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History


Virginia Seminary was founded in 1823 to educate men for the ministry of  Christ's church. It was born of the struggle which followed the Revolutionary War. Among our founders were Bishop William Meade, the third Bishop of Virginia, and Francis Scott Key, whose 1814 poem The Defence of Fort McHenry became the text for our National Anthem in 1931. 

During the early days of America's independence, a small group of dedicated men committed themselves to the task of recruiting and training a new generation of church leaders.  In 1818, Francis Scott Key formed "An Education Society" and five years later opened the "School of Prophets," to become the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia. When the school opened in Alexandria with two instructors, 14 students were enrolled.

During the Civil War, the Seminary was used to house 1,700 wounded Federal troops and to bury 500 of their comrades.  After the war, two professors and 11 battle-weary veterans reopened the Seminary. By 1923, the year of its Centennial, the Seminary had regained the resources, the certainty of full enrollment, and the invested funds that had characterized the institution in 1860.

The years between 1923 and 1946 saw steady progress, but the end of World War II marked the advent of the present era of continuing expansion and improvements.

On June 3, 1953, Virginia Seminary merged with The Bishop Payne Divinity School, a distinguished black institution started by Virginia Seminary in 1878.

Since 1950, 22 new buildings have been added to the campus, including five dormitories, the refectory and Scott Lounge, 15 faculty homes, a recreation building, and a day-care center for young children. In 1993, the Addison Academic Center opened, with classroom space, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Auditorium, the Seminary bookstore, and the student lounge.
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