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Dedicated as Williamsburg Institute in January 1889, this private educational institution has a rich history steeped in servant leadership. The school, founded shortly after the U.S. Civil War and later known as Cumberland College (until 2005), is a liberal arts college affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. University of the Cumberlands has an annual enrollment of approximately 6,000 students. Many of the buildings on campus are as old as the institution itself.

  • This historical marker offers a general overview of the university's history and is one of five Kentucky historical markers located on the campus of present day University of the Cumberlands.
  • Major General Benjamin Baker: Notable alumni from Cumberland College included Benjamin Baker. He was a Major General with the US Air Force and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for health resources and programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of De
  • Mahan Hall: Built in 1906, originally known as Felix Hall. (Courtesy of the University of the Cumberlands)
  • Gillespie Hall: Originally built in 1893, Gillespie Hall has undergone several renovations and currently serves as a girl’s dormitory on the University of Cumberland’s campus. (Courtesy of the University of the Cumberlands)
  • Roburn Hall: Built in 1888, Roburn Hall was the first building on the campus of the Williamsburg Institute. (Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg, KY)  In 2010, Roburn Hall was renamed Moss Hall in honor of one of the founders of the school, Dr. E. S. Mos

As a result of plans made by Baptist members to provide higher education to the people of the surrounding mountain communities; Williamsburg Institute, was dedicated in January 1889. On April 6, 1888, the Kentucky state legislature approved the incorporation of the college. In the early 20th century, the school bought Highland College and the institute’s name was changed to Cumberland College. The school became the University of the Cumberlands in 2005, not to be confused with Cumberland University located approximately 164 miles southeast of Williamsburg in Lebanon, TN.   

Shortly after the U.S. Civil War and The Reconstruction that followed, this institution has continuously served students from the Appalachian mountain region. The university took a significant role in the shaping of public education as the school has been known primarily for programs of elementary and secondary education since the onset. 

The school boasts that the vision to provide affordable college education, in an under served area, drew the institution the support of oil industry billionaire businessman, John D. Rockefeller and steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie. Keeping with the school’s initial mission to instill servant leadership qualities in students, the university’s website notes that past graduates include two governors, five military generals, an admiral, five college and university presidents, a U.S. Congressman, ministers, missionaries, legislators, and judges. Among those are: Dr. Ergun Caner (former president of Liberty Theological Seminary),Betty Siegel (former president of Kennesaw State University), Bert Combs (former Governor of Kentucky), Edwin Morrow (former Governor of Kentucky), and Major General Benjamin Baker (U.S. Air Force). Undoubtedly, the university has played a key role in the history of Appalachia in producing educated leaders post Civil War through modern day.