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.





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.


President Edgar H. Rowe

Chandler’s brother-in-law, Dr. Edgar H. Rowe, purchased the school, keeping Chandler on as principal.


Southern Seminary

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.


President Robert Lee Durham

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.


Becoming a Junior College

Durham and Robey added a junior college program to the school and changed the name to Southern Seminary and Junior College.


President Margaret Durham Robey

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.


Nonprofit Status

The Robeys turned over ownership of the college to a board of trustees and the college changed from proprietary to nonprofit status.


Southern Seminary Junior College

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.


Southern Virginia College for Women

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.


Southern Virginia College

The college became coeducational, admitting both men and women, and the name shortened to Southern Virginia College.


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.


Southern Virginia University

The Southern Virginia Board of Trustees changed the name to Southern Virginia University in April 2001. 


National Accreditation

The American Academy for Liberal Education granted full, national institutional accreditation to Southern Virginia University.


Student Places First in National History Society Conference

Amber Hatch (’07) received first place in the regional Phi Alpha Theta conference for her paper on geneticist Barbara McClintock. Her paper was subsequently a runner-up for the national Phi Alpha Theta Paper Prize.


YSA Stake Formed

A new young single adult stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed on April 15 to serve members of the Buena Vista Virginia and Roanoke Virginia stakes, including students attending Southern Virginia University.The Buena Vista Young Single Adult Stake is the first of its kind organized outside of Utah and Idaho.

Regional Accreditation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges — the oldest, largest and most prestigious accreditor of colleges and universities in the Southern United States — awarded regional accreditation to Southern Virginia University on June 21, 2012.

NCAA Division III Provisional Membership

The National Collegiate Athletic Association approved Southern Virginia University’s Division III provisional membership application, making the university the only NCAA Division III provisional member with an LDS environment. Southern Virginia will become eligible for full D-III status in the summer of 2016.


Capital Athletic Conference Membership

Southern Virginia was officially welcomed as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference in July 2013. As an NCAA Division III provisional member, Southern Virginia will become eligible for Capital Athletic Conference postseason competition in 2014-15 during the university’s third year of D-III provisional membership.