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Pfeiffer University was established in 1885 as Oberlin Home and School at Lick Mountain, near Hudson in Caldwell County. It was founded by Emily C. Prudden, a Connecticut transplant who spent almost fifty years setting up schools in North Carolina’s western piedmont and mountains. With each of her schools, Prudden would oversee initial operation and then transfer the school and property to a church mission society. In 1903 Prudden deeded Oberlin to the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which renamed it the Ebenezer Mitchell Home and School. A fire in 1908 led to the temporary relocation to facilities in Lenoir and finally, in 1910, to its present location in Misenhiemer.
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A junior college curriculum was added in 1928 and Mitchell Junior College was accredited by the state six years later. Improvements in county schools allowed Mitchell to strengthen its collegiate-level courses. In 1935 the school was renamed in honor of benefactors Henry and Annie Merner Pfeiffer of New York. The couple donated funds for the construction of four brick buildings and a president’s home. Expanding both physically and academically, Pfeiffer was became a four-year college in 1960. A final change in academic structure garnered the school university status in 1996. Now with satellite campuses in Charlotte and Durham, Pfeiffer University is an apt tribute to Emily C. Prudden’s nineteenth century educational work.
William S. Powell, Higher Education in North Carolina (1964)
“Emily C. Prudden: An Autobiographical Sketch,” American Missionary (March 1914), 737-743
George S. Dickerman, “Concerning Miss Emily C. Prudden” (1917)
Christine L. Thompson, “An Invincible Schoolmarm,” The State (March 1984), 10-11, 23
Pfeiffer University website: http://www.pfeiffer.edu/