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Transylvania University
Transylvania University Logo
Motto In Lumine Illo Tradimus Lumen (In That Light, We Pass On The Light)
Established 1780
Type Private Undergraduate liberal arts college
Endowment $100.3 million[1]
President Charles L. Shearer
Staff 100
Students 1,158
Location Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Campus Urban
Athletics NCAA Division III
Mascot Pioneer
Affiliations Disciples of Christ

Transylvania University is a private liberal arts college related by covenant to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The college is located on a 35 acre (14.2 hectare) campus about 4 blocks north of downtown Lexington, Kentucky, and is currently ranked number 77 on US News & World Report's Best Liberal Arts Colleges. [2]



Transylvania, meaning "across the woods" in Latin, is most commonly referred to as "Transy." The name stems from Transylvania University's initial founding, within the heavily-forested region of western Virginia known as the Transylvania colony, which became most of Kentucky in 1792.[3]

While Transylvania does not take its name from the Transylvania region in central Romania, the college does use this unique naming connection in celebration. Elements of Dracula can be seen on campus, predominantly in the week of Halloween during Rafinesque Week.



Beginning through the Civil War (1780-1865): Transylvania University and Kentucky University

Transylvania University opened in 1780, after the Virginia Assembly adopted a charter establishing Transylvania Seminary.[4]

Originally in a log cabin in Boyle County, Kentucky, the school moved to Lexington in 1789.[4] The first site in Lexington was a single building in the historic Gratz Park. In 1829, this building burned, and the school was moved to its present location north of Third Street. Old Morrison, the only campus building at the time, was completed in 1833, under the supervision of Henry Clay, who both taught law and was a member of Transylvania's Board.[5] After 1818, the university included a medical school, a law school, a divinity school, and a college of arts and sciences.[4][6]

The other major institution that aided in the creation of the modern Transylvania University was Bacon College, named after Sir Francis Bacon, which would later be known as Kentucky University. Bacon College existed from 1837-1851, founded by the Christian churches in Kentucky. Bacon College was a new entity separated from Georgetown College, a Baptist supported institution, but Bacon College inevitably closed due to lack of funding. Seven years later, in 1858, Bacon College's charter was amended to establish Kentucky University, and moved to donated land in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.[4][6]

Post-Civil War through the Modern Era (1865-1908): Kentucky University

The American Civil War wreaked havoc on the South, and the state of Kentucky was no exception. Kentucky University was devastated by fire and both it and Transylvania University were in dire financial straits. As a result, in 1865, both institutions secured permission to merge. The new institution utilized Transylvania's campus in Lexington while perpetuating the name Kentucky University.[4]

The University was reorganized around several new colleges, including the Agricultural and Mechanical College (A&M) of Kentucky, publicly chartered as a department of Kentucky University as a land-grant institution under the Morrill Act.[6] However, due to questions regarding the appropriateness of a federally funded land-grant college controlled by a religious body, the A&M college was spun off in 1878 as an independent, state-run institution. The A&M of Kentucky soon developed into one of the state's flagship public universities, the University of Kentucky.[6]

Kentucky University's College of the Bible, which traced its roots to Bacon College's Department of Hebrew Literature, also received its own charter in 1878. The Seminary became a separate institution, although it remained housed on the Kentucky University campus until 1950, later changing its name to the Lexington Theological Seminary. In 1903, Hamilton College, a Lexington-based women's college founded in 1869, merged into Kentucky University.[6]

Modern Transylvania (1908-present): Transylvania University

Due to confusion between Kentucky University and its daughter institution the University of Kentucky, the institution adopted the eldest name in its lineage "Transylvania University" in 1908. This return of its former identity is an example of retrobranding.[4][7]

Hallmark's fictional Transylvania University.

