and The Anna Ramsdell Johnston Building, 1933. World War II interrupted the building program, but in 1948 ground was broken for the William Ambrose Brown Science Building, and the James Solomon Russell Memorial Library was completed and dedicated in 1951.
In the spring of 1950, Dr. Earl H. McClenney was elected president and became the third chief administrator of Saint Paul’s College. During the administration of Dr. McClenney, many notable improvements were made; among them, the College was granted membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the United Negro College Fund, and the Association of Episcopal Colleges. On February 27, 1957 at the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees, the decision was reached to change the name of the institution from St. Paul’s Polytechnic Institute to Saint Paul’s College. The Trustees also approved the reorganization of the curricula to include courses leading to the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science degrees.
Following the retirement of Dr. McClenney on September 1, 1970, the Board appointed Dr. Edward I. Long as the Acting President. Under Dr. Long’s direction, Saint Paul’s received reaffirmation of its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In January, 1971, the Board of Trustees named Dr. James A. Russell, Jr. (grandson of the Founder) as President of the College effective July 1, 1971. By formal resolution of the Board of Trustees, the College was opened to students and teachers of all races. There were several new additions and changes to the physical facilities of the campus, including the erection of Russell Hall, a new classroom building with individual offices for faculty, three student residence halls, the renovation of the Chapel, and the addition of an expansive new wing on the library. It was also during this period that the College was granted approved status in Virginia’s Teacher Education Program. Faculty development opportunities were increased, and the number of faculty holding the doctorate increased from 17 to 41 percent. Improved faculty recruitment brought the percentage of faculty and staff with earned doctorates to 45 percent in 1980. In October, 1981 at the fall meeting of the Board of Trustees, the impending retirement of Dr. James A. Russell, Jr., President of the College, was announced effective June 30, 1981.
On July 1, 1981, Dr. S. Dallas Simmons assumed the role of President. During his administration, the physical appearance of the campus changed significantly. A major road paving and building repair project was undertaken. Special emphasis was placed on the dissemination of public information, the development of a college band, and curriculum review and revision. A five-year capital campaign began with tremendous success. A Board of Associates was established to assist the College in fundraising, image-building, and encouraging increased student enrollment. These friends of the College provide another mechanism to market the institution in a highly positive manner. When Dr. S. Dallas Simmons resigned on August 31, 1985, Dr. John Diggs, Assistant to the President, was appointed Acting President for one academic year and served through June 30, 1986.
The Board of Trustees, at its spring meeting in April, 1986, named Dr. Marvin B. Scott the sixth president effective July 1, 1986. During the administration of Dr. Scott, a faculty salary scale was devised and approved by the Board of Trustees. This scale made faculty salaries at Saint Paul’s College somewhat competitive with similar institutions of higher learning. The percentage of teaching faculty (five in business) with doctorate degrees was increased from 39 percent to 77 percent. Addressing a national problem – that of single parents in society, Dr. Scott established the Single Parent Support System (SPSS) program. When Dr. Scott resigned on June 24, 1988, the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Sunday A. Adesuyi, Interim Provost, as Senior Officer in Charge from June 24-July 15, 1988.
On July 15, 1988, the newly selected Vice-President for Academic Affairs/Provost, Dr. Robert L. Satcher, Sr., assumed the role of the Acting President. In accordance with the Board of Trustees By-Laws, Dr. Satcher became Acting President effective July 1, 1988. His reporting date was delayed until July 15, 1988 because of family illness. Dr. Satcher was credited with effectively administering the College while serving as Acting President. During the period of Dr. Satcher’s Acting Presidency, the College achieved financial stability leading to the successful completion of the Self-Study for Reaffirmation of Accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges. He conducted a successful fundraising campaign to purchase the complete library holdings from Bishop College, Dallas, Texas. He also gained the approval of the Board of Trustees to grant a 5 percent raise in faculty and staff salaries.
