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Southern Virginia University

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Type  Private
President  Reed N. Wilcox
Undergraduate tuition and fees  14,600 USD (2015)
Mascot  Knight
Established  1867
Acceptance rate  47.1% (2014)
Total enrollment  777 (2010)
Former names  Bowling Green Female Seminary (1867–1920) Southern Seminary (1920–1992) Southern Virginia College (1992–2000)
Motto  Learn that Life is Service
Endowment  US $1.087 Million (2016)
Address  1 University Hill Dr, Buena Vista, VA 24416, USA
Similar  Marymount University, Frostburg State University, University of Mary Washington, Randolph–Macon College, Washington and Lee University

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Southern Virginia University (SVU) is a liberal arts college located in Buena Vista, Virginia. The school, though not officially affiliated with a particular faith, embraces the values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It was founded in 1867 as a school for girls, and is now a private four-year coeducational institution.


While the majority of students are members of the LDS Church, students of all faiths are welcome on campus and are encouraged to be active in their own faith. The university is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; prior to receiving regional accreditation the school was nationally accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education. The campus consists of more than 155 acres (0.242 sq mi; 0.63 km2).

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The school was founded as a for-profit institution in 1867 during Virginia's post-Civil War era when Alice Scott Chandler established the Home School for Girls in Bowling Green, Virginia, later renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary. In 1883, Edgar H. Rowe purchased the school and operated it with Mrs. Chandler as principal. Dr. Rowe moved the school to Buena Vista in 1900, and changed its name to Southern Seminary. It was located in the splendid Buena Vista Hotel, which had been built 10 years earlier to accommodate the large numbers of land speculators investigating the town's iron ore deposits. The iron boom was short-lived, however, and Rowe purchased the hotel. The original hotel still serves as Main Hall, the university's principal building, and holds a place of distinction on the National Register of Historic Places and listed as the Southern Seminary Main Building.

In 1919, Robert Lee Durham, former dean of Martha Washington College, bought a half-interest in Southern Seminary and became the resident head of the school. An educator, lawyer, engineer, author and inventor, Durham strengthened the school's academic program. In 1922, Durham's daughter, Margaret, married H. Russell Robey, who purchased Rowe's remaining interest in the school and became its business manager and treasurer. Durham and Robey added college-level courses to the school's curriculum, and the first class of the new junior college program graduated in 1925. The period of greatest physical growth of the school, by then called Southern Seminary and Junior College, occurred during the presidency of Margaret Durham Robey, who succeeded her father upon his retirement in 1942. Facilities for art, early childhood education and home economics were added.

In 1959, the Robeys turned over the ownership of the college to a Board of Trustees, and the institution changed from proprietary to nonprofit status. In 1961, the school ceased offering high school courses, and the name of the institution was changed to Southern Seminary Junior College. The academic program was expanded to allow students to begin careers after their two years at the school or to transfer to four-year colleges. "Sem" became a nationally recognized competitor in intercollegiate riding, winning numerous state, regional and national equestrian competitions. By the early 1990s it had been generally forgotten that a seminary was anything but a school preparing one for the ministry. To avoid confusion, the name was again changed to Southern Virginia College for Women, which was shortened in 1994 to Southern Virginia College, when male students were admitted.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s enrollment began to slip and the college became financially unstable, which led to a loss of regional accreditation in 1996.

In the spring of that year, Southern Virginia College's board of trustees transferred the school's assets and liabilities to a new board, many of whom were members of the LDS Church. The main figure in this reorganization was Glade Knight. In 2000 the school was accepted into pre-accreditation status by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), which is separate from regional accreditation bodies and was renamed Southern Virginia University. In 2003 it was granted full accreditation by the AALE. In June 2010 the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools awarded initial candidacy to SVU. Two years later, in June 2012, the university received full regional accreditation.


The university's campus consists of twelve main buildings, including Main Hall (the most visible building at SVU, serving as administrative offices and as a residence hall), the Kimball Student Center, the Knight Sports Arena, the Stoddard Center, the Von Canon Library, Landrum Hall, Craton Hall and Robey Hall (men's residence halls), The Lofts (women's residence hall), Walnut Avenue Apartments (men's and women's residence), Durham Hall (the main academic building), and Chandler Hall (theatre and music). The campus area also includes several homes that are used for additional student housing and office space.

On March 6, 2008, members of the Buena Vista City Council and administrators from the university met to discuss a ten-year master plan. A study conducted in 2007 denoted that SVU had a $17 million impact in Buena Vista and the surrounding community.


SVU offers sixteen different majors: Art, Biology, Business Management and Leadership, Computer Science, English, Family and Child Development, History, Liberal Arts, Music, Philosophy, Politics, Spanish, Theatre, Biochemistry, Math, and Psychology. There are also three minors at SVU: Athletic Training, Chemistry, Creative Writing, and Mathematics. Other programs include Health Pre-Professionals, Pre-Law, ROTC and Teaching Licensure.

Incoming students have averaged a 3.34 high school GPA with ACT and SAT test scores averaging about 23 and 1050, respectively. Tuition for the 2014–2015 academic year is $7,300 per semester. The retention rate at Southern Virginia is around 71% (after freshman year), with a significant number of students leaving to serve as Mormon missionaries, and the graduation rate is 31%.

Religious activity

LDS Church principles and activities are fully integrated into life and education at Southern Virginia. An LDS Church Institute of Religion is operated on campus. Once each semester the university cancels classes for a service day. On service day, the local LDS stake regularly organizes an optional trip to the Washington D.C. Temple, during which students perform service on the temple grounds and participate in temple ordinances. Students are not required to enroll in religious classes.

Code of Honor

Southern Virginia has a code of honor, intended to help students live by the university's core values, which includes the following guidelines, among others:

An ecclesiastical endorsement to live the code of honor is part of the application process. This consists of students signing a compact in conjunction with their respective ecclesiastical leader.

Performing arts

SVU offers several performing arts sections to its students, including Concert Chorale, a women's choir (Bella Voce), opera workshop, and a contemporary a cappella group (The Fading Point). There is also a university Dance Company, which performs many different styles of dance at different functions throughout the year, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, Irish and other ethnic styles. Music programs consist of an orchestra and flute choir. The theatre program has performed The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sound of Music, The Importance of Being Earnest, Seeking Higher Ground, and Beauty and the Beast, among many others. Another option for participation in theatre is the Shenanigans Comedy Troupe, an improv comedy group.


The school's teams are known athletically as the Knights. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and wrestling; women's sports include basketball, cheer, cross country, dance, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. SVU began its athletic program in the fall of 1997, one year after it became a four-year liberal arts college. In 1998, the Knights joined the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. The 2012–13 school year was SVU's first as a provisional NCAA Division III member; it joined the Capital Athletic Conference on July 1, 2013, and became eligible for conference championships in 2014–15. Southern Virginia officially became a full NCAA-eligible school on July 5, 2016.


  • Orson Scott Card, author of novel Ender's Game
  • Madison Sowell, a specialist in the epic tradition of Italian literature, especially the works of Dante
  • Debra H. Sowell, former secretary and board member of the Society of Dance History Scholars
  • Alumni

  • Beezie Madden, an American show jumping competitor and Olympic winner
  • References

    Southern Virginia University Wikipedia