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The institution began its first session in November1882, as the “C.M.E. High School,” with Miss Jennie E. Lane, daughter of the Founder, as the first teacher. In January 1883, Professor J.H. Harper of Jackson, Tennessee, took over the work and carried out the unexpired term of Miss Lane after her marriage to Mr. Nelson Caldwell Cleaves, a C.M.E. minister. The Reverend Charles Henry Phillips, later to be elected a Bishop in the C.M.E. Church, succeeded Reverend Harper in September 1883.
It was during the administration of Reverend Charles Henry Phillips that the school was chartered under the laws of the State of Tennessee, and its name changed to Lane Institute on June 22, 1884. This action was one of the first significant changes in the development of the School. The curriculum focused primarily on preparing “preachers and teachers.” In May 1887, the first class graduated from Lane Institute under the Leadership of Professor T.J. Austin who served from 1886-1887. The names of the fivemember graduating class were: N. Caldwell Cleaves, Isaiah C. Davis, Ida Lane Burrows, Marie E. Payne, and Edward E. Smith. Also in 1887, Reverend T.F. Saunders, a member of the Memphis, Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was appointed the first President of Lane Institute and made numerous contributions to the School. It was during this period that the need for a college department was discerned. The College Department was organized in 1896, and at that time, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name from Lane Institute to Lane College. The College Department broadened the curriculum by its organization into the classical, the natural and physical sciences, and mathematics.
In 1903, Reverend James Albert Bray, later to be elected a Bishop in the C.M.E. Church, was elected President. He held that position until 1907. During his tenure, the present Administration Building was erected. President Bray was succeeded by Dr. James Franklin Lane, the son of the Founder. Dr. Lane served with distinction for thirty-seven years. During his administration, the College improved its educational facilities and its physical plant. In addition, the College attracted the attention of several philanthropic agencies such as the General Education Board of the Rosenwald Foundation and the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. These agencies and boards gave liberal contributions to the educational program of the College.
In 1936, Lane College was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and given a “B” rating. Lane College was given an “A” rating by this Association in 1949. In December 1961, Lane College was admitted into full membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
With the passing of President J.F. Lane on December 11, 1944, Reverend Peter Randolph Shy, who was later to be elected a Bishop of the C.M.E. Church, was elected as the Acting President until Dr. D.S. Yarbrough was elected President in 1945. Dr. Yarbrough served until 1948. He was succeeded by Professor James H. White. Professor Richard H. Sewell, Dean of Instruction, was elected the Acting President in 1950 and served until Reverend Chester Arthur Kirkendoll was elected President in July of the same year. Dr. Kirkendoll served with distinction for twenty years until his election as a Bishop of the C.M.E. Church in May 1970.
During his tenure, the College became fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Smith Hall, Graves Hall (formerly known as Jubilee Hall), Hamlett Hall, and the Student Union Building were erected.
Dr. Herman Stone Jr., who served as the Dean of the College for ten years, was elected President in July 1970. He assumed office on September 1, 1970. align="justify">During his presidency, Lane College’s accreditation was reaffirmed twice by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition, the J.F. Lane Health and Physical Education building was added to the facilities of the College. After serving for sixteen years as President, Dr. Stone retired in May of 1986. He was succeeded by Dr. Alex A. Chambers, who was elected President in May 1986, and took office on June 1, 1986.
The College’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1991, under the leadership of Dr. Chambers. The College also received a grant from the United States Department of Interior as a part of the Historical Preservation Program to restore Cleaves Hall, Saunders Hall, the J.K. Daniels Building, and the Old President’s Home to their original appearance. These buildings, in addition to the Bray Administration Building and the Old Central Heating Plant, comprise the Lane College Historic District. This designation was given by the Department of the Interior in 1988. On March 18, 1992, after a short illness, Dr. Chambers passed away.
Dr. Arthur L. David, a 1960 graduate of Lane College who was serving as Dean of the College, was appointed Interim President by the Lane College Board of Trustees. Dr. David served from March 1992, until his successor, Dr. Wesley Cornelious McClure, was named on August 20, 1992. Dr. McClure, a 1964 alumnus, assumed the position of President on September 1, 1992.
Under Dr. McClure’s leadership, the College has experienced significant growth in enrollment, financial stability, an increase in faculty strength, an expanded curriculum, strengthened management, a significantly improved physical plant, and a student-centered campus climate, including heightened student morale. In addition, construction of the Academic Center, housing the Library/Learning Resource Center, an auditorium, several classrooms, seminar rooms, skills laboratories, and a telecommunications center was resumed in 1996 and completed in 1997. In February 1997, this $5.2 million building was named the Chambers-McClure Academic Center (CMAC).
