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Oxford College of Emory University

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Oxford College
Oxford College logo
Former names
Emory College
Emory University Academy
Emory at Oxford
Motto Cor prudentis possidebit scientiam[1]
Motto in English
The wise heart seeks knowledge [Proverbs 18:15]
Type Private
Established 1836
Parent institution
Emory University
Religious affiliation
Dean Stephen Bowen[2]
Undergraduates 947
Location Oxford, Georgia, US
33°37′10″N 83°52′16″W / 33.619519°N 83.871045°W / 33.619519; -83.871045Coordinates: 33°37′10″N 83°52′16″W / 33.619519°N 83.871045°W / 33.619519; -83.871045
Campus Small Town
Colors Blue and gold
Mascot Screech the Eagle

Oxford College of Emory University, also called Oxford College and originally founded as Emory College, is an American two-year residential college specializing in the foundations of liberal arts education. It is the birthplace and one of nine academic divisions of Emory University. The college is located on Emory University's original campus in Oxford, Georgia, 38 miles east of Emory's Atlanta campus. Students at Oxford automatically continue their studies in Atlanta after successfully completing Oxford's curriculum.

Emory College was built one mile north of Covington, Georgia by the Georgia Methodist Conference, after a failed attempt to establish a church-sponsored manual labor school a few miles away. Following this, the Conference in 1836 granted Ignatius Alphonso Few a charter to open a new school. This school opened in 1838 and was named after John Emory, an influential Methodist bishop who had died before the school's opening, and Oxford University, the alma mater of the founders of the Methodist movement. After the turn of the 20th century, Emory College received a generous monetary and land grant from Asa Griggs Candler, president of The Coca-Cola Company, and moved its operations to Druid Hills, which is adjacent to Atlanta. During those years, Oxford spent time as a college preparatory school, junior college, four-year college, and finally the two-year Emory liberal arts program known today as Oxford College.

Oxford College has a total enrollment of 947 freshman and sophomore students from a wide variety of religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds, including 34 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and 18 foreign countries.[3] Campus organizations include various community service groups, interest clubs, and "social clubs", the school's replacement for traditional fraternities and sororities. Oxford participates in NJCAA Division III sports, with the men's and women's tennis teams winning national championships multiple times.[4]


Founding and early history[edit]

In 1833, the Georgia Methodist Conference began considering establishing a church-sponsored manual labor school where students would combine farm work with a college preparatory curriculum. At the Georgia Methodist Conference in 1834, a preacher known as "Uncle Allen" Turner suggested that Georgia Methodists should develop their own school rather than support Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.[5] Heeding his advice, the Conference opened the Georgia Conference Manual Labor School in 1835, but the institution immediately began facing financial challenges. As a result, the Conference granted Ignatius Few a charter to establish a new college named after John Emory, a Methodist bishop who was involved in the labor school's founding but had died in a carriage accident before the school opened.[6] In 1836, the new school, Emory College, was established on a tract of land in Newton County one mile north of Covington, Georgia. This site was chosen because of its distance from the city, which the school's founders feared would be a source of distraction for its students.[7] The campus and the surrounding areas were planned and built in 1837 by Edward Lloyd Thomas, a Georgia land surveyor who also planned the city of Columbus, Georgia.[8] On December 23, 1839, the state legislature incorporated the land around the school into a new city called Oxford.[9] This name was selected because the founders of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley and John Wesley, had previously attended Oxford University.[10] Because the college and town were built together, many of the town's early residents had contributed to the college's founding and continued to be involved in its daily activities.[11]

On September 17, 1838, two years after its chartering, President Ignatius Few and three faculty members welcomed fifteen freshmen and sophomores into its inaugural class.[5] In order to raise money for maintaining the school, Few began selling lots around the college to local citizens.[8] The founders envisaged a curriculum that would rest squarely on the classics and mathematics, with four years' study of Greek, Latin, and mathematics, and three years' study of the English Bible and the sciences of geography, astronomy, and chemistry. According to historian Henry M. Bullock, the founders intended Emory to be, "in the fullest sense of the term, a Christian college."[12]

Literary societies[edit]

A white, columned structure
Phi Gamma Hall, built in 1851, is the oldest structure at Oxford.