In October 1989, Dr. Thomas M. Law assumed the position of President of Saint Paul’s College. Under the leadership of Dr. Law, who was an alumnus of Saint Paul’s College, its first Summa Cum Laude graduate and its first four-year graduate to earn the doctorate degree, Saint Paul’s College fully implemented the Organizational Management Program (OMP) previously approved by SACS. The OMP program, now known as the Accelerated Degree Completion Program (ADCP), is designed to help employed adults earn the Bachelor’s degree. This program operates under the Continuing and Extended Education Department and classes are offered at Lawrenceville and at three off-campus sites, Richmond, Franklin and Farmville. The Saint Paul’s Single Parent Support System Program (SPSS) grew from two to twenty-three students. In 1989 a criminal justice program approved by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) was implemented in the Department of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.
Under President Law a fundraising campaign reached its goal of $7.5 million. Saint Paul’s College actively participated in a program set aside exclusively for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In a highly competitive program, involving the nation’s 117 HBCUs, Saint Paul’s College has been successful in winning four consecutive HUD grants totaling approximately $1.5 million. From this funding, the Town of Lawrenceville and the County of Brunswick gained a new recreational park, a downtown revitalization project (brick sidewalks and new lighting), and an expanded Regional Child Development Center. This center has been so successful in meeting the needs of both the campus community and other Brunswick County areas that its original building has already undergone expansion. Other major achievements of Dr. Law’s administration include the renovation of the historic Chicago Building into a community Cultural and Performing Arts Center and Administration wing, replacement of the water distribution system, enhancement of the College endowment, increase of student scholarships, funding for construction of a Regional Aquaculture Demonstration Site, fiber-optic wiring of the campus, an initiative to utilize the old College Farm property, and the upgrade of infrastructure by making long-needed repairs to buildings and grounds. After a fire destroyed the Science Building, Dr. Law secured additional funds beyond the insurance settlement to replace and upgrade the building into a one million dollar Science Annex with state-of-the art laboratories. Dr. Law also was responsible for construction of the New Student Center.
Dr. Law’s public service efforts, as the result of gubernatorial appointment to the Southside Virginia Commission on Education and Business Partnerships, to the Virginia’s A. L. Philpott Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and to the Board of Directors of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, brought positive statewide exposure to the College as a valuable institution in the delivery system of higher education. Dr. Law retired after 12 years as President in August 2001.
Dr. John K. Waddell became the eighth president of Saint Paul’s College in September 2001. He brought football back to the College after a 17-year hiatus. He initiated the James Solomon Russell Scholars Program to recruit and encourage students to consider careers in church ministry. When the Virginia legislature enacted a program to compensate students affected by Massive Resistance, Saint Paul’s College moved to set up an Accelerated Degree Completion Program (formerly the Organizational Management Program and now the Accelerated Degree Completion Program), at an off-campus site in Farmville that now meets the needs of eligible students in what is called the Brown Scholars Program.
The Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Robert L. Satcher, Sr. Interim President on July 13, 2006, and named him the ninth President of the College on March 19, 2007. He served as Professor of Chemistry/Physics at the College from Fall 1992 to July 13, 2006. Active within the Episcopal Church, highly acquainted with the accreditation process and experienced in academic administration at Hampton University, Fisk University and Saint Paul’s College, Dr. Satcher has worked tirelessly to increase the College’s enrollment and financial stability. He has re-established and renewed ties to the Episcopal Church and now serves as President of the Association of Episcopal Colleges after his selection in October 2007. Saint Paul’s College’s Teacher Education program was accredited by the Virginia Department of Education in 2008, and the Teacher Education Department received a $200,000 grant from the Virginia State Department of Education funding a Blackboard online education program. Dr. Satcher gained funding and conducted a Saturday Science Academy for middle school students for five years. A summer Science and Mathematics Institute for high school students was funded for ten years by the Frances Emily Hunt Trust of the Mellon Foundation. He was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support a Science Teacher Enhancement program (STEP). He inaugurated a required service learning (community service) component in the curriculum to serve as a capstone experience for students. Other initiatives include constructing a bridge connecting the main campus to the student center, renovations of buildings, upgrades of security and transportation, development of a management plan, and the expansion of student activities to include dance and a drum line. Emergency warning policies, procedures, and systems, and retention of students and alumni initiatives centered on the use of the National Clearinghouse Tracking system were instituted. Under his administration the first class of Brown v Board of Education scholars graduated, additional support for the Single Parent Support System (SPSS) was developed, and Saint Paul’s College received the largest contribution ever from one of its graduates (an alumna) as an endowed scholarship fund to support scholarships for students.