When Spring Creek Normal School opened in 1880, it offered English courses such as Grammar and analysis, Composition, and Literature. English played a large role in every department. The College’s original three departments, Normal, Scientific, and Classical, all involved English courses of some kind in their required coursework.
Bridgewater College, while it was still the Virginia Normal School, introduced the Bachelor of English in 1884. At that time, the Bachelor of English was awarded at the end of a two-year program. The first three graduates of Bridgewater College (1886) all received the Bachelor of English. The Bachelor of English was discontinued in 1915, but from 1892-1910, 89 Bachelor of English degrees were awarded to graduating students.
Starting In 1938, students were required to choose a major for their junior and senior years. During Dr. Paul Haynes Bowman’s presidency (1919-46), the number of English courses offered doubled. Later, from 1949-64, the number grew from 31 credit hours offered per year to 63.
Literary societies have also been important parts of Bridgewater College’s history and strong representations of its English Department. The first to form was the Elite Literary Society in 1883. They met to discuss essays and give speeches and orations. Literary societies continued to be valued during Walter Bowman Yount’s presidency (1892-1910) and continued to emphasize the importance of reading, essays, orations, and other related activities. One of the literary societies during this time, the Philomatheans, split off into two separate groups (due to growing too large as a society), the Victorian Society and the Virginia-Lee Society. These two societies sponsored the Philomathean Monthly from 1897-1925, and the newspaper The B.C. Bee from 1925-34. The Philomathean Monthly allowed Bridgewater students to explore journalism and garner more interest in literature. Reflections, a literary magazine, ran from 1963-1973. The Talon replaced The B.C. Bee as the student newspaper in 1968.
Some notable early professors involved with the English Department included William P. Albright (1967-91), Alice Brumbaugh Dove (1925-27, 1931-40, 1943-47), Russel L. Dunlap (1964-77), John S. Flory (1894-1902, 1905-46), Clarence E. May (1946- 1968), John W. Wayland (1896-1900, 1901-3, 1905-6), and David O. Winfrey (1958-67). Dr. John S. Flory was recognized as the main professor of English until 1946.
By Meghann Burgess, Special Collections Intern, 2021