Truth, Beauty and Goodness since 1851


oday Carson-Newman continues a mission that has been faithfully carried out through generations of the university community for almost 170 years. 

Where the History Began

In the early 1840s, a number of Baptist leaders in East Tennessee desired to offer better prepared ministers to area congregations. The East Tennessee Baptist Educational Society, which was comprised of two groups with a common interest, applied in 1850 for a charter to establish an institution of higher learning. Afforded the use of a local church building, Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary opened to students in the fall of 1851. The Tennessee Legislature granted the school’s charter in December of that year.

As noted in their founding documents, the founders possessed a twofold intent: “to promote education in general, and among the ministry in particular.” Over time, that ideal has become the institution’s DNA of Christian service as evidenced in student volunteers as well as in the lives of alumni. The institution produced its first graduate, Richard Scruggs, in 1855. Manifesting the ideal of “education in general,” Scruggs went on to become a physician. The following year, the second graduating class reaffirmed the school’s mission by producing a lawyer and a minister, in that order.

Changes over Time

The 1889 merger of men’s and women’s institutions made Carson-Newman an early entrant in coeducation in the region. Throughout its history, the institution has instilled a deep commitment to service in its students. The fruits of its labor — its alumni — have filled schoolrooms, courthouses, hospitals, boardrooms, pulpits and mission fields the world over in spreading the lessons of Carson-Newman’s motto of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.