Vorhees College has roots back in Tuskegee Institute.
Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, at 23, was inspired while studying at Tuskegee in Alabama. She moved to Denmark, South Carolina, and started the first of several schools in the rural area, In the late 19th century, she had to survive threats, attacks, and arson. Wright went back to Tuskegee to finish her degree before returning to South Carolina to try again.
Undeterred and envisioning a better future for blacks through education, she founded Denmark Industrial School in 1897 modeled after Tuskegee Institute.
New Jersey philanthropist Ralph Voorhees and his wife donated $5,000 to buy the land and build the first building. They allowed the school to open in 1902, with Wright as principal. It was the only high school for blacks in the area.
In 1924 the American Church Institutes for Negroes, which was part of the Episcopal Church, agreed to support the school. It was the beginning of a long relationship between the school and the church, an affiliation that continues today.
In 1947, the school became Voorhees School and Junior College. In 1962, it was accredited as a four-year Voorhees College.
The original partnership between the church and Voorhees was based on the fact that the church alone cannot nourish and strengthen people without the help of Christian institutions of learning.
At the same time, the college cannot effectively guide, educate and shape young minds without the spiritual influence of the church. For the church, Voorhees is both a ministry and investment benefit to society.
The college strives to balance practical career training with a well-rounded background in the liberal arts.
Dating back to Wright’s era, there has been a debate between those who follow the philosophy of Dr. Booker T. Washington and advocated education aimed at teaching jobs skills and those who believe, as Dr. W.E.B. Dubois did, that a liberal education would help young adults develop as leaders. The Voorhees curriculum today is a mix of the two views.
In accordance with its mission statement, Voorhees students today combine intellect and faith as they prepared for professional careers. They learn to thrive in a diverse global society while pursuing lifelong learning, healthy living, and abiding faith in God. They aim to improve their communities, society, and themselves.
Voorhees College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees. It has 42 full-time faculty members with 30.9 percent holding doctorates and terminal degrees, plus a 15:1 Student/Faculty Ratio.
Vorhees has 642 Undergraduates and offers these undergraduate programs:
• Business and Entrepreneurship
• Computer Science
• Criminal Justice
• Electrical Engineering
• Health and Recreation
• Mass Communications
• Organizational Management
The College features NAIA athletics and Black Greek organizations are well represented on campus.
Vorhees College Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It includes 13 buildings constructed from 1905 to 1935.
The historic district is noteworthy as an example of pioneering education for African Americans in the early 20th century, and for its association with co-founder Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. In addition, the buildings, constructed mostly by students, showed the ambitious design and masonry techniques.