Historical Milestones

The dream of a college in Wise began with two buildings on the county’s poor farm and 109 full-time students. The dream now lives on with 26 major structures serving 2,100 students — and by maintaining strong connections with more than 11,000 alumni.

  • 1953: On a snowy December evening at the Wise Inn, local citizens Mary Thompson and Lois Tracy advocate the need for a local college to University of Virginia Extension Division representative Samuel R. Crockett, Jr.
  • 1954: From these early discussions at the Wise Inn, a committee is formed to pursue the dream.
  • 1954: Kenneth Asbury, Fred Greear, and William Thompson, named the “Three Wise Men,” travel to Charlottesville to meet U.Va. President Colgate W. Darden and to Richmond to seek funding from the Virginia General Assembly.
  • 1954: The College opens on the county’s poor farm property with 109 full-time students.Two-thirds of the students were Korean war veterans.
  • 1955: Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia is selected as the official name.
  • 1956: In an agreement with Wise County, the University takes official ownership of the building that houses the College and 110 acres of land in exchange for $1.
  • 1957: The College acquires a small stone building, first named Martha Randolph Hall, which formerly housed delinquent boys.
  • 1957: Sam Crockett, who led the College in the early years, returns to U.Va.  The College’s first biology professor, Joseph C. Smiddy, fondly called “Papa Joe,” begins his 28-year chancellorship, the longest in College history.
  • 1958: A series of faculty houses and apartments is constructed to help secure a capable faculty.
  • 1959: Zehmer Hall, the state’s first major commitment to the College, is constructed; the Alumni Association is organized.
  • 1960: Miriam Morris Fuller becomes the first African-American student admitted to the College, at a time when other Virginia colleges and universities were not open to black students.
  • 1961: Greear Gymnasium is dedicated in honor of the late Fred B. Greear, one of the “Three Wise Men.”
  • 1965: The science building is dedicated.
  • 1966: Legislation is approved that will enable the College to offer four-year degrees.
  • 1968: As it prepares to offer bachelor’s degrees, the College recruits 40 new faculty members, doubling the size of the faculty.
  • 1969: The John Cook Wyllie Library is dedicated in honor of the U.Va. veteran librarian.
  • 1970: McCraray Hall, the College’s first new residence hall, opens in honor of Emma McCraray, one of the first faculty; the College awards its first bachelor of arts degrees.
  • 1971: The new pool is dedicated by Governor Linwood Holton. Students celebrate by giving Holton and Chancellor Smiddy, fully clothed, a dip in the pool.
  • 1971: The College’s first administration building opens. It would later be named Smiddy Hall.
  • 1973: The College awards its first bachelor of science degrees.
  • 1974: The new theatre building opens.
  • 1982: The Chapel of All Faiths and Cantrell Hall are dedicated.
  • 1984: Two new residence halls, Thompson Hall and Asbury Hall — named in honor of two of the “Three Wise Men” — open.
  • 1991: Full-time enrollment exceeds 1,000 students; the Highland Cavaliers play their first football game at Carroll Dale Stadium in Wise.
  • 1992: With many of the first faculty members nearing retirement, the College welcomes 26 new faculty, the largest group since 1968.
  • 1994: The College launches its first capital campaign with a goal of $13 million; Bowers-Sturgill Hall opens.
  • 1996: The College graduates its first bachelor of science nursing students.
  • 1997: $2 million, the largest gift in college history, is received to build a new football stadium; Commonwealth Hall, the first new classroom building in 20 years, opens.
  • 1998: A $3 million addition to the Wyllie Library opens; Smith House, the chancellor’s residence, is dedicated.
  • 1999: The College name is officially changed to The University of Virginia’s College at Wise; the College is named the #2 regional liberal arts school in the South; the first home football game is played at Carl Smith Stadium; WISE-FM, the College’s public radio station, signs on-air.
  • 2001: First capital campaign ends with $21 million raised; Jim Humphreys Tennis Complex and Henson Hall open.
  • 2002: Commonwealth Hall is renamed Darden Hall; Beaty-Richmond Field is dedicated.
  • 2003: Humphreys Thomas Fieldhouse and C. Bascom Slemp Student Center are dedicated.
  • 2004: Total enrollment reaches 1,800 students; Burchell “Slew” Stallard Field is dedicated; the College celebrates its 50th anniversary.
  • 2006: Fulfilling the Dream campaign is launched with a goal of $50 million.
  • 2011: The David J. Prior Convocation Center opens.