In December of 1822, a group of citizens from Athens, Alabama, had a vision for an institute of higher learning to serve the educational needs of the women in the community. After five acres of land was purchased and a single building was built, Athens Female Academy was born and the storied history that would eventually lead to the creation of Athens State University began.
In 1842, ownership of the school was transferred to the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church. With the switch, Athens Female Academy became Athens Female Institute. This name remained throughout the conflict of the Civil War and through the birth of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church in 1870 when the Institution came under the jurisdiction of that body. Following this transfer to the newly formed conference, the name was again changed to Athens Female College in 1889.
Following changes in social mores and community needs, Athens Female College was transformed into a co-educational institution of higher learning in 1931 and became known merely as Athens College. More than 40 years later, on May 10, 1974, the Athens College Board of Trustees requested from the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist church that the Institution be allowed to seek affiliation with the State of Alabama. At its annual meeting in June of that same year, the conference signed off on the transfer, and Athens College was officially approved to become a public institution of higher learning.
A year later, in June 1975, the Alabama State Board of Education accepted Athens College into the state educational system. Following its acceptance, the Alabama State Legislature appropriated funds for the operation of the newly minted Athens State College to serve the graduates of state junior, community, and technical colleges and institutes. Finally, in 1998, a bill was passed to rename the College as Athens State University to reflect its growth and change over the years.
As the only institution in the state of Alabama offering upper-division educational services, Athens State University continues to enjoy the important and unique position that it has always occupied within the community. With a firm history upon which to build its foundation, Athens State’s colorful past has supplied the Institution with the tools necessary to continue serving Alabama far into the future.