In 1889, the Episcopal Church in Cape Palmas founded Cuttington Collegiate and Divinity School on the Southern-most tip of Liberia. The School was named for Mr. Robert Fulton Cutting, treasurer of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church in the United States, who in 1885 had donated to Bishop Samuel D. Ferguson, then Bishop of Liberia, US$ 5,000.00 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 should afford opportunities for practical instruction of boys in the mission schools and at the same time serve as a pattern for others. On February 22, 1889, Bishop Ferguson laid the corner stone of the first building and named it Epiphany Hall. At the time, Cuttington admitted only men. The students came from all parts of Liberia and also from other West African countries. The enrollment was limited to about 100 and standards of admission and achievement were high.
The curriculum was divided into four departments:
Agriculture and Industrial Theological; Preparatory; Collegiate under the leadership of Rev. M.P.K. Valentine, M.A., 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. Until 1929 when it was forced to close down for financial reasons, the College played an important role in providing classical education to Liberians and other Africans from the nearby West African countries.
In 1949, Cuttington was re-opened through the instrumentality of the late Bishop Bravid W. Harris, then Bishop of Liberia, as a four-year co-educational Liberal Arts College, and re-named Cuttington College and Divinity School. Through the assistance of Dr. William V.S. Tubman, President of Liberia (1944-1971), the Liberian Government donated to the Episcopal Church 1,500 acres of rich agricultural land at Suakoko, Bong County, for the purpose of establishing a College.
Cuttington University College so re-named in 1977 was made up of six (6) degree granting Colleges: Education, Humanities, Social Science, Natural Science, and Nursing & Theology with plans to add more academic programs.
The Rev. Seth Edwards was named the First President of Cuttington; 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. Dr. Baker continued to uphold this philosophy by establishing a linkage between Cuttington and the Associated Episcopal Colleges and association of colleges of the Mid-west both of the USA. The Reverend Father Bolling Robertson served as Interim President for the period 1972-1973.
The Reverend Fr. Emmanuel Johnson succeeded Dr. Christian E. Baker in 1973 as the third president of the College and served until 1980, 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. Since Dr. Mason could not take office until February 1988, Dr. Baker served as Interim President until February 7, 1988. Dr. Mason served for 14 years (1988-2002). During the civil crisis, when Dr. Mason had to travel to the United States to establish Cuttington-In-Exile (the college had officially closed as of May 1990), Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa, Hon. D. Musuleng Cooper and Associate Professor Thomas K. Gaie (Alumni) successively served as Acting Presidents.
Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa succeeded Dr. Mason in August 2002 as the Sixth President of this great Institution but was not inducted into office until November 13, 2005 as a result of the number of interruptions due to the civil wars. Despite the series of financial constraints confronting the institution, Administration has, through the able leadership of Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa, been able to successfully add the following programs to the University in effort to meet the growing demands and challenges of the nation’s development process:
- CU offers 11 degrees and 8 certificates in its undergraduate programs.
- The Graduate School comprises four departments that offer Master’s Degrees in Theology, Nursing, Education and Business Administration and a Department of Professional Studies that offers certificates
- The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
- The Research and Development Institute
- The Service Learning Department
- The Cuttington University Junior College in Kakata, Margibi County.
This Junior College offers Associate of Applied Science degrees in General Studies leading to a Bachelor’s degree in various academic disciplines.
In addition to these programs, several sectors of the University have been reactivated with a focus towards reaching out to the surrounding communities and beyond.
The same is done with villagers who wish to grow chicken. Besides, the faculty in the College of Agriculture and Integrated Rural Development reach out to the farmers in the surrounding areas to teach them methods of improving their production both in quality and quantity.
In addition to the above, Dr. Tokpa’s administration has succeeded in raising the status of Cuttington to that of a University, a process that lasted a few years.
Therefore, the University now has seven (7) colleges, to wit:
- College of Natural Sciences
- College of Health Sciences
- College of Education
- College of Theology
- College of Agriculture and Integrated Development Studies
- College of Business and Public Administration
- College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences