Southern Virginia University

Coordinates: 37°44′25″N 79°21′01″W / 37.74028°N 79.35028°W / 37.74028; -79.35028
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37°44′25″N 79°21′01″W / 37.74028°N 79.35028°W / 37.74028; -79.35028

Southern Virginia University
Seal of Southern Virginia University.png
Former names
Bowling Green Female Seminary (1867–1920)
Southern Seminary (1920–1992)
Southern Virginia College (1992–2001)
MottoLearn that Life is Service
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Established1867; 156 years ago (1867)
Endowment$1.3 million (2017)[1]
PresidentReed N. Wilcox
Academic staff
Students1,106 (Fall 2019)[3]
Location, ,
United States
CampusRural, 155 acres (0.63 km2)
ColorsCrimson and White
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IIIUSA South Athletic Conference

Southern Virginia University (SVU) is a private liberal arts college in Buena Vista, Virginia. The college, though not officially affiliated with a particular faith, embraces the values of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It was founded in 1867 as a school for girls and is now a private four-year coeducational institution. The Carnegie Classification categorizes it as a very small baccalaureate-only college with an arts & sciences focus.[4]


The school was founded as a for-profit institution in 1867 during Virginia's post-Civil War era when Alice Scott Chandler established the Home School for Girls in Bowling Green, Virginia,[5] later renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary.[6] In 1883, 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 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, on which it is listed as the Southern Seminary Main Building.[6]

In 1919, Robert Lee Durham, former dean of Martha Washington College (which merged with Emory & Henry College),[7] bought a half-interest in Southern Seminary and became the resident 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. Durham and 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.[6]

In 1959, the Robeys turned over the ownership of the college to a board of trustees and the institution changed from proprietary to nonprofit status. In 1961, the school ceased offering high school courses, and the name of the institution was changed to Southern Seminary Junior College.[6] The academic program was expanded to allow students to begin careers after their two years at the school or to transfer to four-year colleges. "Sem" became a nationally recognized competitor in intercollegiate riding, winning numerous state, regional and national equestrian competitions. To avoid confusion, the name was again changed to Southern Virginia College for Women, which was shortened to Southern Virginia College in 1994 when male students were admitted.

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, Southern Virginia College's board of trustees transferred the school's assets and liabilities to a new board, many of whom were members of the LDS Church. The main figure in this reorganization was Glade Knight. In 2000 the school was accepted into pre-accreditation status by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), which is separate from accreditation bodies, and was renamed Southern Virginia University in April 2001.[8] In 2003 it was granted full accreditation by the AALE.[6] In June 2010 the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools awarded initial candidacy to SVU.[9] Two years later, in June 2012, the university received full regional accreditation.

On August 9, 2017, Southern Virginia University officially changed its school colors from green to crimson. On June 11, 2020, Southern Virginia University removed the name of Durham from its main academic building in the wake of the George Floyd protests, citing Durham's racist views.[10] In the interim before a new name is chosen, that building has been temporarily titled the Academic Center.[11]


Main Hall
Academic Center

SVU's campus consists of twelve main buildings, including Main Hall (the most visible building on campus, used for administrative offices), the Kimball Student Center, the Knight Sports Arena, the Stoddard Center, the Von Canon Library, Landrum Hall, Robey Hall (men's residence hall), Craton Hall (women's residence hall), The Lofts (men's and women's residence hall), Walnut Avenue Apartments (men's and women's residence), Academic Center (the main academic building), and Chandler Hall (theatre and music).[12] The campus area also includes several homes that are used for additional student housing and office space.


SVU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[13] SVU offers seventeen different majors and eighteen different minors.[14] Other programs include Health Pre-Professionals, Army ROTC and Teaching Licensure.[15]

Student life[edit]

Religious activity[edit]

LDS Church principles and activities are fully integrated into life and education at SVU. An LDS Church Institute of Religion is operated on campus. Once each semester, SVU cancels classes for a service day on which the local LDS stake organizes an optional trip to the Washington D.C. Temple, where students perform service on the temple grounds and participate in temple ordinances.[16] Students are not required to enroll in religious classes.[17]

Code of Honor[edit]

SVU has a code of honor,[18] intended to help students live by its core values, which includes the following guidelines:

  • Honesty in academic and personal behavior
  • Living a chaste and virtuous lifestyle
  • Abstinence from alcohol and tobacco
  • Respect for the rights and property of others
  • Obedience to law and university policies
  • Observation of university dress and grooming standards

An ecclesiastical endorsement to live the code of honor is part of the application process. This consists of students signing a compact in conjunction with their respective ecclesiastical leader.[19]

