In 1857, the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina sought to establish a school for females. Largely due to the donations of William Peace, the institution became a reality. Peace was a staunch Presbyterian supporter as well as Raleigh’s town commissioner during the construction of the Governor’s Mansion in 1816. With a donation of $10,000 and eight acres of land, Peace allowed for the creation of the institute that later bore his name, Peace College.
The outbreak of the Civil War halted construction plans at Peace College. The Main Building at Peace was used as a Confederate hospital, while the Freedmen’s Bureau operated out of the building after the war. The Presbyterian Church renovated the Main Building in the early 1870s, and Peace Institute opened to incoming female students in 1872.
Peace Institute pioneered higher education for females, especially in offering a variety of programs to its students. The first school of art and painting in the South was established at Peace in 1875. In the 1880s, the institution offered the area’s first cooking school as well as the first kindergarten in North Carolina. At the end of the nineteenth century, Peace Institution had programs for women to earn their whole education at Peace, from kindergarten to college-level courses.
Local Presbyterians composed the board of trustees of Peace in the early twentieth century. During this time, the name of the school was changed to Peace College in 1943. In addition, Peace started programs for females who wished to finish their last two years of high school and their first two years of college in the early 1940s. Soon, the institution transitioned into a junior college in the late 1960s, and several buildings were built across campus from 1963 until 1974.
By 1995, Peace College became a four-year college, and in 1997 the college’s first students had earned bachelor degrees. Although Peace has maintained a strong connection to the Presbyterian Church, the institution is independent and open to students of all denominations. In addition, Peace College has remained an exclusive institution for females, and its well-renowed liberal arts and science programs draw numerous students from around the nation and globe. Enrollment remains consistent at about 700 students annually, and Peace College offers ten majors, along with a teacher education program.
“Peace College.” William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“Peace College.” North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program website. A Division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (accessed February 16, 2012).
“About Peace College – History.” Peace College website. //www.peace.edu/content/page/id/174, (accessed February 16, 2012).