FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University is turning 50. It is ready to celebrate.
The university has planned a series of special events to commemorate its first half century during the 2019-2020 academic year. They include a fall festival named for founding president Dr. Doug Smith, a spring gala, a special dinner for founding faculty and staff and more.
FMU was founded by a special legislative act on July 1, 1970 as Francis Marion College, a part of South Carolina’s system of public colleges and universities. That followed a 14-year run as a two-year branch college of the University of South Carolina.
The university has grown and flourished in the 50 years since. It has remained true to its mission to serve the people of the Pee Dee Region while at the same time developing programs and curriculum that serve and impact the entire state of South Carolina.
Today, more than 4,000 students matriculate in more than 40 majors at FMU. In recent years the university has created programs in the health sciences, started industrial and mechanical engineering programs, developed its first doctoral program and added a significant physical presence in downtown Florence.
FMU’s main campus is located five miles east of Florence.
More is on the way. Construction has begun, or will soon begin, on a new honors center, new medical education labs and clinical space in the old post office building in downtown Florence and a new freshwater ecology lab and conference center on recently gifted land just north of the campus.
The 50th anniversary celebration schedule will begin in October with a dinner for founding faculty and staff members, hosted by FMU President Fred Carter and his wife, Folly.
On Nov. 14, the entire FMU community will gather at the Griffin Athletic Complex on campus for “Doug’s Day,” a festival and concert by South Carolina music legend Edwin McCain. McCain, a Greenville native, produced back-to-back Top 40 hits “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More” in the late 1990s. Those hits, plus others included on his 11 albums, have been part of numerous movie and TV soundtracks.
Beside’s McCain’s concert, Doug’s Day will also include food on the plaza at the GAC and other entertainment.
The concert and admission to the grounds for Doug’s Day is free. The event is open to the public.
Doug’s Day honors the legacy of the late Dough Smith, the university's founding president. His birthday is close to the festival date.
FMU’s annual community Christmas party in early December and its February homecoming weekend will both include FMU themes and commemorations associated with the 50th anniversary.
On April 7, the university will host a grand FMU Gala at the FMU Performing Arts Center. The event will celebrate FMU’s legacy and its future. Proceeds will support FMU’s First Generation Fund initiative, which provides resources to support first generation college students at FMU.
More than 40% of FMU’s most recent freshman class were first-generation students. That is a typical number.
Last year, Carter appointed a committee consisting of former and current faculty, FMU students, staff and alumni to advise the university in planning the events for the year ahead.