Virginia Crossroads: Ferrum College Celebrates a Century - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Virginia Crossroads: Ferrum College Celebrates a Century

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Ferrum crews work on a Model T that will be part of the College's Centennial exhibit. Ferrum crews work on a Model T that will be part of the College's Centennial exhibit.

Ferrum College is known as a four year, liberal arts institution nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but the College has taken many forms over the years.

"We've had a great evolution starting as a training school, two year institution, four year institution – We've really grown as the country's grown in terms of its appreciation of higher education," said College President Dr. Jennifer L. Braaten.

A lot can happen in 100 years, and that's certainly true here at Ferrum College. Today's students might be surprised to learn that their fellow alumni in the early years did a lot of manual labor like milking cows and breaking rocks.

That's right, breaking rocks.

Roddy Moore is the executive director of the Blue Ridge Institute. "Every student worked, male or female," explains Moore.

Moore is also an expert on the history of the College, which he says is located where it is simply because there was a train station at Ferrum. And, for a couple of years, he says, it wasn't a college at all.

"It started as an elementary and high school and it was to educate the mountain youth, because there wasn't a lot of secondary and elementary schools through the mountains," said Moore.

At that time, the College's first President, Dr. Benjamin Beckham traveled the region in a model T, recruiting donors and students.

That's why a Model T donated by Lanier Frantz will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Institute celebrating the College's Centennial.

From those early, manual labor years…

Moore: "Students were here and they worked and at that time they were more accustomed to doing physical labor … most of these kids were rural and they realized it helped pay for their education…"

Moore credits Braaten, as being one of the college's three pivotal presidents, (Along with Beckham and Dr. Ralph Arthur) thanks to the enormous growth the college has seen in her decade of leadership, which includes bringing enrollment to about 15-hundred students.

"I think to be able to say we've doubled enrollment, we've built buildings, and we've renovated every building on campus, save one or two," said Braaten who gave credit to a dedicated staff, faculty and alumni.

In the 50's and 60's when then-president Dr. Ralph Arthur, added residence halls and academic buildings across campus and kept the college from closing. … while legendary football coach Hank Norton put Ferrum on the map by taking the Panthers to four National Championships … To more modern times, when community colleges forced junior colleges to become four year institutions…

Ferrum has always adapted with the same, basic philosophy, that ties back to its motto, "Not self, but others."

"People hire Ferrum graduates and say they know how to work. They understand citizenship, which is important. They understand being multi-cultural, a civility and giving back," said Braaten.

Ferrum will celebrate with extensive Homecoming Festivities on the weekend of October 4th.

Note: WSLS News Anchor John Carlin served as Ferrum College's Director of Public Relations from 2009-2012.

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