Sometime in 1837, a year before the inaugural class of students were officially enrolled, the new student body founded the Phi Gamma literary society on campus.[10] The society adapted a motto: "Scientia et Religio Libertatis Custodes".[13] In 1851, Phi Gamma Hall was constructed and remains the oldest structure still standing on Oxford's campus.[14] A few years later, Phi Gamma decided it needed a rival society to compete with. Consequently, fourteen members withdrew from Phi Gamma to establish Few society, named after Ignatius Few.[13] The facilities and libraries of each debate society were open to members of the rival society. The two halls oppose each other across the quad, and both buildings are variations of two-story Greek Revival structures with temple form designs and columned porticos.[8] Debate topics included the justifiability of war, women's suffrage, the morality of slavery, and prohibition.[13]

In 1850, members of the two literary societies debated whether or not Georgia should secede from the union. A vote on the matter by members of both societies resolved for Georgia to remain in the union.[15] However, when the American Civil War broke out, both debate societies temporarily suspended their activities as members left school to fight in the war. Both Phi Gamma and Few Halls were used as infirmaries for wounded soldiers.[16]

Civil War and Reconstruction[edit]

Financial tension had reduced the college's income and student body prior to the outbreak of war. So when war broke out in the summer of 1861, the college's administration made the decision to temporarily cease all academic operations. Emory College would remain closed to students for the duration of the fighting.[17] During the war, college facilities were used by both Northern and Southern soldiers as military headquarters and infirmaries. Because of this, many deceased soldiers are buried near campus.[18] The school's library and other archives were damaged and later destroyed due to mishandling by military generals. It was not until the summer of 1866 that the campus was able to return to its academic functions, when it reopened with twenty students and three professors.[6] Emory College continued to struggle with financial hardships after the war, and was only able to continue their operations with the aid of a state G.I. Bill.[1]

A white marble obelisk
The Few Monument in the center of the quad recognizes Ignatius A. Few as one of the founders of Emory College.

In 1880, the school's fortunes reversed when College President Atticus G. Haygood delivered a Thanksgiving Day sermon expressing gratitude for the end of slavery and calling on the South to put the past behind them to "cultivate the growth of industry". The speech captured the attention of George I. Seney, a Brooklyn banker and Methodist. Seney gave Emory College $5,000 to repay its debts, $50,000 for construction, and $75,000 to establish a new endowment. Over the years, Seney invested more than a quarter-million dollars into Emory College, helping to erect the Victorian Gothic-style administrative building in the center of Oxford College that bears his name.[19] The bell in the Seney Hall clocktower is the oldest permanent monument at Emory University today. Cast in 1796, the bell was a gift from Alexander Means, the fourth President of Emory College, who in turn received it from Queen Victoria.[8][20]

Move to Atlanta[edit]

By the turn of the 20th century, Emory College began producing several notable graduates. Alben W. Barkley, who graduated from Emory in 1900, went on to represent Kentucky in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate before becoming — at age 71 in 1949 — the oldest Vice-President of the United States in history.[21] Thomas M. Rivers became one of the nation's premier virologists at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, investigating encephalitis and smallpox and later leading the National Science Foundation's quest for a polio vaccine.[22] Dumas Malone went on to become the head of Harvard University Press, one of the nation's leading academic publishers, and completed a Pulitzer Prize-winning six-volume study of Thomas Jefferson when he was past 90 years of age.[23]

Wilbur A. Carlton, a student at Emory College in 1910, described his experiences at the school at the time:

"At that time, half-a century ago, Oxford was completely without pavement, plumbing in the homes, and electric lights except for the Williams Gymnasium and the Young J. Allen Memorial Church, which were furnished electricity by a dynamo in the boiler room of the gym. And of course, we obtained water from open wells for drinking as well as for all other purposes ... We had to do our studying by the light of a kerosene lamp. There were scarcely any automobiles and absolutely no co-eds at that particular time although there had been a few previously. There was only one college dormitory, Marvin Hall, which was "outmoded" even for 1910 and which could accommodate only a small part of the student body ... Most of the students lived in boarding houses (or private homes), of which there were several ... Such was our beloved Oxford in 1910."

