Sue Bennett College
Sue Bennett College has an active alumni association which maintains a web site containing news, photos and contacts for information about the former school. In addition, the Laurel County Public Library has a digital collection of all Sue Bennett yearbooks since 1962. So into the foreseeable future the college will remain a live presence for former students and all those who knew of its existence.
Sue Bennett Memorial School was established in 1897 by Belle Harris Bennett, a leader of Methodist Home Ministries. Bennett, also the founder of Scarritt College in Nashville, named the school in honor of her deceased sister, also an educator. Founded in London, KY, it began as a school to educate mountain children in all grades. During its years of existence, the school underwent a number of transformations—a commercial school, a county high school, a normal school, and a junior college. In 1930 the name was changed to Sue Bennett College; in 1994 it became a four-year liberal arts college. In financial difficulties, Sue Bennett College lost accreditation in September 1997 and closed at the end of the fall semester. According to its historical marker, it educated more than 11,000 students in its 101-year existence.
The 1962 Acropolis shows an enrollment of around 160 students in two classes. While the college sponsored chorus, drama and folk dance, much of the social life at S.B.C. came from religious, academic, and service organizations. It had chapters of the Student Christian Association and Methodist Student Fellowship as well as the Circle K. Academic organizations included Student Education Association, Business Club, Science Club, International Relations Club, and Foreign Language Club. The largest social events on the calendar were the Mountain Laurel Festival and Homecoming.
The 1994 Acropolis shows an enrollment of around 400 in four classes. Human services, nursing and business administration had the largest groups of majors.
Bricks and Mortar
The campus of Sue Bennett College was owned by the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and was returned to them when the college closed. The college Administration Building was placed on the National Register in 1979, and other “College Historic Buildings” were added to the register in 1980. Union College, Red Bird Missionary Board and United Methodist Global Ministries oversee the campus. The Administration Building—now the Bennett Center—is used to incubate non-profit groups working to address community needs. Campus buildings house other non-profit agencies such as Goodwill Industries, an adult literacy program, early childhood and the Y.M.C.A.
Other central buildings were Belle Bennett Hall, which today houses the community playhouse, and Helm Hall, reportedly haunted.
Downs Hall, now the Bennett Center https://www.cardcow.com/426619/downs-hall-sue-bennett-college-london-kentucky/
Team name: Dragons
Colors: Green and White
Sue Bennett College played football at two stretches in the school’s history. In 1928-31 the Dragons posted a 5-21-1 record. In 1993 when SBC became a four-year-school, football again returned to campus. In the school’s last four years, teams went 0-35-1. The 1996 team played an 11-game schedule against teams from Kentucky and surrounding states. The Dragons lost to Cumberland (KY), Campbellsville (KY), North Greenville (SC), Blufton (OH), Kentucky Wesleyan, Walsh (OH), Mount Saint Joseph (IN), Newport News Apprentice School (VA), Virginia-Wise, Frostburg (MD), and Salisbury St (MD).
Basketball was S.B.C.’s only intercollegiate sport for a number of years. The 1962 Acropolis shows a men’s team (with women serving as cheerleaders). In 1977 the school fielded women’s basketball for the first time since the early 1900’s. By the time the school closed, it had a 12-member coaching staff with women’s teams in volleyball, basketball and softball and men’s teams in football, soccer, basketball and baseball—and women cheerleaders.
Top is an early Sue Bennett College basketball team. Below is the 1977 team when women's basketball returned. (Photos from the 1996 and 1977 issues of the Acropolis, Courtesy of Laurel County Public Library)
1996 Football Dragons. (Photo courtesy of Tim Smyrl, who played on the team).