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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Rev. Charles Graves Vardell, D.D.


DR. CHARLES GRAVES VARDELL, President of Flora Macdonald College, Red Springs, North Carolina, is one of the most successful college presidents in the South and has received well-deserved praise from educators and others in all parts of the country for his twenty years’ successful work in establishing from a small beginning this strong and efficient institution for the education and practical training of young women.

Dr. Vardell was born February 12, 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina, son of W. G. Vardell and Jane Dickson (Bell) Vardell, a descendant on his father’s side from the Huguenots and on his mother’s side from the Scotch. His maternal great-grandfather was the Rev. James Malcolmson, D.D., who came from Scotland to Charleston, South Carolina, about the middle of the eighteenth century, Dr. Vardell was educated at Oberlin (Ohio), Davidson College (North Carolina) and Princeton Theological Seminary, and was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Newbern, N. C., for five years. Davidson College honoured him with the degree of D.D.

In 1896, he accepted an invitation from the Cape Fear Scotsmen to start a young ladies’ college for the education of their daughters. They had acquired four acres of land and $4,000 in cash and material, with which to erect buildings and provide operating capital. Dr. Vardell’s friends discouraged him in what seemed to them an impossible task, saying that it would not he possible to build an institution and to provide an education that would satisfy the Scottish mind, in an almost unknown place, and with only $4,000. But Dr. Vardell had foresight and faith; he saw the possibility of development, and the great need of an institution to meet the craving in the minds of the Scottish people of Cape Fear for education. The four acres of land were well located and the climate of Red Springs was wholesome, and $4,000 was a fair beginning. There were institutions in the South for the daughters of rich men and institutions for the daughters of poor people; but there were no institutions for the daughters of men who had some money and wanted a good education for their daughters at a moderate price. There were many difficult problems to be worked out in putting the institution on a more solid educational basis than others. A. four years’ course for graduation was proposed, which was against the grain of the Southern girl. Again, to give religious instruction and prepare the young woman not merely to meet social duties, but religious and Christian work; it was a great undertaking, but Dr. Vardell seized the opportunity, and counted the cost. He opened

• the school, and called it the Southern Presbyterian College. Twenty years have passed, the little wooden house has become a stately brick building, fitted with modern improvements. The four acres have extended to a hundred, and the $4,000 to a plant worth $165,000. The little faculty of six has increased to thirty competent workers, and the little handful of students to two hundred and fifty young women gathered from a dozen states. This success has not been accomplished by large gifts for equipment and endowment, nor by high college dues, but by indomitable perseverance, unusual executive ability and unwavering faith.

Dr. James Alexander Macdonald, of Toronto, visited the college in May, 1914, and suggested that the name of the college be changed to a "Flora Macdonald College," as a memorial to the Scottish heroine, who spent some of her eventful life at Cape Fear, and that it should be adequately endowed. His suggestion was accepted by the executive authorities, and in 1915 the name of the college was changed to Flora Macdonald College. An appeal has been made to the Scottish people in America to endow the college, which has already met with encouraging result. Dr. Vardell has built up an institution that is now recognized as a power for good in the South, and Flora Macdonald College is a monument to his tireless energy and administrative genius.

Dr. Vardell married, October 27, 1891, in Salisbury, North Carolina, Miss Linda Lee Rumple, daughter of Rev. Jethro Rumple, D.D. They have six children: Charles Gildersleeve, born August 19, 1893; Elizabeth, born November 17, 1894; Jane Dickson, born July 17, 1896; Margaret Malcomson, born November 19, 1897; Ruth Wharton, born November 24, 1899; and Mary Linda, born November 24, 1904.


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