History of the ACA

From the inception of the Appalachian College Program with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1979, faculty at private colleges in the central Appalachian mountains have benefited from various fellowships and conferences sponsored by the program, which was originally based at the University of Kentucky. The Pew Charitable Trust gave the program a major thrust forward in 1984 with a grant which validated as well as expanded the work of the program by adding science/math faculty to those eligible for funding. Mary Bingham's gift in 1989 provided an endowment to assure continuation of summer fellowships for humanities faculty. A new grant from Mellon in early 1990 expanded the program, still housed at UK, to allow faculty in humanities/social sciences to study at any of the six major research universities in the five state area.

In 1990, with encouragement from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the foresight of John Stephenson, president of Berea College, and Alice Brown, director of what had been the Appalachian College Program (renamed the Faculty Scholars Program at the University of Kentucky), 32 colleges from the Appalachian region came together to discuss the possibility of forming an association that would "enable the colleges to serve more effectively the people of the Appalachian region."

On September 17, 1990, the presidents of the participating colleges organized the Appalachian College Association to assure a stable administrative base for the continuation of faculty development opportunities and for encouraging exploration of other collaborative ventures. Starting with office space contributed by one of the North Carolina colleges and a half-time director, the newly formed Appalachian College Association received its first major grant in 1991 from the Mellon Foundation.

By late summer, 1993, the Association had established headquarters in Berea, Kentucky, had incorporated and established a 501(c)3 classification with the IRS, had established a retirement plan for employees with TIAA-CREF and had hired its first full-time director. Since then, the consortium has received almost $49 million in funding from federal agencies and private foundations to support the work of the faculty, students and staff at 35 member colleges and universities. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation continues to provide major support for the organization.