A few months after the end of the Civil War in 1865, members of the Kentucky State Convention of Colored Baptist Churches proposed the establishment of Kentucky’s first post secondary educational institute for its “Colored” citizens. In 1879 the State Convention purchased four acres of land in Louisville to serve as the campus for the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute.
Dr. William Simmons became the second President in 1880 and led the Institute through a period of rapid growth in enrollment and facilities. His efforts led to the addition of a competitive sports program and the attainment of university status. Although Dr. Simmons’ tenure ended in 1990, he set the foundation for continued growth which included a dramatic expansion of the liberal arts program. It was proudly proclaimed by State University that most of Kentucky’s African American attorneys, physicians, teachers and degreed ministers were former students.
In the period of 1893 to 1922, student registration increased from 159 to over 500. In recognition of Dr. Simmons’ leadership, the University was renamed Simmons University in 1918.
Unfortunately the Great Depression interrupted this period of educational prosperity. Course offerings were substantially curtailed and many of the buildings were lost to foreclosure. In 1935 the University relocated to a smaller location in West Louisville. Faced with the continuing decline in student enrollment and the loss accreditation, the 1950s brought a change in operations. The university was renamed Simmons Bible College and shifted focus to a limited set of theology courses.
In 2005, Dr. Kevin W. Cosby was selected as the 13th President of Simmons beginning a resurgence that continues today. Under his tenure, Simmons has reacquired its original campus, secured accreditation, and been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a member of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
Student enrolled is increasing at an unprecedented rate resulting in an expansion of class offering and degree programs. Simmons College of Kentucky is well positioned for bright future as a thriving institution of higher learning serving traditionally underserved communities.