— Wilbur A. Carlton, In Memory of Old Emory (1962)[24]

Soon, the Georgia Methodist Conference began discussing transforming Emory College into a university, with Birmingham and Atlanta both bidding to host the proposed institution.[25] Atlanta was eventually chosen as the home of the new Emory University after Asa Griggs Candler, president of the Coca-Cola Company, deeded the university 65 acres of land six miles from the city's downtown and contributed $1 million to the school's endowment.[26] Candler was originally reluctant to donate money to a project that he called "a crumbling castle", but his brother, Warren Candler, convinced him otherwise.[27] Asa Candler went on to serve as chair of the Emory University Board of Trustees and his brother later served as university president.[28]

The Oxford campus continued to be used after the school's move to Atlanta in 1915. At first, the site was organized into the "Emory University Academy", a preparatory school modeled after Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy in order to respond to the failure of the state's public high schools.[29] By 1921, the academy had reached its peak enrollment of three hundred, doubling its previous enrollment record as a college.[30] Due to financial concerns, including the loss of third-party financial support, Emory University cut programs for all academic divisions at the academy, laid off faculty, and raised tuition. By the mid-1930s, with the introduction of college-level curriculum, the University Academy was renamed "Emory Junior College at Oxford" and the site was reorganized into a two-year junior college.[31] In 1947, influenced by the experimental models of integrating secondary and post-secondary education at the University of Chicago, Emory and Oxford leaders reorganized the Oxford curriculum into the South's first accredited four-year junior college.[32] The program combined an accelerated program for the last two years of high school with the first two years of college, but the program ended in 1963 after facing enrollment shortages.[33] In response, Dean Virgil Eady recommended a name change to "Oxford College of Emory University" and advocated the position that Oxford is part of Emory University and not a "quasi-independent college at Oxford". The new college was then set up as a two-year liberal arts program, similar in concept to the original Emory College model.[34]


A hand-drawn map depicting the original plan for the Town of Oxford
Edward Thomas hand-drew this design for the town of Oxford and Emory College in 1837.

Oxford College is located on a 56-acre campus in Newton County,[35] approximately 38 miles east of Emory's Atlanta campus. It is located in the center of Oxford, a town located about half a mile north of Interstate 20, and is directly bounded by Georgia State Route 81 (signed as "Emory Street") to the east and the Fleming Woods to the west. Emory University's bus routes provide service from Oxford to the Atlanta campus, Stonecrest Mall, and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority stations.[36]

Today, much of the college is organized around a pedestrian-only quadrangle in the center and a few nearby streets.[37] The campus' western exits lead to the county-owned Fleming Woods and hiking trails.[38] Additionally, the college owns and operates an 11-acre organic farm located several blocks south of the campus. The land is utilized as both an educational environment for related courses and as a functioning farm that operates its own community-supported agriculture and sells its produce at local farmers' markets.[39] In 1975, the campus and many of its older buildings, such as Phi Gamma Hall and Seney Hall, and other surrounding structures were listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as Oxford Historic District.[8]

The majority of the school's facilities are situated around the rectangular quadrangle in the center of campus, including two buildings that existed before the school was established: Phi Gamma Hall and a chapel. A nearly identical replica of Phi Gamma, Few Hall, sits opposite of Phi Gamma across the quad. These three buildings are all Greek Revival temple-like structures with white columned porticos.[8] In addition, a marble obelisk, erected in 1885 by the Grand Masonic Lodge of Georgia in memory of Ignatius Alphonso Few, sits in the center of the quad. Directly south of the monument is Seney Hall, a five-story Victorian Gothic-style building that is topped by a clock tower and bell that was given to the college by Queen Victoria in 1855.[20] At the end of every academic year, the bell is rung once in honor of each graduating student.[40] Seney Hall is flanked to the west by Hopkins Hall and the Williams Gymnasium, and to the west by Language Hall,[41] which was recently renovated and restored in 2013.[42] Further to the east sits Candler Hall, which was built in the Neoclassical architectural style and served as the school library until 1970. Today it acts as a student center and houses a Barnes & Noble bookstore.[43]

