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Student Panel
Faculty/Staff Panel
Celebrating 125 years in education

BOAZ, Ala. – Snead State Community College – North Alabama’s first junior college – was formed 125 years ago in 1898 out of a dire need for more educational opportunities for residents across the area.

According to statistics from 1915, published in “In the Heart of the Community: Foundation of a Junior College” by Snead State History/Political Science Instructor Dr. Grover Kitchens, about 29.9 percent of the state’s population was illiterate. There were only 116 school days per year, and the average student actually spent about 70 of those days in class. Teachers were also hard to find.

Because of this, the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal had interest in establishing a “conference school” in North Alabama. A meeting in December 1898 in Anniston appointed a committee that went on to choose Boaz as the site of this school.

Thus, Boaz Seminary was formed and officially opened to male and female students in July 1899. Though deemed a seminary, it was much more of a private academic institution offering junior high and high school courses, rather than a religious institution.

Work of Anna Elder sets stage for path to Junior College

In its early years, the school was quite successful thanks to the Elder Family, particularly Anna Elder. People came from all over the region to attend. As enrollment grew, many students required a place to stay, so the Elders began boarding female students at their home, and male students were taken in by the community.

The Elders were the first teachers of the school. The Rev. E.B.L. Elder and wife Anna Elder both had degrees from Northwestern University. The reverend taught high school courses, Anna taught middle school courses, and their daughter taught elementary level courses.

The Rev. E.B.L. Elder (left) and wife, Anna Elder.

In addition to teaching and running the dormitory, Anna Elder was instrumental in the continued success and funding of the school.

During the school’s infancy, it became quite clear that there was a lack of funds required to maintain the seminary, despite charging tuition. Therefore, Anna Elder travelled to solicit funding for the school and a growing need for expanded female housing.

In Chicago, at an annual missionary conference in 1900, she was a Woman’s Home Missionary Society representative. In this role, she was able to speak to the educational needs the seminary had. She went on to attend conferences in New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan, eliciting $10,000 in pledges for a new school building.

The Women’s Temperance Union financially supported the construction of a dormitory, the Rebecca McCleskey Home, with 110 rooms that housed the female students. It was operated by Anna Elder and not by the school. After the early 1900s, a dormitory for male students was funded.

In 1906, land was sold to the school and debt was relieved by one of the college’s earliest benefactors, John H. Snead, who was a Boaz resident who had a mercantile. He was a charter member of the Board of Trustees of Boaz Seminary. To honor his gift, the school was renamed John H. Snead Seminary.

Snead’s first president was the Rev. John L. Brasher. During his tenure, the boys’ and girls’ dormitories burned and were rebuilt. He served from 1906 until his retirement in 1911.

From 1911 to 1914, Luther F. Corley was interim president. He served as dean of the school, which had approximately 400 students and 15 staff members at the time.

School grows under Fielder, vision of Junior College comes into frame

In 1914, Dr. William Fielder was selected to become President of Snead Seminary.

Dr. Fielder was considered to the be one of the most influential figures in the pre-college era. A former university president of two different Texas institutions, Fielder was born in Sussex, England, and arrived in the U.S. in 1876.

During his tenure, Fielder oversaw the construction of a boys’ dorm – Eliza Pollock-Lipe Home – and also added a five-acre athletic field called Morton Park.

He built the Administration Building, which held a library, classrooms, offices, and a chapel. He later added a gymnasium that was recognized as one of the best in the state, if not country. (The gymnasium, formerly the Student Union Building, has since been demolished due to structural and safety concerns.) Basketball and football teams were formed. On the academic side, he oversaw the establishment of a permanent endowment for the institution.

Dr. Fielder was able to oversee such progress despite adversity, most notably World War I.

And, most importantly, Fielder planned for the future by making an official recommendation for the seminary to establish a junior college.

Prior to becoming a junior college, Snead Seminary served, for 35 years, a “growing constituency in the field of private secondary education,” stated the First Catalog of Snead Junior College and Snead Academy distributed to homes in July 1935.

“Snead has become a synonym for all that is best in academic excellence and selective atmosphere for the growth of mind, body and heart after the Christian model.”

In 1929, results of a two-year study by the Survey Committee of the Board of Education recommended the end of Snead Seminary’s junior high school and the addition of a two-year junior college, becoming a five-year program including grades 10, 11, 12 and junior college.

Boatman labors to make Fielder’s dream a reality

Before the school would become a junior college, Dr. Fielder retired due to poor health in 1931.

To make Fielder’s vision a reality, Dr. Conway Boatman was hired to be Snead Seminary’s third president, but he faced a bounty of challenges.

