Emmanuel College first opened on January 1, 1919, under the name of Franklin Springs Institute. During its first year, the institution offered the first 11 grades of school and a Biblical Department for prospective ministers. The founder of the school was the Reverend George Floyd Taylor, a North Carolinian who had long desired to begin such an institution. For over a century the campus had been used as a health resort centered around several mineral springs. Only 50 students enrolled the first year, so not all of the old wooden resort buildings were used. By 1922, however, the school was opened free of charge, and the buildings were filled to capacity. Throughout the early years, G. F. Taylor was president, except for 1926-27, when the Reverend B. A. Jones was president. Because of the Great Depression, the school closed temporarily in 1931.
In 1933 the school was reopened as a high school and junior college, with the Reverend Thomas Lee Aaron as president. Under President Aaron’s leadership, the school gradually progressed from a small community school to a modern, influential junior college. In 1939, the name of the institution was changed to Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” Upon Reverend Aaron’s death in January 1951, Mr. Woodard Glenn Drum, former dean of the college, became president.
The administration of President Drum saw the completion of the present campus quadrangle, the recruitment of an excellent faculty, and the gaining of full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges in 1967. The high school department, which had earlier been fully accredited by the Southern Association, was discontinued in 1963. With the retirement of President Drum in January 1970, Dr. Culbreth Young Melton became the sixth president of the institution.
Under Dr. Melton’s administration a four-year School of Christian Ministries was inaugurated and accredited by the American Association of Bible Colleges. A new Learning Resources Center was constructed, and the overall quality of the institution was improved. Upon Dr. Melton’s retirement, Dr. David Roger Hopkins became the seventh president in June 1983.
Many campus improvements are credited to Dr. Hopkins’ leadership, including construction of the Student Activities Center, two new residence halls and the Wellons Science Resources Center, and acquisition of the John W. Swails Convocation Center. Major changes in curricular offerings also accompanied accreditation as a four-year institution by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges in 1991. During the 1992-93 academic year, the consolidation of the two- and four-year programs was completed as Emmanuel began offering many new baccalaureate degree programs.
Upon Dr. Hopkins’ retirement in 2005, the Rev. Michael S. Stewart was inaugurated as the eighth president of Emmanuel College. The college moved into the future under Dr. Stewart's leadership and fresh vision. During his administration, significant efforts were made to enhance the campus by expanding academic and athletic programs and by improving the quality of campus life through new resident and athletic facilities. The expansive athletic center is a focal point of campus life and has added many recreational and wellness opportunities for students.
In October 2014, Dr. Ronald G. White became the ninth president of Emmanuel College after being named interim president only a month before. A 1969 graduate of Emmanuel, President White previously worked at Emmanuel in enrollment management from 1980 to 2002 and served in additinoal roles during that time.
At the foundation of the many changes and progress over the years remains the paramount emphasis on Christ-centered values. Emmanuel finds much of its justification for existence in its purpose of offering education of high academic quality in a Christian environment. The successful performance of students who have completed Emmanuel’s degree programs and later transferred to other institutions of higher learning reflects the quality of Emmanuel’s academic efforts. The lives of EC alumni speak of the quality of the Christian academic opportunities they have received. Through its program of Christian higher education, Emmanuel College has attempted to provide students with academic and spiritual values that will enrich their lives and lead them to enrich the lives of others in the highest Christian tradition.