History of Warren Wilson, 1942-Present

Warren Wilson College

After graduating its final high school class in 1957, Warren Wilson remained a junior college until 1967, when it became a senior liberal arts college offering a bachelor's degree. The first seniors in the four-year program were graduated in 1969. Four years later, the College officially separated from Presbyterian Board of National Missions and became an independent college guided by a board of trustees.


An international and cross-cultural emphasis is a major part of the history and heritage of the College. Faculty, staff, and administrators have sought to advance intercultural understanding since the 1920s, when Cuban students enrolled in the Asheville Farm School. The College admitted a boy in 1939 whose parents had fled Nazi Germany, and perhaps even more remarkably, enrolled two Japanese-American students in 1942, after the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1952 -- two years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision began to slowly integrate schools in the old South -- the College admitted its first African-American student, Alma Shippy of Swannanoa. Today the College enrolls students from many nations, and through its international program offers all students study, internship, and service opportunities across the globe.  Set within one of the most biodiverse regions in North America, Warren Wilson has an environmental ethic anchored in the early history of its land and promised in its mission. Students, faculty and staff honor these traditions and, through the College's Triad, apply formal commitments to sustainability in their work, service, and academics. Warren Wilson was one of the first institutions in the nation, in the 1970s, to pioneer an environmental studies major.  


Warren Wilson College has come far in the past 30 years as an independent four-year school. As enrollment has steadily increased to about 900 students, the curriculum has greatly expanded. Students can now choose from more than 20 majors, several dozen minors, and honors and pre-professional programs. Although the College has remained primarily an undergraduate institution, in 1981 it added a graduate program, the MFA Program for Writers that has become nationally acclaimed with many award-winning faculty and alumni. 


The College's recent past also has been distinguished by the forging of numerous partnerships with the broader community. Partners include Buncombe County Schools and, on the edge of campus, North Carolina Outward Bound School and the Mountain Area Child and Family Center. In 1996 the College and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians became official partners in the Cherokee Archaeology Field School on campus near the Swannanoa River. More recently, Warren Wilson and the City of Asheville signed an agreement stating their intent to work together toward climate partnership goals.