The front of Smith Hall
An Historic Marker in front of Alumni Memorial Hall

History: From a Humble School House to a State College

Looking at Gordon State College today, it's hard to imagine that this college, so vital to higher education in middle Georgia, began as a little school house for local children.

In 1832, Josiah Holmes built a frame school house in the center of the quiet town of Barnesville so that local children could learn the classics. Twenty years later, the Georgia General Assembly incorporated the school as the Barnesville Male and Female High School.

Another 20 years later, 1872, the school was renamed the Gordon Institute, in honor of General John B. Gordon, who served Georgia during three terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor.

The Gordon Institute created a military department of study in 1890, and for the next 80 years, the school distinguished itself as a premier military institution.

Black and white photograph of cadets outside Lambdin Hall

In 1933, the school – then known as Gordon High School and Junior College - moved to its current campus and Gordon flourished. It served as the public city school system for the City of Barnesville with its president serving as school superintendent of the lower grades at Gordon Grammar School, as well as president of the College. Boarding students from across the country and Central and South America attended Gordon.

In the 1960s, a state commission established by Governor Carl Sanders saw a need for a junior college in middle Georgia. Through the efforts of many community leaders, Gordon became part of the University System of Georgia on July 1, 1972, with a new name: Gordon Junior College. That fall, 571 students enrolled at Gordon in its debut year as an institution of public higher education.

Since Gordon joined the university system, it has undergone tremendous growth and change. Designated a state college in 2006, approximately 4,000 students attend Gordon State College, with 1,000 living on campus. The college offers a number of associate degree programs as well as bachelor's degrees in Early Childhood Education, Mathematics, Biology, English, History, BSN, Health Systems and Informatics Administration and starting in fall 2013, Human Services.

The campus now encompasses slightly more than 235 acres with residence halls, a house devoted to alumni affairs, a newly renovated Student Center and dining hall and a state-of-the-art Nursing and Allied Health Science building.

The Gordon State College Foundation endowment now exceeds $6 million. Today, Gordon competes in intercollegiate sports and has an active student life program.

Despite the many changes, Gordon has held onto its roots. Though it is a larger school today, it still maintains its small-town feeling. Most important, Gordon State College is as committed to fulfilling the community's educational needs today as it was when it opened its doors more than 160 years ago.