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Shaw University Brief History

Shaw University, located in Raleigh, North Carolina is the first historically Black institution of higher education in the South and among the oldest in the nation.  The University was founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper, a native of Monson, Massachusetts, a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War, and a graduate of Amherst College and Newton Theological Seminary.

Shaw boasts many “firsts”: the first college in the nation to offer a four-year medical program, the first historically Black college in the nation to open its doors to women, and the first historically Black college in North Carolina to be granted an “A” rating by the State Department of Public Instruction. Dr. Paulette Dillard currently serves as the University's 18th President.

Shaw’s history of leadership, activism and service is well documented. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was established on Shaw’s campus in 1960.  In 1976, a task force was appointed to develop plans for what is now known as the Adult Degree Program, and beginning in 1980, eight extramural locations were established in addition to a Raleigh main campus site. Since 1994, more than 4,000 students have graduated from the program.

In 1993, the University made courses in ethics and values central to the general education that all of its students receive in order to emphasize its commitment to the inculcation of high personal standards and citizenship.  In 1997, research was conducted by the University to determine why Black World War II veterans were excluded from receiving the top military award. Ten soldiers were recommended to the Pentagon to receive the Medal of Honor as a result of this study, and ultimately seven of the candidates were awarded the prestigious medal.  

In 2009, the University’s Institute for Health, Social, and Community Research was awarded a $4.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health - National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) to implement The Shaw NCMHD Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) Project.   

On April 16, 2011 a tornado made a direct hit on the campus, causing severe damage to the University’s student center and residence halls. Remarkably, just three weeks later, more than 350 students participated in the University’s commencement exercises. On August 6, 2011 the University re-opened its doors and welcomed the class of 2015. The following year, on March 24, 2012, Shaw’s women basketball team won its first NCAA Division II national championship by beating Ashland 88-82 in overtime. The Lady Bears’ title is the first national championship in school history.

Shaw's students, faculty, staff and alumni contributed $133 million to Wake County's economy in 2013 and in 2014 the Shaw Divinity School received a $500,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation. At the start of the 2015-2016 academic year, the North Carolina General Assembly honored Shaw with both a Senatorial and House of Representative statement recognizing the University’s contributions during its 150th Anniversary.

Shaw continues to produce outstanding professionals who contribute to the advancement of American society. Shaw graduates include several college presidents, a number of academic vice presidents, judges, lawyers, recording artists, school principals, pastors, teachers of the year, a president of the United Nations General Assembly, and other notable persons. In addition, the founder of North Carolina Central University and the first presidents of Elizabeth City State and North Carolina A&T Universities were all Shaw graduates. The third president of Fayetteville State University was also a Shaw graduate.