We’ve all heard of PC founder William Plumer Jacobs. Presbyterian College, originally known as Clinton College, had its beginning in 1880 because of the commitment and dedication of this one man who served as pastor of Clinton’s First Presbyterian Church. Jacobs originally established the college to supplement the education of the orphans at Thornwell, which he also founded.
But what about the presidents who helped to shape PC over the years? Who were they? How did they contribute to the PC we know and love today?
As the inauguration of Dr. Claude Lilly, 17th President of PC, approaches, it’s appropriate to reflect on the contributions of PC’s past presidents. We’ll focus on one a day until Dr. Lilly’s inauguration on April 19th, beginning with William States Lee, PC’s first president.
William States Lee, PC’s First President
William States Lee was related by marriage to PC founder, William Plumer Jacobs. Lee served as pastor for many years at the Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island, S. C. and also had 20 years of experience as an educator when he was hired in 1872 to be the principal of the newly formed Clinton High School. In 1880, the high school became Clinton College, the original name of Presbyterian College, and Lee was named its first President.
Lee led the college during its beginning as a coeducational institution, which was uncommon back then. In fact, since the first graduates were responsible for caring for sons and daughters in the Clinton community, the inaugural class of Clinton College in 1883 were three women, including Jacobs’ only daughter, Florence.
That the PC community feels like a family can be traced all the way back to Lee’s presidency: Lee was encouraged to organize a College family and to take boarders, which he did. A number of young men, mainly the sons of personal friends of his own, were educated in his family. PC’s first residential students, these young men paid $100 for rooming and boarding as part of Lee’s ‘family’ in total cost for the entire ten-month year. However, provisions could be made to reside with local residents for a complete cost of $144.
Lee stepped down as president in 1885, but he continued to teach mathematics and philosophy and manage the boarding department of the college through the fall of 1889. According to his daughter, Miss Henrietta Lee of Spartanburg, he became ill after attending a faculty meeting and died the next day.
Source: Information provided by PC Archives