The other buildings that stand on the quad are Humanities Hall, the Jolley Residential Center, Oxford Science Building,[44] Tarbutton Performance Arts Center (which now adjoins Few Hall), Pierce Hall, and a library containing 85,643 volumes.[35][41]


An image of Seney Hall and the clocktower
Seney Hall, the iconic center of Oxford College, houses classrooms and the college's executive body.

Oxford College, as part of Emory's undergraduate bachelor's program, offers introductory and intermediate courses that contribute to undergraduate degrees in eighty-five majors, the most popular being economics, psychology, biology, business administration, neuroscience and behavioral biology, and political science.[35] All courses are on a credit hour system. Some classes are designated "theory-practice service learning" courses, which integrate theory learning in the classroom with real-world application.[45] For example, students enrolled in the Sociology of Food course would dedicate certain hours a week working at the school's organic farm.[46] All students receive an associate of the arts degree upon completing Oxford's curriculum, before continuing their studies in Atlanta.[47]


Oxford College has 56 faculty members in teaching positions,[35] including Nitya Jacob, associate professor of biology who is one of fifteen international recipients of Science Magazine's Inquiry-Based-Instruction Prize.[48] Oxford College also has a visiting scholar agreement with Oxford University in England, where a faculty member from each school exchanges places for at least one week and deliver public lectures at their host's location. Visiting professors in the past have included Jane Shaw and Tiffany Stern.[49]


Oxford College enrolled 947 students for the 2013–14 academic year, with an average class size of 21 students and a maximum class size of 50 students. 26 percent of the students enrolled are Asian/Pacific Islanders, 10 percent are African American, and 6 percent are Latino.[35] Students who apply to Emory University may choose to begin study for four semesters at Oxford College before automatically continuing to the School of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta. Oxford graduates may also choose to apply for admission to the Goizueta Business School or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.[50]

There were 7,425 applicants for the Oxford College class of 2016,[a] of whom 38 percent were ultimately accepted.[3] Oxford College maintains the same application as Emory College on the Common Application, and applicants merely have to select one box or both regarding which school they wish to apply to. In addition to regular decision, students may choose to apply via the restrictive Early Decision option to either Emory College or Oxford College, or both, but not to another school. All applicants are able to participate in the Oxford Scholars program, the highest tier of which offers a full academic merit scholarship for four semesters at Oxford and four semesters at Emory.[51] Admitted students had a 50th-percentile range (25th to 75th percentile) GPA of 3.5–3.92 and SAT scores ranging from 620–730 in critical reading, 630-740 in writing, and 630–730 in mathematics. Enrolled students for the class of 2016 came from 355 high schools and 71 percent came from outside of the state of Georgia.[3] 62 percent of undergraduates received an average financial aid package of $32,901 and a total of 242 students received academic merit scholarships.[52]

Student life[edit]

External photograph of two residence halls
Elizer and Murdy, a student residence hall which opened in 2008, is certified LEED Gold.

Residence Life[edit]

All students are required to live on campus for the entire duration of their time at Oxford. The administration justifies this policy as an aspect of their mission to encourage students to interact with each other and build a strong community.[53] Both freshmen and sophomores are housed in one of four residential halls scattered throughout campus: Haygood Hall, Jolley Residential Center, Fleming Hall, or Elizer and Murdy. These buildings range in occupancy size from 350 (Elizer and Murdy)[54] to 106 (Haygood).[55] Originally constructed in 1913, Haygood Hall is the oldest residential hall on campus, although it had to be rebuilt after a fire broke out in 1981.[56] All of the residence halls house study spaces, vending machines, kitchens, and laundry rooms.[56]