In 1988, Transylvania University experienced an infringement on the institution's trademark when Hallmark Cards began selling Transylvania University T-shirts. The product, developed for the 1988 Halloween season, was intended to be a novelty item purporting to be college wear from Count Dracula's fictional alma mater. When contacted by the actual Transylvania University, Hallmark apologetically admitted that they were not aware of the Kentucky based institution and recalled all unsold product immediately.[7]

The school remains affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Originally it was founded by Christ Episcopal Church's rector (The Rev. MOORE), and then became affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, followed by the Disciples of Christ (which was founded after Transylvania).[citation needed]


Transylvania University is ranked 77th among the nation's liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News & World Report. [2] According to The Princeton Review, Transylvania ranks 4th among colleges with a "Major Frat and Sorority Scene." [8]

Rafinesque Week

Thanks to Transylvania's namesake, and an on-campus tomb, Halloween has become a week-long celebration at Transylvania. Known as Rafinesque Week, the college ends October in a unique combination of activities, such as ghost stories, an underground haunted house, a flag football tournament, and a lottery for four students to win a night to sleep in Rafinesque's tomb.[9]

Campus buildings

Academic buildings

Residential buildings

  • Forrer Hall - Mainly the women's dormitory, Forrer's front and back lobbies contain offices for Residence Life, Department of Public Safety, campus nurse, and the main cafeteria.
  • Henry Clay Hall - Men's dormitory primarily for freshmen.
  • Jefferson Davis Hall - Men's dormitory for upperclassmen. Each floor belongs to one of the four fraternities.
  • Rosenthal Residence Complex - Apartment complex for upperclassmen.
  • Poole Residence Center - Suite style residential building.
  • Hazelrigg Hall - Built as a freshmen dormitory, it was later converted to a multipurpose building. Contains a classroom, a computer lab, social science faculty offices, and two floors of "Honors" dormitories for students meeting GPA and other requirements. These rooms are single occupancy, as opposed to double, and have stricter rules regarding noise, and other rules to facilitate more intense studying.
  • Thomson Hall - Finished in the Fall of 2008, Thomson Hall features 31 Suite-style dorms for students who meet a GPA requirement, the 1780 Cafe for late night dinners, several lounges and a large public meeting / conference room.

Other buildings

Old Morrison College in 1987
  • Old Morrison - The administrative building, this building was built in the 1830s. The interior was gutted by fire in 1969 and was renovated and reopened in 1971. This building is featured on the city seal of Lexington and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
  • Lucille C. Little Theater - Black box style theater allowing for very flexible stage and seating arrangements.
  • Clive M. Beck Athletic Center - Contains athletics offices, classrooms, fitness center, competition and recreational facilities. Completed in 2002.
  • Glenn Building - Completed in the fall of 2005, this building houses the new university bookstore as well as a coffee shop.

Fraternities and sororities

Transylvania has a thriving Greek life on campus, with four fraternities and four sororities on campus. Over half of the students are members of a Greek organization.[10] Each chapter is represented on either the Interfraternity Council (fraternities) or the Panhellenic Association (sororities). In 2009, the Princeton Review named Transylvania number 4 on its list of "Top Ten Schools with the Most Intense Greek Life." [11]



Notable alumni

Notable faculty

  • Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, a professor of botany at Transylvania University in 1819, teaching French and Italian as well. His tomb is on campus. Each Halloween, students celebrate "Rafinesque Week," which includes bonfires, mock awards, ghost tours of campus and as the culmination of the week, four students chosen from a lottery will spend the night in the tomb of Rafinesque in Old Morrison, the school's administration building.

Popular culture

  • Transylvania University is the setting for part of the novel All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren.
  • The university was immortalized in Robert Lowell's Sonnet 'The Graduate (Elizabeth)'. The poem states glibly that "Transylvania's Greek Revival Chapel/ is one of the best Greek Revival things in the South;"

See also


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Transylvania University - US News & World Report". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  3. ^ "Transylvania University's Name". Transylvania University. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Transylvania and the Christian Church". Transylvania University. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  5. ^ "Old Morrison, Administrative Building". Transylvania University. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "The Early History of Transylvania University: An Archetype of Restoration Movement Institutions of Higher Education". James M Owston. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  7. ^ a b "Survival of the Fittest? The Rebranding of West Virginia Higher Education". James M Owston. Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  8. ^ "Top 10 Schools With the Most Intense Greek Life". The Princeton Review, via Encarta. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  9. ^ "Barefootin’ it for Rafinesque, Transylvania University Magazine, Fall 2005". Transylvania University. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Top Ten Schools with the Most Intense Greek Life." Microsoft Encarta.
  12. ^ "Governor's Information: Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin". Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 

External links


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