On October 3, 1904, an exceptional young Black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls—what would become Bethune-Cookman University—with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls, along with Dr. Bethune’s son, Albert.

Dr. Bethune went on to become a national and international figure with a long list of notable accomplishments, including counseling US presidents, playing a role in the founding of the United Nations and creating an influential African American women’s organization. She also helped found the United Negro College Fund, of which Bethune-Cookman was a charter member. The University was a crowning achievement in a storied career.

Through Dr. Bethune’s lifetime, the school underwent several stages of growth and development. In 1923 the school merged with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, which had been founded in 1872. The Cookman Institute was the first institution of higher education of Blacks in the State of Florida. It was through the merger that the school gained the prestigious Methodist affiliation.

The merger of the two schools began in 1923 and was finalized in 1925. The merged institution was called the Daytona-Cookman Collegiate Institute. In 1931, the College became accredited by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Southern States, as a junior college and on April 27 of that year, the school’s name was officially changed to Bethune-Cookman College to reflect the leadership of Dr. Bethune.

It was in 2007 that Bethune-Cookman achieved university status, having added a graduate program in transformational leadership to its offerings.

Over the years, Bethune-Cookman grew steadily, adding academic programs and expanding its physical plant. Since 1943, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has graduated more than 19,000 students. Alumni work in a wide range of fields, including the arts, business, education, government, sciences and religion. B-CU has received national recognition for its intercollegiate athletic programs and instrumental and choral groups.

B-CU is known for its small-university community feel and its HBCU sensibility, for its strong academics and exceptional, personalized teaching, and for carrying forward the legacy of Dr. Bethune. That legacy includes a dedication to service and an undying commitment to building a vision for the future, then applying creativity, initiative and resilience to bring success both in college and in the world beyond.