Philander Smith University
Former names
Walden Seminary (1877–1882), Philander Smith College (1882–2023)
TypePrivate historically black college
Religious affiliation
United Methodist Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$3 million
PresidentCynthia Bond Hopson
ColorsGreen and gold
Sporting affiliations

Philander Smith University (previously Philander Smith College) is a private historically black college in Little Rock, Arkansas. It is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is a founding member of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Philander Smith College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Budlong Hall, c. 1910. Built 1883, demolished 1963.[1]

Philander Smith College was officially founded in 1877 under the name of Walden Seminary to provide educational opportunities for emancipated slaves west of the Mississippi River. In 1882 the school was renamed Philander Smith College in honor of the financial contributions of Adeline Smith, widow of Philander Smith. It was chartered as a four-year college in 1883 and conferred its first bachelor's degree in 1888. In 1933, it merged the assets of the George R. Smith College in Sedalia, Missouri, which burned down in 1925.[2] In 1943, Philander Smith was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Philander Smith College was a pioneer in activism: many of its students engaged in nonviolent resistance against segregation laws or customs (such as sitting in at "whites-only" lunch counters).

On August 1, 2023, the college announced the addition of its first ever master's degree program and the change of its name from Philander Smith College to Philander Smith University. [3]

Rankings and education conservancy

Walter Kimbrough, former president of Philander Smith College, joined the Education Conservancy in criticizing the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings; he signed a letter circulating among college presidents that asks them to refrain from participating in the peer assessment portion of the survey.[4][5]


Philander Smith College Historic District
LocationRoughly bounded by 13th, 11th, Izard, and State Sts., Little Rock, Arkansas
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectAlmand, John Parks
Architectural styleColonial Revival, Bungalow/Craftsman, et al.
NRHP reference No.99000229[6]
Added to NRHPSeptember 13, 1999
Harry R. Kendall Center, home to the Dr. Joycelyn Elders School of Allied and Public Health.
Cox Administration Building

The school campus is located in central Little Rock. Interstate 630 (the Mills Freeway) was constructed just north of the campus, which is bounded by 10th and 14th streets to the north and south, and Gaines and Chester streets to the east and west. The core of the campus was originally built for Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), and a two-block section of it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of its centerpieces is the former U.M. Rose School building, now the Cox Administration Building, designed by the noted Arkansas architect John Parks Almand in 1915, when he was working for Charles L. Thompson. The campus also includes the "Old Gym", a gymnasium built by the WPA during the Great Depression; and a former barracks building of the Camp Robinson Air Force Base, which was moved here in 1948.[7]


The Philander Smith athletic teams are called the Panthers. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) since the 2011–12 academic year. The Panthers previously competed as an NAIA Independent within the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) from 2009–10 to 2010–11.

Philander Smith competes in ten intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include basketball, cross country and track & field (indoor and outdoor); while women's sports include basketball, cross country, track & field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball; and co-ed sports include cheerleading.


The 2012–13 Philander Smith men's basketball team made history by bringing home their first GCAC conference tournament title.[8]

On February 21, 1989, the Philander Smith women's basketball team gained a 92–89 victory over Rust College of Holly Springs, Mississippi, on their court, ending the longest home-court winning streak in NCAA Division III women's basketball history.

Notable alumni

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
"Geese" Ausbie former Harlem Globetrotters player and coach
Al Bell founder of Stax Records and former president of Motown Records
John A. Bell 1951 Director of the Education and Secondary Education Division of the Office of Civil Rights, United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare [9]
Isaac M. Burgan President of Paul Quinn College from 1883–1891, 1911–1914
Deon Cole comedian
James Hal Cone 1958 major figure in systematic theology and liberation theology
L. Clifford Davis 1945 civil rights, attorney, judge [10]
Joycelyn Elders 1952 former Surgeon General of the United States
Stephanie Flowers Arkansas State Senator since 2011 and former member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from Pine Bluff [11]
Scipio Africanus Jones coursework before transfer to Shorter College lawyer and businessman
Calvin King 1975 farm developmer, and the President of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corp
Amina Claudine Myers musician [12]
Elijah Pitts 1961 former Green Bay Packers player, 2x Super Bowl champion
Devon Scott basketball player in the Israel Basketball Premier League
Lottie Shackelford former mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas
Robert L. Williams 1953 prominent figure in the history of African-American psychology

Notable faculty

Name Department Notability Reference
Lee Lorch mathematician and civil rights activist
Georg Iggers historian 10

See also


  1. ^ "Budlong Hall". D.W. Reynolds Library. Philander Smith College. Retrieved September 14, 2022.
  2. ^ "Philander Smith College - SoulOfAmerica". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  3. ^ Philander Smith College name change — from college to university
  4. ^ Kamara, Margaret (June 28, 2007). "Are U.S. News Rankings Inherently Biased Against Black Colleges?". Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  5. ^ "Growing Challenge to 'U.S. News'". Inside Higher Ed. May 18, 2007.
  6. ^ "National Register Information System – (#99000229)". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. ^ "NRHP nomination for Philander Smith College Historic District". Arkansas Preservation. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  8. ^ "Panthers Bring the GCAC Championship Home". Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  9. ^ "Coaches Named At Vocational". The Louisiana Weekly. New Orleans, Louisiana. July 25, 1959. p. 9. Retrieved December 10, 2022 – via Open access icon.
  10. ^ Kilpatrick, Judith. "Desegregating the University of Arkansas School of Law: L. Clifford Davis and the Six Pioneers" (PDF). Arkansas Black Lawyers. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  11. ^ "Stephanie Anne Flowers". Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  12. ^ Lewis, George E. (2008). A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. University of Chicago Press. pp. 127–128.

34°44′13″N 92°16′57″W / 34.73686°N 92.28249°W / 34.73686; -92.28249