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.
Following the Civil War, Alice Scott Chandler opened a private school for children in her home. In the following year, she moved the school to Bowling Green, Virginia, and named it the Home School for Girls. In 1872, the school moved into a larger building and was renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary.
Chandler’s brother-in-law, Dr. Edgar H. Rowe, purchased the school, keeping Chandler on as principal.
Rowe moved the school to Buena Vista, Virginia, and changed the name to Southern Seminary. The school’s new home was the Buena Vista Hotel, which had been built 10 years earlier to accommodate the large number of land speculators investigating the town’s iron ore deposits. The hotel still serves as Main Hall, the university’s principal building. It is also a Virginia Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dr. Robert Lee Durham, former dean of Martha Washington College, bought a half-interest in Southern Seminary and became the head of the school. An educator, lawyer, engineer, author and inventor, Durham strengthened the school’s academic program. In 1922, Durham’s daughter, Margaret, married H. Russell Robey, who purchased Rowe’s remaining interest in the school and became its business manager and treasurer. Together, Durham and Robey made a number of improvements to the campus — creating walkways, paving roads, improving Main Hall, and adding new buildings including Chandler Hall, Durham Hall and a gymnasium.
Durham and Robey added a junior college program to the school and changed the name to Southern Seminary and Junior College.
Margaret Durham Robey succeeded her father after he retired in 1942. Under her leadership, the college underwent a great period of physical growth, with the addition of facilities for art, early childhood education, home economics, and housing.
The Robeys turned over ownership of the college to a board of trustees and the college changed from proprietary to nonprofit status.
When the school discontinued high school courses, its name was officially changed to Southern Seminary Junior College. The following year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted the college regional accreditation. During this time period, the college — which offered classes in equine studies and equine management — became nationally recognized for its equestrian program, winning many state, regional and national intercollegiate riding competitions.
Name changed to Southern Virginia College for Women after the college added a third year to its program and dropped its designation as a junior college.
The college became coeducational, admitting both men and women, and the name shortened to Southern Virginia 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.