Performing arts[edit]

SVU offers several performing arts sections to its students, including its premier choir Chamber Singers, a women's choir (Bella Voce), Men's Chorus, opera workshop, and a contemporary a cappella group Accolade (formerly The Fading Point). There is also a university Dance Company, which performs many different styles of dance at different functions throughout the year, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, Irish and other ethnic styles. Music programs consist of an orchestra and flute choir. The theatre program has performed The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sound of Music, The Importance of Being Earnest, Seeking Higher Ground, and Beauty and the Beast, among many others. Another option for participation in theatre is the Shenanigans Comedy Troupe, an improv comedy group.[20]


Southern Virginia athletic teams are the Knights. The university is a member of the Division III level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), primarily competing in the USA South Athletic Conference for most of its sports since the 2021–22 academic year; while its men's volleyball team competes in the Continental Volleyball Conference (CVC) and it’s men’s wrestling team competes in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). The Knights previously competed in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC; now known as the Coast to Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) since the 2020–21 school year) from 2013–14 to 2020–21; as well as a provisional NCAA D-III Independent during the 2012–13 school year. They also competed in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) from 1998–99 to 2012–13.

Southern Virginia athletes compete in 30 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, rugby, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and wrestling; and co-ed sports include cheerleading, dance and eSports.


SVU began its athletic program in the fall of 1997, one year after it became a four-year liberal arts college. In 1998, the Knights joined the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). The 2012–13 school year was SVU's first year as a provisional NCAA Division III member; it joined the Capital Athletic Conference, now known as the Coast to Coast Athletic Conference, on July 1, 2013, and became eligible for conference championships in 2014–15.[21] After four successful provisional years, the Knights became a full NCAA Division III member on September 1, 2016. On December 11, 2019, Southern Virginia announced it would join the USA South Athletic Conference, effective beginning in the 2021–22 academic year.[22] Southern Virginia University officially joined the USA South Athletic Conference on July 1, 2021.[23]

Notable people[edit]




  1. ^ As of June 30, 2017. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY2016 to FY2017" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute. 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 6, 2018.
  2. ^ "Faculty & Staff Directory". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  3. ^ "Welcoming Southern Virginia's Largest Student Body Ever". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  4. ^ "Southern Virginia University". Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. 2017. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  5. ^ Southern Virginia University. General Books. 2010. ISBN 9781156338568.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Our History". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  7. ^ "Martha Washington College". Emory & Henry College. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Dickson, Darnell. "FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS". Daily Herald. Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "Regional Accreditor Awards Candidacy Status to Southern Virginia". Southern Virginia University. Archived from the original on November 19, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  10. ^ Walch, Tad (June 19, 2020). "Southern Virginia University removes white supremacist's name from building at school for Latter-day Saints". Deseret News. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  11. ^ Pendleton, Chris (June 11, 2020). "Official University Statement: Update to our Academic Center". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  12. ^ url= |title=SVU Campus Map |date=November 21, 2017 | accessdate= 2017-11-21 |publisher=Southern Virginia University
  13. ^ "SACSCOC Reaffirms Southern Virginia's Accreditation for Next Decade". Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Southern Virginia University Academics". Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  15. ^ "Academics | Southern Virginia University". Retrieved March 16, 2020.
  16. ^ SVU students serve — inside and out — at the Washington D.C. Temple. Mormon Times. Retrieved on 2011-01-04.
  17. ^ [1] SVU website. Retrieved on 2012-07-17
  18. ^ "Code of Honor". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved April 13, 2012. See "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 25, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (PDF) for full text of the pledge.
  19. ^ Student Pledge & Ecclesiastical Endorsement Archived February 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Southern Virginia University form
  20. ^ Overview of Fine and Performing Arts at Southern Virginia Southern Virginia University. Retrieved January 22, 2015.
  21. ^ "Capital Athletic Conference Adds Penn State-Harrisburg; The Lions Join CNU & SVU As New Full Members in 2013–14" (Press release). Capital Athletic Conference. July 26, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  22. ^ "Southern Virginia University Set to Join USA South" (Press release). USA South Athletic Conference. December 11, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "USA South Welcomes Southern Virginia" (Press release). USA South Athletic Conference. July 1, 2021. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  24. ^ "Elizabeth Madden ('84) Sets Sight on Fourth Olympic Medal". Southern Virginia University. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  25. ^ Agricola, Kim (February 19, 2020). "Emerging Artist | Gustavo Ramos". Southwest Art. p. 18. Retrieved December 4, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]