| Oakwood University, which began as an industrial school, was founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1896 to educate African-Americans in the South. The school was erected on 380 acres purchased during the previous year for $6,700. Additional property secured in 1918 nearly tripled its land holding. The school underwent several name changes over its history:
• 1896 – Oakwood Industrial School
• 1904 – Oakwood Manual Training School
• 1917 – Oakwood Junior College
• 1943 – Oakwood College
• 2008 – Oakwood University
Several principals served the school until it achieved Junior College status and elected its first president, James I. Beardsley, in 1917.
In 1943, Oakwood received its first accreditation as a junior college, having already begun the process of achieving senior college status. Fifteen years later, in 1958, it was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. The most recent reaffirmation of accreditation was voted in June, 2001. In addition, continuing accreditation by the Adventist Accrediting Association was granted in April, 2001. Student enrollment and graduation statistics have grown significantly since Oakwood’s inception. When the school first opened in 1896, there were 16 students. By 1917, there were more than 100 students. Enrollment peaked at 200 in 1927. Enrollment first topped 1000 during the 1974- 75 academic year. Enrollment for Fall 2006 was 1771.
The first graduating class in 1909 numbered five. Nine years later (1918), the first two graduates of Oakwood Junior College received degrees. The first senior college graduating class (Spring, 1945) consisted of nine students. Twenty-eight years later, in 1973, the first class in the history of the college to exceed 100 members graduated (124). The first graduating class in excess of 200 finished just nine years later in 1982. The graduating class of 2008 is the first class to graduate under the University status, totaling 315 members.
Oakwood University has a beautiful natural setting on 1,185 acres of prime land. It is considered one of the historical landmarks of the city of Huntsville, a cosmopolitan city of approximately 175,000 people located in north central Alabama. The university prepares students from across America and from many other nations to serve God and humanity in a variety of positions and careers. Close to 60% of the culturally diverse faculty hold doctorate degrees from a wide range of universities and colleges around the nation and world.