Dr. Boatman, a native of Mississippi, was a former graduate of Snead Seminary but attended college in Kentucky. After spending time in India, Europe, Japan, the Philippine Islands and Egypt, Boatman returned to the U.S. and earned his master’s degree at Columbia University.

Shortly after Boatman was chosen to lead the college, Corley resigned from his post as dean and became principal of the public high school in Boaz.

In order to become a junior college, the school needed to raise $125,000. This would allow the eventual college to become accredited, which was vital to Dr. Boatman. The school would need better facilities, instructors and housing.

In 1930s, during the Great Depression, $125,000 was the equivalent of about $2.2 million today.

Dr. Boatman did his best to raise funds for the transition, but it didn’t go well.

“Each local church had a junior college committee, but the results from the local churches were not as expected,” according to, “In the Heart of the Community: Foundation of a Junior College.”

“The goal of $1 per member was set and could provide $14,000 for the new institution. The churches were at present only donating just over $1,700, and the ministers did not seem to be placing enough emphasis on the campaign.

“The local funding for the founding of a junior college had by March of 1935 amounted to more than $5,000 (The Boaz Leader, March 21, 1935) which showed small evidence of local support for the establishment.”

Dr. Boatman was adamant in wanting the local community to support the endeavor, but the community was just too poor. So, he started looking for benefactors.

Similar to Anna Elder decades earlier, Dr. Boatman traveled many miles to garner monetary pledges.

Dr. Boatman wanted to open the junior college in the fall of 1933, but the Great Depression’s impact wouldn’t allow it.

Pfeiffer Hall

Pfeiffer’s gift paves way to Junior College status

In 1935, a lady named Annie Pfeiffer came through with a $125,000 donation. She became the reason Snead State Community College stands today.

“We can be proud of Fielder, and we can be proud of Boatman,” said Dr. Kitchens. “But despite these men and all they did, had it not been for Anna Elder holding everything together and Mrs. Pfeiffer giving $125,000, we very likely would not have Snead State Community College today.”

The Pfeiffer Family was extremely wealthy and often gave money to help fund numerous educational projects, including the formation of colleges, construction of libraries and more.

Thanks to Mrs. Pfeiffer’s donation, the institution was chartered as Snead Junior College with Snead Academy in 1935.

In becoming a Junior College, Dr. Boatman had a three-pronged goal for Snead:

First, he wanted the college to be an avenue for people who wanted to simply go to college and get a two-year degree.

Second, he also wanted the college to be a transfer institution, where students could come take their respective courses and transfer seamlessly to a four-year college.

Finally, Boatman wanted focus to be placed on technical education. At the time, Alabama A&M and Auburn University (then known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute) were the only colleges with focuses on agricultural and mechanical industry teaching.

“One of the reasons for the rise of a junior college was for terminal technical education,” Dr. Kitchens said. “And Boatman wanted there to be a technical component at Snead.”

Now, 125 years later, on Jan. 19, 2023, Snead State Community College celebrated the groundbreaking of the Workforce Skills Training Center – built out of an increased need for technical training. In 2018, the institution assumed control of the Aviation College, located at the Albertville Municipal Airport.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, we kind of went away from (technical education),” Kitchens said, “but we’re really coming home again with technical education … This 125th anniversary is a circling of where we are.”

The level of instructors at Snead Junior College was also notable. Professors had degrees and educational experiences from prestigious institutions such as Syracuse University, Clark University, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, Columbia University and Julliard School of Music, and state colleges such as Auburn University and the University of Alabama.

Story Administration Building

Snead State Community College today

Fast forward to 1967, the college became part of the Alabama two-year college system as Snead State Junior College.

After expanding its career and technical offerings to include programs such as office administration, computer science, and electronics engineering in the 1980s, the school was officially renamed in 1992 as Snead State Community College by the governing state board.

Today, Snead State Community College has three campus locations, including the main campus in Boaz, the Aviation College in Albertville, and an instructional site in Arab.

Dr. Joe Whitmore serves as president of Snead State Community College. He was appointed to the position in June 2020 by Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker. Prior to his presidency, Dr. Whitmore served as the college’s Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer. “It is a great honor and privilege to serve as president of Snead State Community College,” Dr. Whitmore said. “Over the last 125 years, this institution has boasted a seismic impact on this region as it has grown and evolved. And, just as our founders were more than a century ago, our faculty, staff and I remain committed to carrying on the mission of working alongside our many partners and stakeholders to better the lives of our community members by creating an unmatched learning environment and experience for current and prospective students.”