Our mission is to prepare leader-servants in the workplace and the world, in the community and the church, and in the home. We serve faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and welcome all who live our values. We accomplish our mission by providing the finest undergraduate education available in letters, arts, and sciences within a wholesome Latter-day Saint environment. Students, faculty, and staff at Southern Virginia University are committed to being academically or professionally accomplished, spiritually rooted, service oriented, and self-reliant. We embody Southern Virginia's core values, which are scholarship, discipleship, accountability, enthusiasm, and refinement. Southern Virginia University seeks to establish a replicable self-sustaining model of higher education that can serve Latter-day Saints throughout the world.
The school was founded as a for-profit institution in 1867 during Virginia's post-Civil War era when Alice Scott Chandler established the Home School for Girls in Bowling Green, Virginia, later renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary. In 1883, Edgar H. Rowe purchased the school and operated it with Mrs. Chandler as principal. Dr. Rowe moved the school to Buena Vista in 1900, and changed its name to Southern Seminary. It was located in the splendid Buena Vista Hotel, which had been built 10 years earlier to accommodate the large numbers of land speculators investigating the town's iron ore deposits. The iron boom was short-lived, however, and Rowe purchased the hotel. The original hotel still serves as Main Hall, the university's principal building, and holds a place of distinction on the National Register of Historic Places and listed as the Southern Seminary Main Building. In 1919, Robert Lee Durham, former dean of Martha Washington College, bought a half-interest in Southern Seminary and became the resident head of the school. An educator, lawyer, engineer, author and inventor, Durham strengthened the school's academic program. In 1922, Durham's daughter, Margaret, married H. Russell Robey, who purchased Rowe's remaining interest in the school and became its business manager and treasurer. Durham and Robey added college-level courses to the school's curriculum, and the first class of the new junior college program graduated in 1925. The period of greatest physical growth of the school, by then called Southern Seminary and Junior College, occurred during the presidency of Margaret Durham Robey, who succeeded her father upon his retirement in 1942. Facilities for art, early childhood education and home economics were added. In 1959, the Robeys turned over the ownership of the college to a Board of Trustees, and the institution changed from proprietary to nonprofit status. In 1961, the school ceased offering high school courses, and the name of the institution was changed to Southern Seminary Junior College. The academic program was expanded to allow students to begin careers after their two years at the school or to transfer to four-year colleges. "Sem" became a nationally recognized competitor in intercollegiate riding, winning numerous state, regional and national equestrian competitions. By the early 1990s it had been generally forgotten that a seminary was anything but a school preparing one for the ministry. To avoid confusion, the name was again changed to Southern Virginia College for Women, which was shortened in 1994 to Southern Virginia College, when male students were admitted. In the late 1980s and early 1990s enrollment began to slip and the college became financially unstable, which led to a loss of regional accreditation in 1996. In the spring of that year, Southern Virginia College's board of trustees transferred the school's assets and liabilities to a new board, many of whom were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The main figure in this reorganization was Glade Knight. In 2000 the school was accepted into pre-accreditation status by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), which is separate from regional accreditation bodies and was renamed Southern Virginia University. In 2003 it was granted full accreditation by the AALE. In June 2010 the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools awarded initial candidacy to Southern Virginia University.