Central University (Richmond, Ky.)
Central University was founded as a result of the split of the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky into Northern and Southern branches. While the Presbyterian Church had divided into two branches in 1861, principally over the issue of slavery, the Church did not split in Kentucky until 1867. The branches both claimed control of Centre College in Danville, and it took a Federal court to determine that the Northern branch retained control of the institution. A group of concerned members of the Southern Synod met and formed the Alumni Association of Central University. The University was chartered on March 3, 1873, and the Association began raising funds.
The Association called for an endowment of $150,000, but received pledges for $220,000. Anchorage, Kentucky, was the location selected, but when the citizens of Richmond and Madison County pledged $101,000, the school opened there on September 22, 1874 with at total of 224 students.
The Alumni Association appointed the Board of Curators, which served as the trustees. Eventually, the Southern Synod took over direct control of appointing the Board of Curators in exchange for the Church's financial support. The school itself was headed by a chancellor. Robert L. Breck served in that capacity from 1874-1880. He was succeeded by Lindsay H. Blanton, who served until the merger with Centre College.
Almost from the beginning, Central faced financial problems. The original endowment was in promissory notes and pledges, a large number of which went uncollected due to the Panic of 1873. Another important endowment drive was hampered by the Panic of 1893. Enrollment was also a problem. It dropped every year of Breck's chancellorship, and the school never graduated a class larger than 25 students. These problems eventually meant consolidation with Centre.
During its existence Central ran several associated institutions. These included a law school, a medical school (located in Louisville), a dental school (also located in Louisville), and a preparatory department. In addition, Central ran three other prep schools in the state. These were the S.P. Lees Collegiate Institute (in Jackson), the Hardin Collegiate Institute (Elizabethtown), and the Middlesborough University School (Middlesborough). The University itself became co-educational in the 1890's with women first graduating in 1896.
In 1901, beset with financial difficulties and small enrollment, Central University agreed to consolidation with Centre College. The new institution would be located in Danville, and known as the Central University of Kentucky. An act of the State Legislature in 1918 changed the name back to the Centre College of Kentucky.
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