Friday, October 5, 2012

Blue Mountain Female College

Blue Mountain Female College
Blue Mountain Female College

Location: 201 West Main Street, Blue Mountain, Mississippi, USA

Opened: Founded 1873

Closed: Now coed; in 1956, began offering training for men in Baptist Church-related vocations, with all programs opening to men in 2005

From the Blue Mountain College website (with a little editing):

Blue Mountain College was founded in 1873 by Civil War Brigadier General Mark Perrin Lowrey.

As a village preacher before the war, General Lowrey was a man of vision who saw the importance of providing a thorough education for women.  The General felt that the South's recovery would be enhanced by the educating its young women.  He and his two oldest daughters, Modena and Margaret, comprised the first faculty at what was then Blue Mountain Female Institute.   Fifty students were enrolled for the first session.

Miss Modena Lowrey Berry, affectionately known as "Mother Berry" in later years, served as "Lady Principal" and then as vice president from 1873 to 1934, a tenure perhaps unequaled by a woman as a major college official.  She was the second woman in Mississippi's history to be named to the Mississippi Hall of Fame. 

Between 1873 and 1960 three generations of the Lowrey family including the General's sons, Dr. W. T. Lowrey and Dr. B. G. Lowrey, and his grandson, Dr. Lawrence T. Lowrey, presided over the college.  In 1960 Dr. Wilfred C. Tyler, long-time professor of Bible at the school, accepted the presidency and served until his death in 1965.  Dr. E. Harold Fisher served the college as president from July 1, 1965, until his retirement June 30, 2001.  Dr. Bettye Rogers Coward assumed responsibilities as the seventh president of Blue Mountain College on July 1, 2001.

Blue Mountain College was independently owned and administered until 1920, when control was turned over to the Mississippi Baptist Convention. From 1873 to 2005, the school operated as a traditional liberal arts college for women.  In 1956 at the request of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, the College opened its doors to men preparing for church-related vocations.  

On October 4, 2005, the Board of Trustees of Blue Mountain College unanimously voted to make all programs offered by the College available to male students, thus making BMC fully co-educational.

Modena Lowrey Berry
At this blog, we hear more about the remarkable Modena Berry, a steel magnolia if ever there was one. (It's interesting that in all the material I've looked at on this college, I haven't seen one word about the wife of General Lowrey, the mother of all these children):

Modena Lowrey Berry (1850-1942), known as "Mother Berry," if considered to be the co-founder of the college and was the vice president at Blue Mountain for an incredible span of 61 years. At age 90, while still at her post, she fell and broke her leg after slipping on the steps of the college’s Administration building. Rushed to the Baptist hospital in Memphis, she spent several weeks in recovery. Unfortunately, she would never be able to walk again. Remarkably, she returned to her beloved college and resumed her duties in a wheelchair. "Mother Berry" died the next year, and was laid to rest in the Blue Mountain Cemetery. Her tenure as a college administrator is likely never to be equaled.

Now that's a commitment to women's education! Though I presume, given that this was Mississippi, that the education was limited to white women until comparatively recently.

And notice that while Modena served as vice president for 61 years, the presidency was reserved for her father, her brothers, and later her nephew. Even though this was a college that was supposed to be for women....

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