Simmons College gains accreditation after 135 years

Published: Feb. 20, 2014 at 10:10 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 6, 2014 at 9:11 PM EDT
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The main building on the Simmons Bible College campus.
The main building on the Simmons Bible College campus.
Barbara Sexton Smith
Barbara Sexton Smith
Dr. James Ramsey
Dr. James Ramsey

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For the second time, a historically black college housed in the heart of southwest Louisville has made history.

"Today, we are announcing we have received full accreditation," said Barbara Sexton Smith, Simmons College of Kentucky Trustee.

Having served on the Simmons College of Kentucky board of trustees since 2006, Sexton Smith said the Association for Biblical Higher Education accreditation will not only grow the 135-year-old historically black college's course offerings, but also its ability to impact the community.

"We are much more than a bible college," said Sexton Smith. "We now are fully accredited and you can receive funding. You can take a variety of courses of study. We're going to be adding new degree programs in the fall of 2014."

It's a milestone nearly eight years in the making; one that required a lengthy application process and partnerships filled with history of their own.

"There was a time when African Americans were not permitted to take classes at the University of Louisville," said Sexton Smith.

More than 80 years after a foreclosure resulted in Simmons being acquired by the University of Louisville, the two institutions have partnered.

"We value that partnership in reaching out and providing educational opportunities to all people in our community, not just some," said University of Louisville President Dr. James Ramsey.

According to Ramsey, Jefferson Community and Technical College and Spalding University are also involved with the partnership.

"We help them provide courses on their campus," said Ramsey. "Spalding provides rooms for their students to live in."

Designed to boost both student and program success, the joint effort is helping breathe new life into the college Sexton Smith referred to as "the black Harvard of the south."

"Architects, lawyers, doctors, engineers all were graduating from Simmons," said Sexton Smith.

Simmons College of Kentucky's legacy has been strengthened through the accreditation by the Association for Biblical Higher Education. The eight year journey ended Wednesday in Orlando, Florida where administrators for the college learned the college's accreditation had been approved.

Founded by former slaves, Simmons College of Kentucky sits at the intersection of West Kentucky and South 8th streets. Constructed in 1879 under the lead of Convention of Colored Baptist Churches trustees, the college campus spanned four acres.

While previously named the Kentucky Normal Theological Institute, the college expanded its offerings to include business, college preparatory courses, law, liberal arts, music, and theological departments under the lead of Dr. W. J. Simmons. In his honor, the institution was renamed Simmons University.

However a foreclosure on its mortgage led to the college campus being sold in 1930. The institution scaled back course offerings as a result. Administration opted to relocate the college to 1811 Dumesnil Street and return the institution to a theological focus. Consequently, in 1982, administrators renamed Simmons University to Simmons Bible College.

More than two decades later, the institution returned to its original campus along West Kentucky Street. Under the school's 13th president, Dr. Kevin Cosby, the school has been renamed Simmons College of Kentucky.

To learn more about Simmons College of Kentucky, click here.

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