Old Cuttington: Cape Palmas
In 1887, under the venerable leadership of Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, the Cape Palmas Missionary District of Liberia (of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) founded the Hoffman Institute for the training of ‘men in skill and virtue’. To it was later added a divinity school, and it assumed the name, Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School when on February 22, 1889, Bishop Ferguson laid the corner stone of the first building and named it Epiphany Hall on the Southern-most tip of Liberia. The School was named after Mr. Robert Fulton Cutting, of PECUSA, who in 1885 donated US$ 5,000 to purchase a land on which to build a school. The primary purpose of the money was for the establishment of a manual labor farm, which would afford opportunities for practical instruction of boys in the mission schools and at the same time serve as a pattern for others. Students came from all parts of Liberia and the West African region, and enrollment was limited to about 100 with high standards of admission and achievement.
The Rev. M.P.K. Valentine, M.A., became the First President of Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School. The College awarded its first two certificates of proficiency in 1909 and was incorporated to give diplomas and grant degrees in 1922. In 1929 the College was forced to close down for disciplinary and financial reasons. It played an important role in providing classical education along with agricultural, industrial, theological and preparatory training.
New Cuttington: Suakoko
In 1949, ‘Cuttington College and Divinity School’ was reopened through the obstinate intervention of Bishop Bravid W. Harris, Bishop of Liberia (1945-1964), and by the benevolence of Dr. William V.S. Tubman, President of Liberia (1944-1971). The Liberian Government with a good measure of foresight donated to the Missionary District 1,500 acres of rich agricultural land at Suakoko, Bong County, for the purpose of establishing a College in the hinterland. Cuttington became the first and only four year, degree granting, co-educational, Private liberal arts college south of the Sahara. The Rev. Seth Edwards was named the First President of Cuttington College and Divinity School in Suakoko. He served for eleven years (1949-1960). He was succeeded by Dr. Christian E. Baker who served for twelve years (1960-1972). Father Edwards and able staff were responsible for laying the foundation for the moral and academic excellence of the college. In the early 1970’s it was renamed Cuttington University College.
Dr. Baker continued to uphold this philosophy by establishing a linkage between Cuttington and the Association of Episcopal Colleges and Association of Colleges of the Midwest, both of the USA. The Reverend Dr. E. Bolling Robertson served as Interim President for the period 1972-1973.
The Reverend Fr. Emmanuel Johnson was named in 1973 as the third president of the College and served until 1980. It had six (6) degree granting Colleges: Education, Humanities, Social Science, Natural Science, and Nursing & Theology with plans to add more academic programs. Rev. Johnson was followed in 1981 by Dr. Stephen M. Yekeson, the first alumnus to head the college. He became the fourth president, after serving as Professor of Science and Dean of Academic Affairs. He served until December 1986.
In January 1987, the Reverend Father S. Yanquoi Reed (Alumnus), became Interim President until the Board of Trustees elected Dr. Melvin J. Mason (Alumnus) in August of the same year as the fifth president. Dr. Baker served as Interim President until February 7, 1988 when Dr. Mason officially took office. Dr. Mason served for 14 years (1988-2002). During the civil crisis, when Dr. Mason established the Cuttington-In-Exile program (the college had officially closed as of May 1990 because of the civil war). Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa (Alumnus), Hon. D. Musuleng Cooper and Associate Professor Thomas K. Gaie (Alumnus) successively served as Acting Presidents.
An Act establishing the University College as Cuttington University was signed into law on July 20, 2005. Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa who succeeded Dr. Mason, was inducted into office on November 13, 2005, and resigned in September 2015. The following programs were successfully added to the University in effort to meet the growing demands and challenges of the nation’s development process:
• Increase in the number of degree offerings at the undergraduate campus in Suakoko.
• Establishment of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, located in Monrovia
• Establishment of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
• Introduction of Service Learning to all students.
• Establishment of the Junior College which offers Associate degrees, located in Kakata.
Dr. Evelyn S. Kandakai (Alumna) served as Interim President from 2015 to 2016, the first female President of Cuttington.
One University, One History, One President, Three Schools, Three Sites
The University’s undergraduate studies program is located on the University’s main Campus in Suakoko, 120 miles northwest of Monrovia. The campus covers 1,500 acres, seven miles from Gbarnga, the capital of Bong County. The university’s postgraduate studies program is situated at The School of Graduate and Professional Studies is located in Monrovia along the Tubman Boulevard and houses the administrative and academic offices of the Graduate School. The Junior College campus is located in Kakata, about 60 miles north of Monrovia along the Monrovia-Gbarnga Highway. This campus covers 20 acres and houses the administrative offices of the associate studies program.
Education is our passion. From Hoffman Station, Maryland to Suakoko, Bong County, still better than the rest, since 1889.
Cuttington’s mascot is the ‘Scorpion’. It is a confident exoskeletal reptile well known for its usual and poisonous defense from the tail end of the creature. It is not unusual to encounter scorpions in in Suakoko that often meet their unexpected end by residents well aware of their craftiness and venom.
The early list of Presidents since 1889 has fallen from historical memory. Since 1949, however, the following has been recorded:
• Martin PK Valentine
• Seth C Edwards (Revd)
• Christian Baker (Dr)
• Emmanuel W Johnson (Revd)
• Stephen Yekeson (Dr)
• Melvin Mason (Dr)
• Henrique Tokpa (Dr)
• Herman B. Browne (Revd. Dr)