From Farm School To Progressive Education - TribPapers

From Farm School To Progressive Education

Photo by Clint Parker.

Swannanoa – The marker reads: “Founded in 1894 by the Presbyterian Church as Asheville Farm School. A four-year college since 1966. 1 1/2 mi. E.” Its location is on the side of US 70 at Warren Wilson Road, west of Swannanoa.

Of course, the sign is talking about Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa Valley. However, it started out, according to the history sketch, as Asheville Farm School, the predecessor “of Warren Wilson College, “was established as a mission school by the Northern Branch of the Presbyterian Church. The site selected was a 420-acre farm in the Swannanoa Valley, about ten miles east of Asheville. By combining farm work with education, the school, which opened on November 30, 1894, aimed to provide new opportunities for young men in the mountains.”

The sketch goes on to say, “The most significant change in the school’s development came in 1942 when the Asheville Farm School combined with the Dorland-Bell School, a Presbyterian institution for young women in Hot Springs. Junior college classes were added and the new school was named for Warren H. Wilson, former Secretary of Rural Church Work for the church’s Board of National Missions. Arthur M. Bannerman served as Warren Wilson College president from 1942 to 1971.” Also, lower grades were slowly dropped, with the last high school class graduating in 1957.

“In 1966, Warren Wilson became an accredited, four-year, liberal arts college offering the bachelor of arts degree. In 1973, the school’s ties with the Presbyterian Board of National Missions were severed. Presently, the school receives support from foundations and individual churches and operates under an independent board of trustees,” the sketch goes on to say.

As a beacon of progressive education and sustainable living, the heart of Warren Wilson’s educational philosophy is its unique triad model, which integrates academics, work, and service. Students engage in rigorous academic coursework while participating in on-campus work experiences and contributing to community service projects. This holistic approach to education fosters personal growth, critical thinking skills, and a deep sense of social responsibility.

One of Warren Wilson’s defining features is its Work Program, which requires all students to work a minimum of 15 hours per week in various campus departments and community organizations. Through this hands-on work experience, students develop valuable skills, cultivate a strong work ethic, and gain a deeper understanding of the connection between labor and learning.

In addition to its academic rigor and commitment to service, Warren Wilson College is also identified for its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. The college boasts a 1,135-acre campus that includes a working farm, forests, and wetlands, providing ample opportunities for hands-on learning and research in sustainable agriculture, conservation, and environmental studies.

Warren Wilson’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond campus borders through initiatives such as the Environmental Leadership Center and the Center for Sustainable Agriculture. These programs engage students, faculty, and community members in efforts to promote environmental awareness, advocate for social justice, and create positive change in the world.

Beyond its academic and extracurricular offerings, Warren Wilson College fosters a tight-knit and inclusive community where students from diverse backgrounds come together to learn, grow, and make a difference. With a student-faculty ratio of 10:1 and an emphasis on collaboration and dialogue, Warren Wilson provides a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment where students are empowered to explore their passions and pursue their goals.

Warren Wilson plays a vital role in the local community and beyond, serving as a hub of intellectual inquiry, cultural exchange, and social activism. With its rich history, commitment to service, and focus on sustainability, Warren Wilson College continues to inspire and educate the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and changemakers.