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Lees-McRae College
Motto In Montibus, Ex Montibus, Pro Montibus (Latin for In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, For the Mountains)
Established 1900
Type private, coeducational, undergraduate
Religious affiliation Presbyterian Church (USA)
Endowment $19.3 million[1]
President Dr. Scott Colley
Provost Dr. Debra Thatcher
Faculty 56[1]
Students 882
Location Banner Elk, North Carolina,
United States United States
Campus Rural, 400 acres (1.619 km²)
Colors Green and Gold [2]
Mascot Bobcat
Athletics NCAA Division II

Lees-McRae College is a private four-year college in Banner Elk, North Carolina affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Lees-McRae College has the highest elevation of any college or university in the United States east of the Mississippi River[3] at 3,720 feet (1,130 m) above sea level.[4] It is one of the few colleges to be named after two women, Suzanna Lees and Elizabeth McRae. In 2005, Lees-McRae became the first expansion site for New Opportunity School for Women, a program that helps educate and employ women in Appalachia.[5]



Lees-McRae College was founded in Banner Elk as an all-female high school in 1899 by Reverend Edgar Tufts, a Presbyterian minister. He named the school The Elizabeth McRae Institute after a well-respected educator in 1900. School benefactor Suzanna Lees' name was added in 1903 and the school's name became the Lees-McRae Institute when the school was chartered by the state in 1907.

An all-male branch was founded during 1907 in Plumtree, North Carolina. The Plumtree facility was destroyed in a 1927 fire, leading the two campuses to merge at the Banner Elk site. After the merge, the high school program was phased out and the institute was renamed in 1931 to Lees-McRae College, an accredited, coeducational junior college.

Lees-McRae began moving toward offering a four-year program in the late 1980s and the school's president made the recommendation to the board of trustees in 1987.[6] The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted Lees-McRae status as a four-year college in 1990.


Landmarks on campus include the historic Rock House, built in 1920 of native stone; Tufts Tower, a former water tower that houses the campus chimes; and the North Carolina Building, completed in 1922 and one of three permanent buildings planned by the college's founder. Also, there is Tate Dorm which was originally the town hospital. There are other campus images in the gallery below.

The College's Bookstore, named The Exchange, accepted chickens, pigs, grain, other crops and livestock in exchange for education costs in the early years of the college's history.

In 2003, the college saw its first major construction in 20 years with the opening of the Arthur-Lauritsen-Sanders Track and Field Venue.[7] In 2008, the William Reynolds Gymnasium, originally built in 1938 with the aid of students, was renovated as part of the new Carol and Glenn Arthur Student Recreation Complex.


There are several dormitories at Lees-McRae College that provide multiple college living experiences. Tennessee and Virginia dorms were constructed from stones from those states.

  • Avery
  • Tate
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Bentley
  • Baldwin
  • McMillan
  • Cannon Cottage (Honors Program)
  • The Village


The college has two academic schools: The School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Professional Studies. The college offers 24 majors, including Wildlife Rehabilitation, Wildlife Biology, Performing Arts Studies, Business, and Elementary Education.

During its junior college days, the College awarded the AA (Associate of Arts) or AS (Associate of Science) degree. Beginning in 1990 the Associate degree programs were abandoned and students began courses of study for Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees.

The college offers degree completion programs in elementary education, criminal justice, and nursing at four community college sites in Western North Carolina.

Sports, clubs, and traditions

Intramural opportunities are available for several sports. The newest of these is the competitive rock climbing team.

Several programs are available to students interested in leadership, service and the outdoors. These programs range from the school's own Campus After The Class Hours (CATCH), KIBO Emerging Leaders, and Outdoor Programs to national programs like AmeriCorps Bonner Leaders.

Student groups on campus include:

  • Backpacking Club
  • Beta Omega Kappa
  • Chess Club
  • Choral Group (The Highlanders)
  • Delta Omicron Theta
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • International Club
  • InterVarsity/Approaching the Throne
  • Nu Delta Alpha
  • Order of the Tower
  • Pep Band
  • Rock Climbing Club
  • Student Ambassadors
  • Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SACC)
  • Students Against a Vanishing Environment
  • Student Government Association
  • Theater

The Lees-McRae Bobcats compete in NCAA Division II and play in Conference Carolinas. All athletic teams are eligible for athletic scholarships. The College is also home to a cycling team which competes in Division I and holds national championships. Our varsity sports teams are listed below.

Male Sports

   * Basketball
   * Cross County
   * Cycling
   * Golf
   * Lacrosse
   * Soccer
   * Tennis
   * Volleyball
   * Track & Field

Female Sports

   * Basketball
   * Cross County
   * Cycling
   * Lacrosse
   * Soccer
   * Softball
   * Tennis
   * Volleyball
   * Track & Field

Noted alumni

  • Thomas Ferebee (1937), bombardier aboard the Enola Gay
  • Scott A. Church (2001) Film Director, Author of "Key West and Other Heartaches" (Lulu,2007)
  • Roy Lassiter
  • John B. Stephenson, former professor at LMC. Wife is a board member.
  • Joshua Workman, Canadian political consultant.


  1. ^ a b "Lees-McRae College - College Overview". Petersons. 2007-03-09. Retrieved 2007-07-09.  
  2. ^ Lees-McRae College: Communications: Publication Guidelines. Retrieved on 2007-07-09.
  3. ^ "Lees-McRae College". Bonner Program Campus Contacts. The Bonner Foundation. Retrieved 2007-07-09.  
  4. ^ Geographic Names Information System Feature Detail Report, U.S. Geological Survey, 1980-06-17,, retrieved 2007-07-09  
  5. ^ "Program At Lees-McRae College To Provide New Opportunities To Women In Need", The Mountain Times, 2005-01-13,, retrieved 2007-07-09  
  6. ^ Kelley, Pam (1987-03-20), "Lees-McRae Might Convert To 4-Year College", The Charlotte Observer: 1C  
  7. ^ "Lees-McRae College Dedicates New Track And Field Venue", The Mountain Times, 2003-10-09,, retrieved 2007-07-09  

External links



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