CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Coastal Carolina University was the dream of a small group of Horry County Residents who wanted to bring higher education to the people who lived here and either couldn't get into college or couldn't afford to go.
But it took steadfast determination to convince many of the state's most powerful educators, who didn't think it would work.
You could say Horry County in the post World War II years was determined to find it's place.
It wasn't yet the tourist mecca it is today, and many of the people who lived here didn't seek higher education, in fact the majority didn't even make it to high school.
But still, there was a group of educators who knew the area needed a college.
Roy Talbert, CCU Historian explains, "It was for the teachers, to upgrade the credentials of the teachers. There just wasn't a place for them, we needed the schools to be accredited."
In 1954, Under the arm of the College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina Junior College enrolled it's first students.
Classes were held at Conway High School.
When the agreement expired, Coastal was an independent school, supported by taxpayers, before leaders struck a deal with the University of South Carolina.
One caveat of the USC agreement was for Coastal Carolina to have it's own building. But before the school was built, tempers flared over where it would be located.
"Conway and Myrtle Beach had a distinct dislike for each other and Conway supporters wanted it in Conway; Myrtle Beach folks wanted it in Myrtle Beach," states Talbert.
Talbert adds Guy Skipper Cameron, the wife of the Myrtle Beach mayor at the time, is credited with clearing the air between the two cities.
"Now you see we're between Conway and Myrtle Beach and for years and years we were neutral ground. Several years ago, Conway annexed us, but back in the day we were in the county," specifies Talbert.
The very first building on campus was the Edward M. Singleton building, named after Dick Singleton, who was the first director of Coastal's new campus.
But no building is probably more recognizable than the athenaeum, built in 1966, and today still the symbol of CCU.
In the early 90s, Coastal broke off from USC and became an independent, four year state college.
"We felt we could do a better job on our own and raise more money, have our own board of trustee across the state as we do now, do our own fundraising," recalls Talbert.
Right now, the university is in the middle of several major building projects on campus.
The HTC Center, a premier spot for the basketball teams and student convocation center, just opened on campus. Work is underway on a new baseball stadium, science building and administration building.
Coastal Carolina now has 56 different areas of study, seven master's programs and enrolls more than 9,000 students.
One of those students is sophomore Mark Singleton. His family is from Conway and his parents are CCU graduates.
"You can relate to the teachers on a personal note, some are locals as well, it's just a good university to come to and you feel like you're at home," expresses Singleton.
In recent years the number of out of state students outnumbered in-state students. It's something CCU leaders have tried to balance.
"We're drawing from some other areas I won't mention. I think we're getting very competitive. We are on the verge of being a full fledged university," offers Talbert.
As for Singleton, he's never considered any college but the one in his hometown.
"It feels good to be home and when you've been away from home, you truly appreciate what home means," smiles Singleton.
Coastal's next major milestone will be offering it's first PhD for it's premier marine science program, which is expected to launch in the fall of 2013.
Talbert has been with the university for 33 years, and for Coastal's 50 year anniversary in 2004, he published a book, a historical account of the early years and the hard work that went into getting this school up and running.
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