Our Rich History

The seeds of Berry College were planted in 1902, with the opening of the Boys' Industrial School, a boarding school for boys located approximately three miles north of Rome, Georgia. The school's creation was the result of the vision and devoted efforts of Martha Berry, the daughter of a prosperous local business owner, who had come to believe that education could provide a path from poverty for local children.

Martha Berry first became sensitive to the impoverished condition of many of the people who lived in the area's mountains when some young boys stumbled upon the private cabin retreat where she had gone to read her Bible. Martha was shocked to learn that the children attended neither church nor school and that they were unfamiliar with basic Bible stories. Her willingness to offer them rudimentary instruction soon developed into a Sunday school that attracted numerous children from neighboring families. She then established four day schools, but after these schools appeared ineffective Martha decided in 1902 to use the 83 acres that she had inherited from her father to found the Boys' Industrial School.

Historic Dates

  • 1909 - Girls' school was added.
  • 1914 - Work became an integral component of the Berry education with students working eight hours on two days of the week, and attending class for the remaining four. The work program kept operating and maintenance costs low and helped to offset the students' tuition and expenses,
  • 1926 - Became a junior college and soon after a senior college.
  • 1930's - The school owned 30,000 acres, made possible through Martha's relentless fundraising efforts that resulted in substantial contributions from the nation's political and social elite.
  • 1930 - Martha Berry gained national renown for her schools including being named by Good Housekeeping magazine as one of the nation's 12 most influential women.
  • 1932 - Graduated its first class.
  • 1942 - Martha Berry's death deprived the schools of their central figure as they entered their most difficult period.
  • 1955 - The girls' school was closed due to declining contributions and a proliferation of public education alternatives after World War II.
  • 1956 - John R. Bertrand was appointed president, resulting in a concentrated development of the college's liberal arts and professional programs offerings.
  • 1957 - Berry was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Admission efforts were expanded to include urban areas, non-tradition students and commuters.
  • 1960's/70's - Reforms were enacted including paying student workers instead of crediting accounts, modifying the strict code on student behavior, abandoning uniform dress and mandatory religious services, and holding national searches for faculty members.
  • 1963-64 - Student work was made voluntary.
  • 1964 - The boys' school was renamed Berry Academy.
  • 1971 - Berry Academy was made coeducational.
  • 1980 - Gloria M. Shatto succeeded Bertrand as president and continued to work toward securing the institution's financial stability.
  • 1983 - Berry Academy was closed in 1983 due to struggles with high cost and low enrollment.
  • Late 1980's - Several publications regularly ranked Berry College as one of the Southeast's top five regional liberal arts institutions.
  • 1990's - Berry annually enrolled approximately 1,800 undergraduates and roughly 200 students in its business and educational graduate programs.
  • 1998 - John Scott Colley assumed the presidency with the goals of improving the college's national academic reputation, increasing diversity within the faculty and student body, and improving classroom, laboratory, and student life facilities.
  • 1999 - From land sales, local development and sound investment, Berry's endowment had grown to approximately 185th among educational institutions nationally.
  • 2006 - Dr. Colley retired after realizing his goals through Berry's largest and most successful fundraising campaign to date, the Century Campaign, which generated $106.1 million in support of programs and facilities.
  • July 2006 - Stephen R. Briggs becomes Berry's eighth president.

The college continues to move forward under the leadership of Stephen R. Briggs, who became Berry’s eighth president in July 2006. The years since have seen the 2008 completion of the Steven J. Cage Athletic and Recreation Center and the 2009 addition of the Audrey B. Morgan and Deerfield residence halls. In 2008, Berry joined the Annapolis Group, an organization of leading national independent liberal arts colleges. In 2009, the institution began its four-year transition to NCAA Division III, eventually becoming a founding member of the Southern Athletic Association of academically excellent residential liberal arts colleges across the region. The Gate of Opportunity Scholarship was created in 2009, offering highly motivated students with a “can-do” attitude and strong work ethic the opportunity to experience the fullness of a Berry education and to graduate debt free. Berry’s voluntary Work Experience Program has grown significantly, currently employing more than 1,800 students – making it the largest college work program of its kind in the nation. On-campus work opportunities now include a number of student-operated enterprises. In 2013, Berry was recognized by its peers as the No. 1 up-and-coming liberal arts college in the nation.

Reference - "Berry College," New Georgia Encyclopedia, Retrieved Aug. 28, 2006, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org