Shorter College is a two-year, private, historically black liberal arts college located in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It was founded in 1886 (originally as Bethel University) by the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a logical and pragmatic response to the need of recently freed slaves to overcome the many disadvantages and deprivations of slavery and racial discrimination. This was a time, little more than twenty years after the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, when black people had no access to institutions of higher learning. In fact, the prevailing attitude was that Blacks had no capacity for learning and the vast majority lacked basic education and skills.
The church seized the opportunity to provide instruction leading to a general education, but also aimed at developing competent leadership among Black people.
In November 1886, under the leadership of Bishop T.M.D. Ward, the Arkansas Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, less than twenty years after it was organized, formulated a plan for establishing an institution of higher learning. When it opened on September 15, 1886, the school was housed in the basement of Bethel A. M. E. Church on Ninth and Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas and was named Bethel University.
Its first session opened with an enrollment of 109 students.
In December 1892 the Annual Conference renamed the school to Shorter University in honor of Bishop James Alexander Shorter, organizer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Arkansas. On May 18, 1894, Shorter University was chartered under its new name. A year later, under the leadership of Principal F. T. Vinegar and Bishop W. B. Derrick, Shorter acquired land and buildings in North Little Rock, Arkansas, with financial donation from local businessman and Prince Hall Masons leader Ed Wood Sr. in 1895.
On August 14, 1903, the charter was amended to change the name of the institution to Shorter College, in that same year, the first building was Bishop J.A. Shorter erected and named Tyree Hall.
In 1955, a decision was made to operate the college as a 2-year institution under the leadership of President Theophilus D. Alexander and Bishop William R. Wilkes. In 1958, the positions were combined, and Reverend A.O. Wilson served as both President and Regional A.M.E. Bishop.
Dr. Katherine P. Mitchell, elected on September 21, 1989, by the Board of Trustees, took office on November 1, 1989 becoming the first woman to be elected President of the College. Under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership, the college made significant progress to include the completion of the Henry A. Belin Health-Plex and the Alexander-Turner Child Development Center.
Under the administration of the College’s 43rd President, Lillie Alexis, the Board of Trustees elected to bring back one of its former Presidents, Dr. Katherine P. Mitchell, to lead the effort to gain candidacy status with Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools (TRACS). On April 13, 2011, Shorter College received notification of its successful completion of this accomplishment.
In October 2013, under the leadership of O. Jerome Green, 45th president, Shorter College became fully accredited with TRACS allowing students to earn associate degrees that are recognized by other institutions.
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