Mission Statement

The mission of Eckerd College is to provide excellent, innovative undergraduate liberal arts education and lifelong learning programs in the unique Florida environment, within the context of a covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Approved by the Board of Trustees
May 21, 2016


Eckerd through the years

The history of Eckerd College is the story of a visionary church, a courageous board of trustees, a highly committed faculty and staff, able students and thousands of friends who turned an idea into a reality. Here are some of the highlights.

May 1958
The Florida Synod of the Presbyterian Church, USA, votes to establish Florida Presbyterian College.

June 27, 1958
The United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church together name William H. Kadel, Ph.D., the first president of Florida Presbyterian College.

Sept. 16, 1958
The Florida Legislature grants the charter for the Florida Presbyterian College, and the Presbyterian synods appoint a board of trustees.

April 22, 1959
William H. Kadel,, Congressman William Cramer of St. Petersburg, and Philip J. Lee (the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees) meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington D.C. to enroll President Eisenhower as the first charter alumnus of Florida Presbyterian College.

Sept. 6, 1960
The first day of classes, with 155 freshman and 22 faculty in temporary quarters on Bayboro Harbor in downtown St. Petersburg.

November 1960
Students vote to make the College mascot the Triton, a mythological creature with the torso of a man and tail of a fish who calmed the seas with a conch-shell trumpet.

Dec. 14, 1960
The first issue of the student newspaper, The Trident, is released. The issue includes opinion columns about the proper way to launder clothing, the quality of the cafeteria’s food and how the size of the campus is not proportional to the dazzling school spirit the students possess. Also included: a reflection of the required course for all freshmen now known as “The Human Experience.”

Sept. 24, 1961
Groundbreaking ceremony held for the new campus along Boca Ciega Bay on the southern tip of St. Petersburg. The college received 186 shovels from colleges across the country, including Loyola University, Tulane, Yale, FSU, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The shovels were a symbol of the unity of academia.

Summer 1962
All but two faculty members submit their resignations to the Board of Trustees to protest decision not to admit first African-American student. In October, the Board reverses position. That young student, Howard Kennedy, later becomes a member of the Board of Trustees.

Dec. 29, 1962
The first International Education Winter Term program takes 30 students to Mexico, led by Sociology Professor Clark Bowman, a founding professor. The course was “An Introduction to the Fields of Anthropology and Archeology in Mexico.” The cost was $275.

First classes held at new campus along Boca Ciega Bay.

June 1964
First graduating class.

Nov. 30, 1966
Florida Presbyterian College receives full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

May 3, 1968
Billy Wireman, a founding faculty member, is named second president, the youngest college president in the country at that time.

Sept. 15, 1970
Twenty-nine students stay at the London Study Centre, the cornerstone of the International Education Program.

June 1971
The two Presbyterian synods transfer full control of the college to a self-perpetuating board of trustees and affirms a covenant relationship between the college and the Church.

September 1971
FPC Search, Rescue and Safety Team (providing services to the public since 1977 as Eckerd College Search and Rescue), the only volunteer student rescue group recently recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, is established.

November 1971
Two dozen African-American students hold a sit-in at Brown Hall to protest treatment of African-American students on campus and to encourage greater diversity among students, faculty and staff.

July 1, 1972
After Board of Trustees member Jack Eckerd gives $10 million to Florida Presbyterian College—the College’s single largest gift at the time, the name of Florida Presbyterian College is changed to Eckerd College.

Aug. 27, 1973
The first day of classes for the first ever Autumn Term program, which was part of “Project ’73.” Project ’73 establishes the Autumn Term program, the Collegium structure, and the role of faculty members as mentors.

March 21, 1977
Board of Trustees Chairman Jack Eckerd named interim president.

October 1977
Peter Armacost becomes the college’s third president.

Nov. 30, 1977
The Program for Experienced Learners (PEL) is established. First classes are offered in January 1978. The accredited program is open to degree-seeking adults and offers some college credit for documented life experience. first classes in January 1978

Fall 1980
The Leadership Development Institute is formed.

Oct. 31, 1982
The Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC) is officially inaugurated with 14 charter members. Events for its opening week include a public forum on the Middle East, attendance at a student play and a talk by ASPEC member Julian N. Hartt (Professor Emeritus from the University of Virginia) on “Where is Wisdom, That We Might Find Her?”

Nov. 20, 1991
Groundbreaking of the Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory.

April 15, 1993
Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory is dedicated, reinforcing the Marine Science major (established in 1982) as one of the finest and most unique in the country. The GMSL was made possible primarily by a gift of $2.9 million from John and Rosemary Galbraith.

Summer 2000
Eugene Hotchkiss, President Emeritus of Lake Forest College, is named to a one-year term as interim president.

July 1, 2001
Donald R. Eastman III becomes the college’s fourth President.

Aug. 9, 2003
The Phi Beta Kappa Society awards the Zeta Chapter of Florida to Eckerd College at the 40th Council.

Jan. 22, 2005
Writers in Paradise annual conference is created by co-directors novelist Dennis Lehane ’88 and Professor Sterling Watson ’68.

Jan. 21, 2013
Grand opening of the James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences

June 2015
James Center earns LEED Platinum designation

October 2016
Dedication ceremony for the Doyle Sailing Center

February 2018
Grand opening of The Helmar and Enole Nielsen Center for Visual Arts