BETHANY, W.Va. – As Bethany College, West Virginia’s oldest degree-granting institution, prepares this week to celebrate its 175th anniversary on March 5, resolutions honoring the milestone have been offered in both states that figure in Bethany’s long history.
Legislators in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the state of West Virginia have passed resolutions congratulating the College on its service since its founding in 1840. Bethany College was chartered by Virginia, the Old Dominion, as a four-year liberal arts college on March 2, 1840, and was recognized as a college by the new state of West Virginia in 1863, making it the oldest college in the state of West Virginia.
Representing Bethany College in Charleston, West Virginia, for acceptance of a State Senate resolution on Monday were Bethany alumni George Manahan, class of 1983, and Robert Coffield, class of 1988. The resolutions were prepared with the assistance of Bill Archer, friend of Bethany from Bluefield, West Virginia.
The College traces its origins to 1818 when Bethany College’s founder, Alexander Campbell, established Buffalo Seminary at what was then Bethany, Virginia. Later, in 1829, Campbell served as an elected delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention. Bethany re-established Buffalo Seminary five years ago as a continuing-education program for ministers and laity of its founding denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The official resolutions recognize that Bethany College “has provided its students with an excellent education to prepare them for service in myriad careers, including law (Thomas Buergenthal, retired judge, International Court of Justice, the Hague); medicine (Dr. John Niederhuber, former director of the National Cancer Institute and currently chief executive officer, Inova Translational Medicine Institute); business (Gregory B. Jordan, executive vice president and general counsel, PNC, and Robert J. McCann, chief executive officer, UBS Group Americas).” The resolutions point out that “other notable alumni of Bethany College include broadcasters Dave Sims of the Seattle Mariners, Faith Daniels, and Bob Orr, and Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand, among many others in various fields and professions.”
Bethany’s history includes Amos Emerson Dolbear, the American physicist and inventor, who invented the electrostatic telephone while serving on the faculty at Bethany College in 1868 and had previously invented the first permanent magnet and metallic diaphragm for the telephone receiver; service as a trustee by U.S. President James Garfield; and visits by John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald Ford, among other dignitaries.
Bethany will honor its distinguished history on March 5 during the annual Founder’s Day Convocation. The speaker this year will be Dr. David Jolliffe, professor of English and, by courtesy, Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas, where he is the initial occupant of the Brown Chair in English Literacy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English, magna cum laude, from Bethany College in 1974; a Master of Arts in English from West Virginia University in 1980; and a Doctorate in English from the University of Texas in 1984.