Clayton State University
approaching 40th birthday

By Curt Yeomans


There is an old saying which goes, "Lordy. Lordy. Look who's 40!"

The official anniversary is still months away, but Clayton State University will celebrate four decades of offering a college education to the Southern Crescent.

The university, originally called Clayton Junior College, opened its doors to 942 students on Sept. 30, 1969. As CSU approaches its 40th birthday, it has grown into a four-year institution, which offers bachelor's and master's degrees. It has roughly 6,000 students.

"It's happened way too fast, if you ask me," said Tom Barnett, Clayton State's senior faculty member, who began teaching at the school in 1971. "It feels like it's gone by in the blink of an eye."

When Clayton State University was still Clayton Junior College, the school focused on providing students with the classes they needed to take during their first two years of college, such as composition, political science, history, and college algebra, said Barnett. The school also had only five buildings, mostly located in what is now referred to as the university quad.

Clayton State's lifetime can be broken up into three parts. Each of these periods corresponds to one of the three men who have held the distinction of being the school's president.

Harry S. Downs was named Clayton State's first president in February 1969, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1994. He oversaw not only the establishment of Clayton State, but also many of the events which are listed as milestones on the university's web site.

Included in these events was the accreditation of the school by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1971; it's development into a four-year institution, and subsequent name change to Clayton State College in 1986; the establishment of the athletic department in 1990, and the opening of Spivey Hall in 1991 with a performance by violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Richard A. Skinner succeeded Downs as the university's second president, until he left in 1999. During Skinner's tenure, Clayton State obtained university status; joined the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II ranks, and implemented a program which offers laptop computers to all of the school's students.

Thomas K. Harden became Clayton State's third president in 2000. Harden still holds the position, but he will not be present for the celebration of the 40th anniversary. He has resigned, effective June 1, to take a similar post at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Under Harden's watch, Clayton State has been named the Southeast's most diverse baccalaureate college six times by U.S. News and World Report; the school's first six master's degrees have been approved by the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents; the first graduate degree has been conferred on a student; the university's first on-campus student housing facility has been built, and enrollment topped 6,000 students for the first time in school history.

As CSU approaches its 40th birthday, there is still the future to consider. This begs the question of what the next 40 years will bring. Harden said he believes it will mirror the first four decades, because of the expansion of Clayton State's curriculum and the addition of graduate-level degrees.

"It's going to get bigger," he said. "Over the last few years, we've been trying to position the university to accommodate that growth. We're in the process now of looking at where the university ought to go in the future."

University Spokesman John Shiffert said school officials are still in the organizing-and-planning stage for events to commemorate the anniversary.

Highlights of Clayton State History

According to a timeline of the university's history, featured on the school's web site, the following events represent some of the milestones for Clayton State:

February 1969 Harry S. Downs named Clayton Junior College's first president.

Sept. 30, 1969 Classes opened with 942 students.

January 1971 College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

July 1, 1986 College became a four-year institution. Name changed to Clayton State College.

November 1990 Clayton State entered into intercollegiate athletic competition with establishment of the men's basketball team.

January 1994 Richard A. Skinner named Clayton State's second president.

Spring 1995 Clayton State joined NCAA Division II and the Peach Belt Conference.

November 1996 Board of Regents authorized change to university status and name change to Clayton College & State University.

January 1998 Distribution of notebook computers to all students completed as part of the Information Technology Project. As a result, all students are required to have access to the internet.

June 1, 2000 Thomas K. Harden became Clayton State's third president.

November 2004 Clayton State announced the launch of two new satellite centers, in Henry County at Locust Grove, and in Fayette County in Fayetteville.

May 18, 2005 Name changed to Clayton State University.

August 2005 Enrollment topped 6,000 for the first time.

Nov. 16, 2005 The board of regents approved the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree -- Clayton State's first graduate degree.

Dec. 4, 2007 Clayton State dedicated Clayton State University - Fayette facility in Peachtree City.

August-October 2008 Clayton State dedicated Laker Hall, the university's first on-campus student housing facility; the Student Activity Center, and a new School of Business building.

Dec. 11, 2008 Clayton State awarded its first master's degree.


On the net:

Clayton State University: http://www.clayton.edu/