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Women’s History Month: Denmark Was a Pioneering President

March 15, 2022
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Dr. Annie Dove Denmark, pictured with two students, led Anderson during a time in history when opportunities were limited to women.

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When looking back on more than a century of Anderson University history, one of the most prominent individuals would have to be Dr. Annie Dove Denmark.

Dr. Denmark came to Anderson in 1917 as an instructor of piano and harmony. She also took courses here, graduating in 1925. Dr. Denmark served as dean of women from 1925 until 1928.

In 1928, Anderson selected Dr. Denmark from its own faculty. She went on to be the longest serving president to date (1928-1953). More significantly, Dr. Denmark was the first female college president in South Carolina. She served during a time when opportunities were severely limited to women. 

Assuming Anderson’s presidency just before the Great Depression, Dr. Denmark became confronted with a mountain of debt that threatened the institution’s existence, but her tenacity and creativity saw Anderson through crisis times. 

During a meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Dr. Denmark brought in a wheelbarrow and urged messengers to fill it as a show of support. By the late 1930s, she had the school debt-free and on a more solid financial footing. Under her leadership, Anderson became a co-educational institution. 

Dr. Denmark was a much sought-after speaker in pulpits and community organizations. She also served as president of the Southern Association of Colleges for Women and was vice president of the Baptist State Convention. In 1932 she authored White Echoes, a collection of sermons by Dr. John E. White.

Part of Dr. Denmark’s legacy is establishing Founders Day, an annual observance started in 1929 celebrating the anniversary of Anderson University’s original charter, issued Feb. 14, 1911. Another part of her legacy is the honorary Denmark Society. Since 1944, outstanding graduates have been inducted into this select group. Denmark Hall, a female residence hall adjacent to Merritt Administration Building, is named for her and is where she lived in an apartment. She was selected for membership in the Anderson County Hall of Fame at the Anderson County Museum in 2004. 

In her hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Dr. Denmark went home to be with the Lord January 16, 1974.

Her life is written about in the book, Dr. Annie Dove Denmark, South Carolina’s first female college president, by Kathryn Copeland. The book is available for checkout from the Thrift Library at Anderson University and for sale through major online booksellers.


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