Sullins College

Sullins College[3] was a former Methodist, female, junior college in Bristol, Virginia, United States, founded about 1868 and named for David Sullins, a Methodist minister. It ceased operations after the class of 1976 graduated.

Sullins College
Old image of buildings at Sullins College, Bristol, Virginia
Sullins College, Bristol, Virginia
TypePrivate, religious junior college
Active1870 (1870)[1]–1976 (1976)
Religious affiliation
Methodist church

36°36′33″N 82°11′22″W / 36.60917°N 82.18944°W / 36.60917; -82.18944Coordinates: 36°36′33″N 82°11′22″W / 36.60917°N 82.18944°W / 36.60917; -82.18944
School newspaperReflector[2]


The institution was founded in 1870, and, in 1873, it became affiliated with the Methodist Church.[1] It began as a high school and junior college. Its first location was in downtown Bristol.

The entire building burned during Christmas vacation in late December 1915, and the Methodist Church decided not to rebuild. Some of the residents of Bristol prevailed upon William E. Martin, a Methodist pastor in Alabama who earlier had been president of Sullins, to return to Bristol and reopen the school. He did and the school was rebuilt in an entirely new location in a residential area of Bristol, occupying an eminence overlooking the city. No longer a Methodist institution, Martin operated it as a proprietary women's school controlled by his family. It attracted a clientele from among wealthy families throughout the Southeast looking for a junior college with the prestige of being in Virginia.[4] The new facility opened in September 1917.

In the 1930s, Martin opened a subsidiary institution, Arlington Hall, in the Virginia outskirts of Washington, D.C. During World War II, Arlington Hall was closed, and the facilities came under the control of the federal government, which operated it as an American Bletchley Park—a super secret facility where enemy radio messages were carefully decoded. The facility is still a government enterprise.

Sullins College in Bristol remained under the control of the Martin family until the 1960s, when they passed it to an independent board of trustees. The junior college celebrated its centennial in 1970. The college remained in operation and additional buildings were constructed. However, by the 1970s, women’s colleges were no longer as fashionable as they had once been, and as a two-year college, Sullins was particularly vulnerable to changing times. A peak enrollment of almost 400 in 1968 decreased rapidly so that by the fall of 1972 there were only 102 freshmen from 30 states and five foreign countries.[5][6]

Facing a million-dollar debt in February 1975 and with inadequate enrollment, the trustees offered the school to the state of Virginia in exchange for the state assuming the school's debt. The state Council of Higher Education recommended against the acquisition, and the governor declined the offer in late October 1975.[5] In early 1976, the school was valued at $16 million and the campus comprised 75 acres (30 ha) with 14 buildings in addition to the 50-acre (20 ha) Camp Sequyoa.[7]

In April 1976, the board of trustees reached an agreement with the city to transfer the school to the city's school system to operate as a coeducational institution. The city would assume the school's $1.2 million debt, keep the name of the college and use the property only for educational purposes.[7] The agreement with the city failed and following the graduation of the 1976 class, Sullins College closed in July. No alternative owner for the college developed. The property eventually passed to the United Coal Company, now known simply as the United Company, an investment firm.

King University, in Bristol, Tennessee, is the custodian of the Sullins College records and maintains an active relationship with alumnae of the institution.[8]

Student lifeEdit

For most of its existence the college assumed responsibility for the behavior of its students under the operation of in loco parentis. This was typified in 1911 by the school's expelling two girls who went for a ride in a car with two boys from the nearby Kings College. The girls were being held for their parents to come get them, when they eloped with the two boys. This resulted in the college officials and police pursuing the couples into Tennessee. The pursuit failed to apprehend the girls as the pursuers found them in Hawkins County, Tennessee a few minutes after the couples were married. There was discussion about criminal charges for the two boys involved.[9]

The school newspaper was the Reflector.'[2] A chapter of Phi Theta Kappa plus several student clubs operated on the campus. The school yearbook was the Sullins Sampler.[10] In 1946, the Sampler placed third for the Methodist Award among more than 300 schools competing in a competition overseen by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.[11]

The graduating class of 1955 donated a group of five "Peter Pan" statues that were placed around a pool on the campus.[12]

The school operated Camp Sequoya on South Holston Lake.[2]


  • David Sullins (1870–1915)
  • William E. Martin (1916–)
  • William T. Martin (in 1956)[12]
  • Claudius Pritchard (in 1972–1976)[2][5]

Sullins AcademyEdit

In 1966, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, using the resources from Highland Hill Day School, opened a kindergarten through second grade school, Episcopal Day School, in the church building. The school added grades until it became a K-8 school. In the process, it ran out of space at the church building. After the college closed in 1976, the school moved its operation to the campus' Martin Hall in the summer of 1977 taking the name Sullins Academy to better identify its non-sectarian nature.[13] The academy remained there until 1999 when it moved to a newly constructed facility on 32 acres (13 ha) in Bristol, Virginia.[14]

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ a b Virginia State Council of Higher Education. The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, January 1974, p. 140.
  2. ^ a b c d "Miss Wright is Reigning Queen at Sullins College". Rome News-Tribune. Rome, Georgia. October 29, 1972. p. 13. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  3. ^ Some information is from archives of the college, now kept in the King University archives
  4. ^ Stone, Ellen B. (March 24, 1926). "Representative of Sullins College and Camp Sequyoa". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. p. 5. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Recruitment drive set by Sullins". The Free Lance–Star. November 3, 1975. p. 16. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  6. ^ "Miss Angela Quinn a student at Sullins". Boca Raton News. September 28, 1972. p. 2B. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  7. ^ a b "City agrees to take over college". The Free Lance–Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Associated Press. April 15, 1976. p. 11. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Sullins CollegeSullins News," King University. October 29, 2015. Accessed August 29, 2016.
  9. ^ "GIRLS ELOPE FROM COLLEGE". Kentucky New Era. April 28, 1911. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  10. ^ "Tuscaloosa Girl To Edit Yearbook At Sullins College". The Tuscaloosa News. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. March 26, 1951. p. 4. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Bethel College Yearbook Wins Medalist Honors In Contests". Kentucky New Era. November 16, 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  12. ^ a b "2 of 5 Statues Taken From Campus At Sullins College". The Free Lance–Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. October 27, 1959. p. 4. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  13. ^ "Daily News". Sullins Headmistress Looks Back Over 20 Years of Progress. Kingsport, Tennessee. February 27, 1987. p. 6. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  14. ^ "School History – Sullins Academy". Sullins Academy. Retrieved 2015-11-10.