Mission & History
Our mission is to prepare leader-servants in the workplace and the world, in the community and the church, and in the home. We serve faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and welcome all who live our values. We accomplish our mission by providing the finest undergraduate education available in letters, arts, and sciences within a wholesome Latter-day Saint environment. Students, faculty, and staff at Southern Virginia University are committed to being academically or professionally accomplished, spiritually rooted, service oriented, and self-reliant. We embody Southern Virginia's core values, which are scholarship, discipleship, accountability, enthusiasm, and refinement. Southern Virginia University seeks to establish a replicable self-sustaining model of higher education that can serve Latter-day Saints throughout the world.
The school was founded in 1867 during Virginia's post-Civil War era when Alice Scott Chandler established the Home School for Girls in Bowling Green, Va., later renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary. In 1883, Dr. Edgar H. Rowe purchased the school and operated it with Mrs. Chandler as principal. Dr. Rowe moved the school to Buena Vista in 1900, and changed its name to Southern Seminary. It was located in the splendid Buena Vista Hotel, which had been built 10 years earlier to accommodate the large numbers of land speculators investigating the town's iron ore deposits. The iron boom was short-lived, however, and Dr. Rowe purchased the hotel. The original hotel still serves as Main Hall, the university's principal building, and holds a place of distinction on the National Register of Historic Places.
Becoming a Junior College
In 1919, Dr. Robert Lee Durham, former dean of Martha Washington College, bought a half-interest in Southern Seminary and became the resident head of the school. An educator, lawyer, engineer, author and inventor, Dr. Durham strengthened the school's academic program. In 1922, Dr. Durham's daughter, Margaret, married H. Russell Robey, who purchased Dr. Rowe's remaining interest in the school and became its business manager and treasurer. Dr. Durham and Mr. Robey added college-level courses to the school's curriculum, and the first class of the new junior college program graduated in 1925. The period of greatest physical growth of the school, by then called Southern Seminary and Junior College, occurred during the presidency of Margaret Durham Robey, who succeeded her father upon his retirement in 1942. Facilities for art, early childhood education and home economics were added.
Renewal as a Latter-day Saint College
In the late 1980s and early 1990s enrollment began to slip and the college became financially unstable, which led to a loss of regional accreditation in 1996. In the spring of that year, a group of Latter-day Saints in Virginia stepped forward to renew the college, assuming responsibility for its assets and liabilities. Since then the institution has experienced phenomenal growth. The name was changed to Southern Virginia University in April 2001.