The educational institution now known as the Virginia University of Lynchburg, once called "Virginia College and Virginia Seminary," is one of several Virginia schools of higher education for African Americans founded in the late nineteenth century. In 1886, the Reverend P. F. Morris, pastor of Lynchburg's Court Street Baptist Church, established the "Lynchburg Baptist Seminary" during the 19th annual session of the Virginia Baptist State Convention at the First Baptist Church in Lexington. The school was renamed "Virginia Seminary" in 1890 when Professor R. P. Armstead opened the school with an enrollment of 33 students. The cornerstone of the first building was laid in July 1888.
Between 1900 and 1962 the school was referred to as the "Virginia Theological Seminary and College." During its early years the school emphasized the training of teachers and ministers. In 1962 the institution was renamed "Virginia Seminary and College." The name changed one last time in 1996, to "Virginia University of Lynchburg." In 2010, VUL finalized an agreement with Liberty University to enable VUL students who want degrees in subjects not offered by VUL to complete their degrees at Liberty.
In 1972, the college and seminary were divided into separate administrative entities. The college functions as a two-year program, while the seminary provides religious instruction. Despite the loss of its earliest building and principal landmark, Virginia College and Virginia Seminary remains the Lynchburg area's oldest institution of higher learning and the oldest of the pioneering black-affiliated educational institutions of the South.
Built in 1888, Hayes Hall was one of the oldest surviving buildings on campus. It was demolished in 1988. The three-and-one-half story brick building was constructed in a Second Empire style, with a five-story entrance tower covered by a pyramidal roof. It was named after the second president, Professor G. W. Hayes (president from 1890 to 1906). President Hayes popularized the institution's philosophy of self-help.
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