Students have a choice of two dining options for their meals, depending on the time of day: a cafeteria dining hall and a late night grill. The dining hall offers takeout options for students with classes scheduled during lunch.[57] Some of the food that are served at these two locations are sourced from the organic farm on campus.[46] In terms of recreation, Williams Gymnasium houses an indoor hybrid basketball, volleyball, and badminton court, an indoor track, indoor pool, weight room, and aerobic studio. There are also ten tennis courts and a regulation soccer field on campus. In addition, the nearby Fleming Woods hiking trails are commonly utilized by Oxford students.[38]


Social clubs[edit]

A church
The neighboring Oxford-affiliated United Methodist Church is one of the sources of religious life on campus.

Oxford is unique from many colleges in that it does not have traditional fraternities and sororities on campus. In their stead are "social clubs", and instead of pledging, students "tap in" to these clubs. Historically, some of these social clubs, whose members meet regularly at social functions, were determined by geography, such as the Florida Club, South Georgia Club, and Alabama Club.[58] Today, social clubs use the Greek alphabet system and mimic[b] the functions of fraternities and sororities.[59]

Student organizations[edit]

With the exception of the D.V.S. Senior Honor Society, which was founded in 1902 and remains active today,[60] student clubs at Oxford historically did not function reliably for long periods of time because the two-year structure of the school leads to high membership turnover. In order to counter this trend, the Leadership Oxford and ExCEL programs were designed in 1988 to help students enhance their leadership skills.[61]

As of 2012, there are over 50 registered student organizations which cover a variety of interests, including student government, intramural sports, arts, media and publications, music, political/activist, ethnic/cultural, religion, and others. Many of Oxford's student clubs participate in community service, including specifically volunteer-oriented clubs such as Volunteer Oxford, Bonner Leader Program and Circle K. Consequently, 92 percent of Oxford students participated in community service in 2012, contributing over 10,000 hours in one academic year.[62] Oxford College hours helped Emory University win the 2008 Presidential Award for General Community Service, an award given to higher education institutions for their commitment to community service, service-learning and civic engagement.[63]



Dooley, Oxford's skeleton mascot, sits on a wrecked car while surrounded by student bodyguards.
Dooley sits on a wrecked car in support of a student "car bash" fundraising event.

Lord Dooley, also known as the "Lord of Misrule" and the "Spirit of Emory", originated in Oxford and acts as Emory University's unofficial mascot.[64] Dooley, who borrows his first name and middle initial from the first and last name of the sitting president of Emory University, has two manifestations: one at Emory's Atlanta campus, and one at Oxford.[64] At both campuses, Dooley is represented by a student in a skeleton costume with a black cape, top hat, and white gloves, flanked on all sides by similarly dressed students acting as bodyguards. However, Oxford's Dooley differs from his more modern and lively counterpart at the Atlanta campus. Because Oxford was his original home, Dooley's appearances there try to symbolize his advanced age, with characteristics such as a crouched stance, slow walk, and his signature bent crane topped with a brown skull.[65] Additionally, his habit of making public appearances at Oxford by emerging out of a coffin differ from the conventions of his counterpart in the Atlanta campus.[66]

Dooley was first mentioned in an 1899 article that was printed in the school newspaper, Phoenix, titled "Reflections of a Skeleton". The article was purportedly written by a skeleton in a science lab who complained of his dull and silent existence observing the comings and goings of the students.[20] In 1901, the Dooley mythology resurfaced, this time in a second editorial where he claims to have been the son of a wealthy Virginia planter who fought in the Revolutionary War and later died of alcohol abuse.[64] In 1941, Dooley began appearing physically on campus, starting the tradition known as "Dooley's Week", when he gets free rein to let students out of classes.[64] Today, Dooley makes frequent appearances at social functions and other Oxford events, where he passes a message for a designated student to read to the student body.[66] These messages relate to events on campus, ranging from critical rebukes of misdeeds to praise for individual student accomplishments.[65]


Students at Oxford historically stole local farm animals and coaxed them into classrooms as pranks.[67] In the 1930s to 1950s, students began bringing larger four-legged farm animals to the upper floors of Seney Hall. The tradition culminated in 2008 when a group of unidentified students led a local zebra to the third floor of Seney and barricaded the windows, doors, and elevator.[68] The zebra was nicknamed "Barcode", and a stuffed zebra overlooks the quad in Seney Hall in memorial of the event.


A black and white photograph of eighteen male student members dressed in football gear
A yearbook photograph of Emory College's intramural football team in 1911

Although President Warren Candler was strongly against intercollegiate sports programs,[69] he started Emory's first intramural sports program in 1897.[70] During the rest of his term, students started intramural football, baseball, and gymnastic teams.[70] However, for most of history, Emory did not have an athletic mascot. In 1960, The Emory Wheel sports editor thought it was time to adopt a mascot, but the student body was not interested. Frustrated, he arbitrarily adopted the eagle as the mascot because "the name [was] simply applicable and [had] obvious decorative advantages." Soon thereafter, Oxford followed and adopted the eagle as the mascot.[71]

Today, Oxford's athletic teams are members of the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association and the National Junior College Athletic Association. Oxford College sponsors men's and women's soccer, men's basketball, men's and women's tennis, and men's and women's golf. The men's tennis team won back-to-back NJCAA III National Championships in 2006 and 2007 and a third in 2009, and the women's tennis team won National Championships in 2011. The women's soccer team reached the national finals in 2006.[4]

Notable alumni[edit]

Letter to Robert W. Woodruff's father

I do not think it advisable for him to return to college this term ... He has never learned to apply himself, which together with very frequent absences, makes it impossible for him to succeed as a student."

James E. Dickey, President of Emory College[72]

In popular culture[edit]

Oxford College and its facilities have served as sets for several movies and television shows. Notably, it is featured in the first episode of the television series The Dukes of Hazzard, when General Lee jumped 81 feet in front of Seney Hall. This scene remained in the opening credits for the rest of the series. This stunt was recreated by MTV for its series Your Movie Show in July 2005 on the release of The Dukes of Hazzard movie.[81] In addition, the television show In the Heat of the Night also filmed some scenes on campus and in the town of Oxford. Scenes from the television show The Vampire Diaries were shot in the school's library, quad, and theatre in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Thereafter, the school served as the on-location college set for the show's fictional Whitmore College.[82] Additionally, a yet unreleased installment of the National Lampoon's Vacation series, titled Vacation, filmed scenes on campus.[83]

Oxford College hosted the southern premiere of 8, a verbatim theatre re-enactment by Dustin Lance Black, on March 1, 2012. The play chronicles the district court proceedings of Perry v. Schwarzenegger.[84][85]


a Oxford is a two-year program, so the class of 2016 is also part of Emory University's class of 2018.
b One such difference between social clubs and fraternities or sororities is that social clubs can be co-ed.


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  • The Emory Traditions, Legacy, and Lore. Atlanta: Emory University. 2007. 
  • The Emory Campus (1912). Emory College Yearbook. 1912. 
  • Bullock, Henry M. (1936). A History of Emory University. Atlanta: Parthenon Press. 
  • Buck, Polly S. (1986). The Blessed Town: Oxford, Georgia, at the Turn of the Century. Chapel Hill: Algonquin. ISBN 0-912697-38-5. 
  • Carlton, Wilbur A. (1962). In Memory of Old Emory. Atlanta: Emory University. 
  • English, Thomas H. (1966). Emory University 1915–1965: A Semicentennial History. Atlanta: Emory University. 
  • Horsfall, F L (1965). "Thomas Milton Rivers, September 3, 1888-May 12, 1962". Biographical memoirs. National Academy of Sciences (U.S.). 38: 263–94. PMID 11615452. 
  • Leete, Frederick D. (1948). Methodist Bishops. Nashville: The Methodist Publishing House. 
  • Moon, Joseph C. (2003). An Uncommon Place: Oxford College of Emory University, 1914–2000. Atlanta: Bookhouse Group. 
  • Pendergrast, Mark (2000). For God, Country, and Coca-Cola. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05468-4. 

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