History & Traditions
Lenoir-Rhyne University opened its doors in 1891 when four Lutheran pastors wanted to create a school for young people to receive a sound education based on religious principles and Christian values. The doors to the one-room school, then called Highland Academy, opened with 12 students.
In 1895, the college assumed its first official synodical sponsorship which continues today with the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The original property, a 56-acre tract one-mile north of the Hickory business district, was part of the estate of a Watauga County lawyer Walter W. Lenoir. Before he died in 1890, Lenoir donated the land as a campus for a church-sponsored college. The school officially opened on September 1, 1891. It carried the name Highland College, but four months later it was chartered under the name of Lenoir College in memory of the donor of the land. The college became Lenoir-Rhyne in 1923, in honor of Daniel E. Rhyne, a Lincoln County industrialist who boosted the endowment and other assets of the institution. The college was admitted into the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1928.
The end of World War II brought an influx of students, boosting enrollment from 407 in 1945 to 843 in 1947. In the late 1960s, the college initiated long-range plans to enrich the quality of its curricula and has never looked back. Major improvements in the academic calendar were implemented. New courses were offered and joint degree programs with other institutions were added. Student personnel services were expanded, new buildings were constructed and others were renovated. The campus almost doubled in size and the endowment hit new highs.