South University, a private academic institution in Savannah, has provided educational opportunities for a diverse student population for more than a century. Offering associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees in business and health disciplines, South University enrolled 1,800 students in fall 2003.
South University traces its beginnings to 1899, when John H. Draughon established Draughon's Practical Business College in Savannah. Much of the school's history is marked by relocation and expansion. From 1899 through 1974 the institution was housed at four different addresses. The school was originally located in the Masonic Lodge that stood on the northeast corner of Liberty and Whitaker streets. It moved to the Georgia State Savings Building in 1914 and to the Lamas Building in 1921, where it remained until 1956. Between 1956 and 1974 the school was housed in the Atlantic Mutual Building before returning to its original neighborhood on the west side of downtown Savannah.
In 1974 Draughon's was purchased by the family of John T. South III, and a second campus was established in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1975. This expansion began a pattern of growth that continues under the leadership of South, who served as the school's president for more than twenty years before becoming chancellor. In 1986 the school changed its name to South College in honor of the South family. In 2003 South sold the college to the Education Management Corporation but retained his position as chancellor.
A decade later South College became a four-year institution, adding a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1996. The following year, the school acquired Massey-Draughon Business College in Montgomery, Alabama, to create a third campus. The 1997 addition of two new health professions programs, in physician assistant studies and physical therapist assisting, allowed South College to reorganize into the School of Business and the School of Health Professions, both of which offer associate and bachelor's degrees.
In 2001 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited South College to confer master's degrees, and in October of that year, South College became South University. In 2002 the school introduced its first postgraduate degree, a Master of Science in physician assistant studies, and added a fourth campus with the acquisition of Columbia Junior College, in Columbia, South Carolina.
In 2003 South University, after becoming the first institution in Savannah accredited to confer doctoral degrees, founded the South University School of Pharmacy. The pharmacy school, one of only three in Georgia, grants a pharmacy doctorate, and the first class of doctoral students enrolled in 2003. The following year the School of Business added online bachelor's degrees in business administration and information technology.