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In 1913 Miss Emily Dick filled in for her sister, who taught a Sunday school class in one of the mill villages in Columbia, S.C. She became concerned for the spiritual and material needs of the workers and their families, so she attended Moody Bible Institute for more training in the Bible. After her return, she realized that a local Bible institute was needed to train those who wanted more Bible education.
In 1918, Mrs. T. Hal Dick, Margaret Childs, Miss Pamela Moore, Mrs. Elizabeth Tarant and Mrs. Pearl Stone joined Emily in praying for a Bible school. Mary Dibble later joined this band of "praying women" as they looked to John 15:7. One of the first things they prayed for was a man of God who would lead the new work.
Robert C. McQuilkin had his own dreams of becoming a missionary sink to the bottom of the New York harbor, when the ship he booked passage on burned at anchor. The Lord used this incident to re-direct McQuilkin's plans, and he soon joined up with Charles Trumbull and the influential Sunday School Times. Through the mentoring of Trumball, Mr. McQuilkin began to experience the victorious Christian life and began teaching this message throughout the East Coast.
In 1921, after returning to speak in Columbia for the third time, he was asked to become the dean of a new "Bible institute" that was coming together. After several months of prayer he wrote an acceptance letter to the president of the board and commented excitedly, "What a mighty power for missions and for soul-winning evangelism the school may be!"
In the fall of 1922, the school offered some classes in a room rented on Gervais Street and at the YMCA, but nothing formal. During that time, Mr. McQuilkin recommended that the school's name be changed to Columbia Bible School. Thus, it was in the fall of 1923 that Columbia Bible School officially began. Two rooms in the Colonia Hotel were rented for office space and a classroom, and the large sun room was used for the popular Friday evening classes that were open to the public.
Mr. McQuilkin was the only teacher at that time, and since he was still speaking in conferences part time, he chose to serve without pay. Even when the first faculty and staff came in the following years, their pay was only $100 a month, and even that would have to be pro-rated if there were insufficient funds in the treasury. The students at that time were not charged any tuition and room and board averaged $7.50 a week.
1. To train for Christian service at home and on the foreign mission field young men and women who are not able to take the more extended Seminary courses
2. To help any Christians who wish to gain a better knowledge of the Bible, to the end that they may have God's power for Christian living and service.
3. To win souls and to teach Christians the secret of "walking in the Spirit."
In 1929, the school began offering four year bachelor's degrees, and changed its name to Columbia Bible College. It began offering graduate degrees in 1936.
Robert C. McQuilkin remained president until his death in 1952. He was succeeded by G. Allen Fleece who led the school until 1966, including the move from the downtown campus to the school's present location in north Columbia in 1960. After his resignation, James M. "Buck" Hatch served as acting president until the new president was appointed.
Columbia's third president, J. Robertson McQuilkin, the son of the first president, served from 1968-1990. Dr. Terry C. Hulbert served as interim president during the 1990-91 school year while the trustees conducted a search for President McQuilkin's successor.
In February 1991, Dr. Johnny V. Miller began serving as the fourth president of what was then called Columbia Bible College & Seminary, and he remained until 1999. Executive Vice President John Davidson was named as the interim president.
In 2000, Dr. George W. Murray was named the University's fifth president, coming to CIU from The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), where he served as executive director.
On July 1, 2007, Dr. William H. Jones became the sixth president of Columbia International University. Dr. Jones, a summa cum laude graduate from Georgia Institute of Technology, holds doctorates from both the CIU Seminary & School of Ministry and Gordon Conwell Seminary. He is also the co-founder of Crossover Communications International, a missions agency headquartered in Columbia. Jones has been a member of the faculty at CIU since 1990.
Three former CIU presidents are still involved with the university. Dr. George Murray serves as chancellor and focuses on donor relations, Robertson McQuilkin serves as president emeritus, and Dr. Johnny Miller serves as a professor in CIU Seminary & School of Ministry.
More than 17,000 alumni of Columbia International University serve in nearly 150 countries.