The institution that is now William Carey University had its earliest origins in Poplarville, Mississippi, when the noted educator W. I. Thames opened Pearl River Boarding School in 1892. As did many institutions of its day, Pearl River Boarding School offered “elementary, preparatory, and some college work.” A disastrous fire destroyed the school in 1905, and Professor Thames moved to Hattiesburg where, with the backing of a group of New Orleans businessmen, he opened South Mississippi College in 1906. After a fire destroyed this campus, W.S.F. Tatum acquired the property and in 1911, opened the school as Mississippi Woman’s College. In 1954, the Board of Trustees, changed its name to William Carey College when the college became coeducational. The school is named for the 18th century English cobbler-linguist whose decades of missionary activity in India earned him international recognition as the “Father of Modern Protestant Missions.” William Carey D.D. (1761-1834.)
In 1939, the school, which was then called the Mississippi Woman’s College, took third place in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, and it remains the only women’s college to ever place in that competition.
In 1968 William Carey entered a new era when it announced a merger with the Mather School of Nursing in New Orleans.
In 1976, the college purchased the Gulf Coast Military Academy campus in Gulfport. The beachfront property was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and classes were held in other facilities until the William Carey University-Tradition Campus opened in August 2009. Located off Highway 67 in Biloxi, it is the center of the 4,800-acre Tradition Planned Community.
On August 14, 2006, William Carey University celebrated its Centennial. This day also marked the transition of William Carey College to William Carey University.
The 2016-2017 academic year began with William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (WCUCOM) implementing multiple improvements and William Carey University (WCU) enjoying growth. WCUCOM had expanded our faculty. We had enjoyed continued success of the William Carey University Master of Biomedical Science (WCUMBS) program. Steadfast research with HiRO, the medical drone, had begun gaining more national attention, along with multiple other research projects. We were continuing to build a successful and dedicated team to help us attain our goal of becoming the best medical school of our type in the country. While the challenges faced by the dean of an osteopathic medical school may often include curriculum decisions, hiring tasks, student recruitment, and resource allocation, crisis management is somewhat of a less-common function. Crisis management is well executed with swift action, prior strategic planning, and a cohesive team. Just such a team was tasked with a calm, coordinated, and controlled response on the morning of January 21, 2017, when Hattiesburg awoke to find that the WCU campus had sustained $80 million in damages over a 15-minute period of time, as a devastating tornado barreled across Hattiesburg and directly through our campus. The team, composed of administration, faculty, staff, and students, along with many volunteers, banded together to salvage and relocate an entire medical school in a matter of 5 days. This was only accomplished with the help of Dr. Rodney Bennett, President of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and the immeasurable support of the entire USM team as well as the support of local healthcare systems Forrest Health and Merit Health Wesley. Many people believed this to be an unattainable scenario. At no time did I have a doubt that WCUCOM would remain operational and excel. On June 12, 2017, after 4-and-a-half months of refuge at USM, and along with the commitment of the WCU Board of Trustees to reestablish and rebuild WCUCOM, we were able to move our medical school a second time. We are proud that this second move was back to our home campus. As the leader of this great organization, I have always known that a medical school was not merely bricks and mortar, but must have a heart of people devoted to education, caring, and relentless support of its mission. Today, I have proof that this is true. To all those who have supported us through work, financial contributions, and encouragement, I want to assure you that WCUCOM is grateful to each of you individually. I want to welcome the class of 2021 into our family. The tradition of excellence set by the students who came before should be an inspirational goal to each of you.