Francis Marion's 468-acre main campus is rightly known for its beauty and serenity. The campus includes acres of mixed pine-hardwood and bottomland forests accessed by a series of trails.
The “woodsy” feel is a fit with the surrounding countryside, but the campus trees were carefully cultivated during the early years. Thousands were planted, on what was, at inception, largely farmland. Combined with an equal number of complementary ornamental shrubs and small trees, an oasis of beauty was created.
As the flora matures, the natural palette is constantly changing, a delight for those who work and study at FMU. Indeed, the campus is something of a laboratory. Several forested acres have been set aside as an Arboretum, and a not uncommon sight on campus is a Biology class mucking around the three-fingered pond behind the Lee Nursing Building, looking for specimens of one kind or another.
FMU has judiciously added new buildings to the campus throughout its almost five decades in existence. Most structures have been designed with efficiency in mind, and can be described as “hard-working” buildings, where the vast majority of the built space is reserved for the structure’s primary purpose.
The architecture is tasteful and offers a nice blend with the surroundings, but the theme is getting the job done. This makes for a workable, compact campus and the overall strategy dovetails with the University’s ceaseless focus on operational efficiency. Obtaining the most bang for its construction dollars, and raising money before building something new, rather than borrowing from future generations to pay for it, has played a critical role in making FMU South Carolina’s most affordable college.
The Heart of the Pee Dee
Francis Marion University is located on the outskirts of Florence, S.C. in the heart of South Carolina’s famed Pee Dee Region. The Pee Dee (named for the local river system, which in turn has a Native American lineage) encompasses the northeastern corner of South Carolina. It’s a largely rural area, noted for its agriculture and its wildlife. It’s a sportsman’s paradise, with abundant opportunities for fishing and hunting.
Florence is a growing city of more than 40,000 and the center of a market area of more than 200,000. The city began as a railroad town, serving the junction of east-west and north-south lines. Today the area bustles with industry and facilities that are part of Fortune 500 companies like Johnson Control, Honda, GE and United Technology’s Otis Elevator division.
Florence is a business and cultural hub for the region. It serves a similar role for culture, education and healthcare in the eastern part of the state. Two major hospitals, and their affiliates, and several other large medical practices operate in Florence. Healthcare is the region’s number one employer.
True to its roots, Florence also remains a transportation hub. Both railroads and interstates cross paths here. While Florence is fast-developing its own cultural and entertainment offerings, Florentines have long enjoyed the easy access to places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Charleston and the S.C. Coast (Myrtle Beach is just an hour away!).
In the Community
Francis Marion is a product of a community’s hopes and desires. Fittingly, through its history it maintained a number of long and fruitful relationships with the people, and the institutions, of Florence and the Pee Dee. A number of partnerships between University and community exist – some formally and some otherwise – that have served to enhance both over the years.
Formal community programs created, operated or nurtured by FMU included the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA — a business recruitment organization), the Non-Profit Leadership Institution, the Rural Leadership Institute, the Pee Dee Education Center, Arts International, the Francis Marion Trail Commission, and Science South’s NASA Saturdays in the Pee Dee. All those programs have provided tremendous benefits for the citizens of the region. But FMU’s involvement is much deeper than that. The University is a stalwart supporter of, and partner in, numerous community events, and members of FMU’s staff and faculty deliver significant time and talent each year to local charities, places of worship, and non-profit organizations.
The partnerships even extend to facilities. FMU’s Griffin Athletic Complex is home to the Florence Redwolves collegiate summer league baseball team, and the University’s decision to build its new Performing Arts Center and Center for the Health Sciences in downtown Florence has provided critical momentum for the highly successful revival of that area.