Truett-McConnell College's roots extend far back into the educational history of Georgia. The college was named to honor George W. Truett and Fernando C. McConnell, cousins who were men of faith and vision-renowned Baptist pastors and educators whose work and influence as joint pioneers in Christian education in north Georgia became well known. Both men ultimately went on to become famous preachers, pastors and speakers. George W. Truett served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for 44 years, leading it to become the world's largest Protestant congregation at the time.
In 1887 George W. Truett established a private Christian academy at Hiawassee, Georgia, where, in subsequent years, Fernando C. McConnell carried on the educational endeavors begun by Truett. Changing conditions eventually led to the closing of the academy, but several decades later Georgia Baptists determined to carry on the same high standards of Christ-centered education in the mountains of northeast Georgia by establishing a college to bear the names of Truett and McConnell.
On July 23, 1946, the Georgia Baptist Convention held ceremonies at Cleveland, Georgia, to mark the establishment of a new two-year liberal arts college named for Truett and McConnell. Truett-McConnell College, operating in temporary quarters on or near the town square in Cleveland, first opened its doors to students in September 1947, when it enrolled a class of 55 students.
Classes were held the first year in a converted residence called Barrett Hall, located adjacent to the Cleveland Methodist Church. Students lived in private homes, where the homeowners rented their spare bedrooms to students. The Cleveland Methodist Church and Mount Yonah Baptist Church (now Cleveland First Baptist Church) were used as auditoriums for chapel and special services.
The second year the college purchased a building on the Cleveland Square, which had been constructed for use as a hotel but was never used as one. Classes, dining services and some residence rooms occupied that building, while other students lived in another building on the north side of the town square.
Before long, construction began on the present campus, located one mile east of the Cleveland town square on land donated by four local landowners-Joe House, Jamie Campbell, Dr. L. G. Neal and Hershel Palmer. After grading for an administration and classroom building had been completed and the concrete foundation had been poured, the construction site lay idle for several years until enough funds were raised to complete the building.
Meanwhile, during the academic year of 1953-54, the struggling little college endured a stormy year. The issue of whether to move the college from Cleveland to a more favorable location in terms of affording larger opportunities for enrollment and financial support occupied the Georgia Baptist Convention for a time, until the matter was brought before the entire convention for a vote on November 18, 1954. The recommendation to move the college was discussed at great length by many speakers, including several prominent Cleveland business owners. Finally, shortly after midnight, a vote was taken, resulting in 456 votes cast in favor of leaving the college in Cleveland and 285 votes in favor of re-locating the school. The little college "deep in the hills of Northeast Georgia" had won another victory!
On September 5, 1956, the Miller Building was dedicated and named for then-president Rev. Joe H. Miller. Classes were moved from the town square location to the new campus, although Mullis Hall, the building on the square, continued to be used for student housing and the college's dining hall until it burned on February 2, 1958.
In response to the needs of the new college, additional facilities were added slowly to the present campus, and today Truett-McConnell stands on approximately 235 acres of prime mountain land with ample room for growth and expansion. The present campus includes 24 buildings and a recreational complex.
In the mid-1960s, Truett-McConnell was initially accredited by The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a two-year college, awarding associate's degrees and offering a variety of two-year degree programs to prepare students for transfer into four-year colleges to complete their bachelor's degree requirements.
In the early 1970s, Truett-McConnell began a program of regional campus classes in response to direct invitations to meet specific needs. TMC offered classes as a community service in small areas to which no established college was easily accessible. Through the next 30 years, classes were taught in more than three dozen locations around north Georgia, generally using existing public school facilities to teach evening classes with adjunct faculty. About 1990, the small teaching sites were consolidated into three regional campuses which operated until 2002, when the two smallest ones were closed. In 2003 the last regional campus was sold, and Truett-McConnell College again became a single-site institution for the first time in 30 years.
The institution marked a major milestone in December 2002, when it was approved by The Commission on Colleges to begin the move from a two-year college to a four-year institution. Truett-McConnell is now accredited to award both bachelor's degrees and associate's degrees.
The college continues its partnership with Georgia Baptists to provide faith-based higher education with an objective of preparing students through disciplined scholarship and Christian discipleship to be academically sound, to be equipped for leadership, and to gain strength in their faith.
To fulfill its mission, Truett-McConnell College provides an environment in which Christian perspective and lifestyles and practical Christian thinking are modeled; features an educational program that allows students to learn and to develop skills in problem-solving, thinking, listening, speaking and writing; and encourages the growth and enrichment of the whole person in the academic, spiritual and personal arenas.
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