Founded in 1960, Winthrop’s Honors Program is one of the oldest in the nation. Then President Charles S. Davis, realizing the importance of an enriched education for high-achieving students appointed faculty member, Dr. John S. Eells, as the founding director of our Honors Program. Dr. Eells became a member of a national organization that was formed as a clearinghouse for information on honors activities, the Inter-University Committee on the Superior Student (ICSS). The ICSS received funding from the Carnegie Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education to help establish honors programs at colleges and university across the U.S. When the ICSS disbanded in 1965 for lack of external funding, several members of that group formed the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) in 1966 which was committed to maintaining a professional association of honors educators. Dr. Eells was elected the fourth President of NCHC in 1970.
Over the years, the Winthrop University Honors Program has continued to flourish, and in the early 1980’s the program was divided into a program for the entering freshmen and a program for the upperclassmen. At that time, there was a national trend toward creating “learning communities,” (see Gabelnick, 1986, for a review) and the Winthrop honors administration created the Clustered Learning Units for Educational Success (C.L.U.E.S) program in which new honors freshmen enrolled in a cluster of three honors classes together. This program later became the Freshman Honors Program. Seeing the need for a more cohesive honors experience, the honors administration under the leadership of Dr. Anthony J. DiGiorgio combined the programs in 1997, and that continues to be the case today.
Today the Honors Program at Winthrop University has grown to more than 250 students from each of the degree granting colleges of the university. To graduate with an Honors Program Degree, a student must complete 23 hours of honors courses which includes an honors thesis while maintaining at least a 3.30 grade point average. The honors thesis is the culminating experience for our Honors Program students in which they work collaboratively with a faculty director and two faculty readers to produce a project that evaluates knowledge, concepts and methodology, examines major issues, integrates complex information, and develops and appropriately defends an argument. While most students complete the honors thesis during the course of the senior year, some students complete the project earlier in their academic careers. The Honors Thesis Colloquium is an annual event designed as a venue for the student to celebrate this accomplishment. Active since 2001, the latest colloquium showcased twenty-six students presenting their honors thesis research in the form of an oral presentation or poster.