Rust College

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Coordinates: 34°46′29″N 89°26′54″W / 34.774746°N 89.44829°W / 34.774746; -89.44829

Rust College
Seal of Rust College
Former names
Shaw University
Rust University
Motto By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them
Type Private, HBCU
Established 1866
Affiliation United Methodist Church
President David L. Beckley
Students 700 to 900 (fluctuates from module to module)
Location Holly Springs, Mississippi,
United States
Nickname Bearcats

Rust College is a historically black liberal arts college located in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Located approximately 35 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee, it is the second-oldest private college in the state. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, it is one of ten historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) founded before 1868 that is still operating.


One of the oldest colleges for African Americans in the United States, Rust was founded on November 24, 1866 by Northern missionaries with a group called the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1870, the college was chartered as Shaw University in 1870, honoring the Reverend S. O. Shaw, who made a gift of $10,000 to the institution which, adjusted for inflation, is the equivalent of approximately $190,000 in 2017. In 1892, to avoid confusion with Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., the institution changed its name to Rust University—a tribute to Rev. Richard S. Rust of Cincinnati, Ohio, the secretary of the Freedman's Aid Society. In 1915, the institution assumed the name Rust College.[1] Rust College is the oldest of the 11 historically black colleges and universities associated with The United Methodist Church, the second oldest private college in Mississippi.[2]


Rust College.JPG

Rust College maintains five divisions or departments of study: Division of Education, Division of Humanities, Division of Science and Mathematics, Division of Social Sciences, and the Division of Business. Degree programs are offered in sixteen areas of study. Upon completion of their studies at Rust, students can receive Associate's degrees or Bachelor's degrees. Rust accepts only 16% of its applicants, but the U.S. News & World Report America's Best Colleges 2017 guide refers to it as "less selective." U.S. News & World Report in the 2017 guide ranked Rust #52 in Regional Colleges South.[3]

According to the Princeton Review, the most popular majors at Rust are biology, general studies, business administration, and computer science.[4]

Rust College operates on what is called a module system, which is an 8-week semester class system that allows the college to constantly enroll a steady stream of transfer students every 8 weeks.

Most classes have between 10–19 students. According to the college, 42% of all faculty have obtained a PhD. There are 42 faculty members and a student/faculty ratio of 20:1. According to the college, 57% of students return for their sophomore year.[citation needed]

Rust College was involved in a lawsuit after a student was sexually assaulted by Sylvester Oliver, who was fired from his administrative position of Humanities Division Chair in October 2012. The lawsuit has been brought to court by the Cochran Firm of Memphis [5] which contends that "The lawsuit that was filed against Rust College and Dr. Sylvester Oliver August 28, 2013 alleges that Rust College fosters an environment that allows the sexual abuse of students and also allows perpetrators to get away with the abuse." At least 8 women victims of rape and other sexual misconduct are plaintiffs in the complaint against Rust College, Sylvester Oliver, Johnny McDonald who was the college's head of Enrollment Services before leaving in 2013, and David Beckley the current president. In November 2014, Sylvester Oliver plead guilty to sexual assault, but a Marshall County prosecutor recommended he receive a 15-year suspended sentence.[6] The lawsuit was settled with the details undisclosed; in 2015 a federal judge dismissed the suit against the university.[7]


Rust College occupies approximately 126 acres (51 ha). Some buildings on campus were erected in the mid-1800s, such as the alumni and public relations center, while others were recently built, such as the Hamilton Science Center, a three-story addition to the McDonald Science Building. In 2008, Rust College acquired the campus of the former Mississippi Industrial College, located adjacent to the campus. The college is not using the buildings but plans to raise funds to restore them.[8] In 2011, the college acquired Airliewood, an antebellum former slave plantation estate located near Rust College campus. Built in 1858, Airliewood served as living quarters for Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War, and currently serves as the official residence of the President.[9] There are five gender-segregated dorms, with about 900 spaces. Two historic markers honoring the Council of Federated Organizations and those involved in the 1964 Freedom Summer Project in Holly Springs were unveiled on campus in 2014.[10]

Under the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, Rust College reports the on-campus crime statistics to the United States Department of Education and publish the numbers on the Department's website.[citation needed]


The Rust teams are known as the Bearcats. The college became a member of the NAIA athletic association in 2017 after formerly competing on the NCAA Division III level. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, tennis, track & field and volleyball; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.

In 1984, the women's basketball team won their first national championship with a 51-49 win over Elizabethtown College.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

  • WURC Rust College's public radio station


  1. ^ Bay, Mia (2009). To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0-8090-9529-2. 
  2. ^ Hill, Levirn (1994). Black American Colleges and Universities: Profiles of Two-Year, Four-Year, & Professional Schools. Gale Group. ISBN 0-02-864984-2. 
  3. ^ "Rust College - Profile, Rankings and Data". U.S. News & World Report L.P. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Princeton Review: Rust College". Retrieved 2006-04-14. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Former Rust College professor sentenced for raping student". 17 November 2014. Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  7. ^ "WTVA News". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  8. ^ "Rust College buys land across street". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  9. ^ "Rust College - Where Tomorrow's Leaders Are Students Today". Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2016-05-17. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Robinson, Marco Tyrone, “‘By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them’: Civil Rights Activism at Rust College and in Marshall Country, 1957–1964” (PhD dissertation, University of Mississippi, 2010). DA3447108.

External links[edit]