In April 1996, the College purchased the former Budde & Weiss Manufacturing Company, a company that designed and made furniture. Budde Street, which is adjacent to the original properties, is named in its honor. Their successor in title was Tennessee Dimensions, Inc. This purchase of 6.7 acres, plus the June 1996 acquisition of the property at 536 Lane Avenue,
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formerly the home of Ms. Essie Mae Golden Perry, increased the size of the campus to approximately 25 acres.
An extensive campus beautification initiative was undertaken in 1998, which included: a New Football Practice Field; Recreational Center; The Archives, housing a Computer Student Center, Bookstore, Communications/ Copy Center, and Study Lounge/Café; Spiritual Life Center; the HealthServices Center; and remodeling of the Heating Plant.
In 1997, the College began renovation of the Bray Administration Building. This edifice, built in 1905, and known as the “Crown Jewel” of the campus, received a complete interior overhaul, costing of $2.2 million. Funds for this project were acquired through the U.S. Department of Education as the result of a proposal written by Dr. McClure. The renovation was completed in July 2000. Under Dr. McClure’s leadership, the College’s accreditation was reaffirmed in 2002, with commendations for Library Resources and Information Technology.
In September 2001, the Lane College Board of Trustees approved the administration’s strategic plan to expand the College’s curriculum, strengthen the quality of its faculty, and increase student enrollment. Since 2002, and particularly during the years between 2006 and 2009, the college executed some of the most aggressive expansions in enrollment and facilities in its 129-year history.
The spiraling increase in enrollment over the last eight years has been dramatic. In 2001, 672 students were enrolled at Lane. In Fall 2009, student-enrollment was 2,250…a 235% increase; of which the ratio of males to females is approximately 1:1.
In order to accommodate planned and sustained growth in student-enrollment, the College’s administration established a strategic plan to meet the needs of the increased student population.
During the latter part of 2002, the College began to expand its campus acreage and, in the summer of 2003, began extensive renovations on The Archives (now known as Water Tower Place). As a result of these renovations, on November 4, 2004, the Cyber Café opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the former Archives building. This facility is ideally suited for meetings, coffee, or quiet study, and is equipped with wireless internet access. During the evenings, the café is also utilized by students for live entertainment and poetry readings.
During July, 2005, the College acquired the FCC license to its own radio station, WLCD-FM. Lane is one of only two private colleges or universities in West Tennessee with its own radio station.
Between March and December 2006, the College acquired an off-campus residence hall named Eastbrooke, with a capacity for 100 occupants; erected the Meeting Hall and Production Center (the home of WLCD and the College’s Wellness Program); acquired title to the 3,500-seat Rothrock Stadium from the City of Jackson (the home of the Lane College Dragons Football team); purchased a telecommunications system to alert students, faculty, and staff of any emergencies; and bought the historic St. Paul CME Church building located on its eastern boundary. This building, renamed The Lighthouse, is now used for concerts, plays, and other cultural activities.
In summer 2007, the College completed construction of two residence halls, The Edens and The Orchards, each with a capacity of 86 students; and a new dining facility, Phillips Hall, which, after a 2009 renovation, now seats 800 students. All residential facilities provide free local telephone service, internet and cable service, and wireless computer facilities. The former dining hall was converted to The Grand Student Lounge, a learning/relaxing facility that houses a computer laboratory supporting 120 computers, lounge section, offices, meeting rooms, study halls, and a counseling center.
During the summer of 2008, work was completed on another men’s residence hall, Alumni Hall, which also houses 86 students.
During the spring and summer of 2009, construction was finished on the 42,000 square foot science and business building and two additional residence halls, respectively. The new science and business building, Millennium Hall, includes twelve classrooms; six laboratories; four lecture rooms replete with state-of-the-art technology; telecommunications capabilities; and office and lounge space to meet the needs of sixteen instructors. This new facility will support the College’s goal of claiming recognition as a major producer of graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs, and will prepare students to be truly competitive as they enter business and global marketing careers. The new three-story, men’s and women’s residence halls (Harper Hall and Jennie E. Lane Hall) each house 129 students.
The total investment by the College in the acquisition of land, renovations, and new construction and other capital facilities since 2002 amounts to 23 million dollars.
Lane College’s 129-year history is marked not only by enormous growth, but also the upholding of its mission to serve the disadvantaged. Community health initiatives promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention of such diseases as diabetes and high blood pressure have been implemented in the College’s Wellness Program since 2006.
The Lane College Evening Accelerated Program (LEAP) is another such vehicle for outreach. For working adults and other non-traditional students who are unable to attend college during the day, LEAP has affordably offered evening courses to degree-seeking students since 2007.
Lane College, from its beginning, has served as a source of inspiration for the African-American community. Today it stands as a symbol of Christian education for persons of all faiths, creeds, colors, and nationalities.