About Us > About-Claflin


The world needs visionaries. Those who are able to imagine what’s possible and chart a course to get there.

More than 150 years ago, Claflin broke down barriers in higher education, making it the first South Carolina university open to all regardless of race. Today, Claflin continues to welcome exemplary students of all races and genders who demonstrate a passion to change not only their own circumstances, but to change the world as well. We believe that most leaders are made, not born. Furthermore, we believe that students with passion, integrity and a willingness to work hard have an innate capacity to become visionary leaders. As a Claflin student, you be challenged to realize your full potential, leaving here with an unparalleled education that will serve you well in graduate school, in a career – and in life.



Claflin University was founded and named in honor of Lee Claflin, a prominent Methodist layman from Boston, and his son William Claflin, then governor of Massachusetts. With “the only admission requirements for prospective students being the possession of good moral character and a conscientious desire to learn,” Claflin University offered, for the first time in South Carolina, quality higher education for men and women “regardless of race, complexion, or religious opinion.”


Dr. Alonzo Webster was appointed the institution’s first president at the first meeting of the Board of Trustees. An outstanding leader, Webster served not only as Claflin’s president, but also as a member of the Board of Trustees, professor of systematic theology and moral and mental philosophy and chief fundraiser.


In an effort to strengthen Claflin’s financial base, Webster helped establish an agricultural and mechanical college at Claflin University, the South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Institute, on March 12, which assured state funding for the institution through the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862.


Webster resigned as president on June 5, but served as a member of Claflin's Board of Trustees until 1886. The Rev. Dr. Edward Cooke, a graduate of Wesleyan University, Harvard University and McKendree College became the second president of Claflin, which saw its enrollment increase to more than 300 students. Under Dr. Cooke's scholarly leadership, the institution was also gaining a reputation for its curriculum.


A fire destroyed the main building, adding to the mounting fiscal challenges facing Claflin.


Cooke appointed then-special agent of Claflin University, the Rev. Dr. Lewis Marion Dunton, to resolve the fiscal problems of the University through fundraising. Dunton proved to be an adept fundraiser and played an instrumental role in generating support for Claflin in the South, which had previously proven elusive.


Claflin's new main building opened. The University also began enrolling students from all over the state, increased its faculty and curriculum, introduced extracurricular activities and installed a replacement library.


Claflin bestowed its first honorary degrees, including a Master of Arts degree to Dunton. The institution continued to prosper under Cooke. The board proposed the addition of a school of law and a school of medicine. The chair of the law school was former South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Jasper Wright.


Another much celebrated occasion came in 1882, when the Board of Trustees approved the recommendation that two students, Nathaniel Middleton and William Bulkley, receive bachelor’s degrees. They became the first students to complete the four-year college course offered by the University. After their graduation, Middleton earned an MD degree, becoming a prominent physician in Texas, and Bulkley went on to receive his PhD - becoming the third African-American in the country to do so. Along with major fiscal accomplishments, several buildings were erected on campus during the 1880s - Haygood Polytechnic Hall, men’s and women’s dormitories, the Claflin Retail Store, the Matthew Simpson Industrial Home for Girls, the Slater Building and the rebuilt main building. After 12 years of service, Cooke retired at age 70, citing poor health.

What overriding attribute propels an institution of higher education to become recognized as a leading undergraduate teaching and research University of national renown in the 21st Century? Visionary leadership, of course.

Claflin University will be recognized as a leading 21st Century institution of higher education that develops a diverse and inclusive community of globally engaged visionary leaders. It's undeniable -- Claflin is becoming a national university in every sense of the word. Sustained rankings from U.S. News and World Report and other important sources point to the University’s upward trajectory. Indeed, as University leaders continue to position the University toward the goals outlined in our strategic plan -- including academic development, accountability, facilities enhancement and six others -- Claflin is becoming more relevant, more competitive and more effective in preparing the next generation of visionary leaders.

Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack began his tenure as the ninth president of Claflin University on August 1, 2019, joining the pantheon of distinguished leaders of the first historically black college or university in South Carolina.
Dr. Warmack was selected by the Claflin University Board of Trustees based on his commitment to academic integration and the holistic development of students. He is committed to developing programs that promote diversity, pluralism and cultural competency. Throughout his career, he has championed inclusion, academic excellence and the retention of underrepresented students. Over the years, he has presented more than 120 diversity and leadership presentations and workshops to an array of individuals and groups. At Claflin University, Dr. Warmack will remain committed to excellence and to move the university forward to higher levels of national distinction and recognitions.
Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Warmack served as president of Harris-Stowe State University for five years. He has more than 20 years of progressive administrative experience in higher education at five distinct institutions. Dr. Warmack provided leadership to more than 450 full and part-time faculty and staff and had oversight of a budget in excess of $32 million. Under his tenure, Harris-Stowe witnessed a transformation, unheralded in its 160-year history. Dr. Warmack shepherded more than $15 million in external funding to the institution, including a $5 million grant, the largest in the institution’s history.
Dr. Warmack is a scholar-practitioner and possesses a wealth of experience in program design, faculty, student development, assessment and accreditation. His trajectory in higher education has been extraordinary. Prior to his appointment as president of Harris-Stowe, he served as the senior vice president, administration and student services at Bethune-Cookman University, overseeing a staff of 170. Among his several successes at that institution, Dr. Warmack provided oversight of a multi-million dollar renovation of the institution’s residence halls. Prior to his tenure at Bethune-Cookman, he served as the associate dean of students at Rhodes College in Memphis, where he led the department of Student Affairs in judicial affairs, student activities, Greek life, new student and parent orientation and multicultural affairs. He also held positions at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., and Delta State University.
A visionary with a unique understanding and appreciation for today’s Generation Z students, Dr. Warmack provides a brand of leadership that is characterized by an unqualified insistence on data driven decision-making and a commitment to higher education’s current best practices.
To bolster his executive acumen, Dr. Warmack has participated in a variety of professional development opportunities, including the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), and Hampton University’s “On The Road to the Presidency: Executive Leadership Summit.” In 2019, Dr. Warmack was selected and conducted global research as an Eisenhower Fellow.
Dr. Warmack was named the Delta State University “Black Alumnus of the Year” and was inducted into the institution’s Hall of Fame. Other awards and recognitions for his work in higher education and the community include but not limited to, Delux Magazine Power 100 “Trailblazer Award” Recipient, St. Louis Business Journal “40 under 40,” St. Louis American “Salute to Excellence Young Leader Award,” The Rickey Smiley Foundation “Trailblazer Award,” Who’s Who in Color Most Intriguing People and “Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2018.”
Dr. Warmack was appointed as Chairman of the Missouri Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Statewide Commission in 2015 and served as Chairman for four years. He previously served on the boards of the Cortex Innovation Community, the Saint Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, St. Louis Muny, the Greater St. Louis Area Council Boy Scouts of America and Millennium Leadership Initiative Executive Steering Committee. Other past board memberships include the United Way of Greater St. Louis, Southern Association for College Student Affairs (SACSA) Foundation, and the Alumni Board of Directors for Delta State University. Dr. Warmack is a peer reviewer with the Higher Learning Commission, the largest regional accreditation body in the United States.