BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College celebrated Founder’s Day with events on campus Thursday, March 2. This year’s program honored the College’s history and tradition of academic excellence spanning 177 years.
Dr. Larry Grimes, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, addressed those in attendance in historic Commencement Hall. His address was titled, “Campbell on Livable Lives: Useful to Ourselves, Useful to Others.”
Alexander Campbell was the founder and first president of Bethany College. He was a leader in childhood and adolescent education and championed universal female education. He also was one of the principal founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
During his address, Grimes discussed Alexander Campbell’s understanding of a liberal arts education, quoting from a Commencement address from Campbell.
“They are called the liberal arts and sciences, not merely because they free the human mind from vulgar prejudices, ignorance and error, which they certainly do; but because they are general in character and application, and extensive acquaintance with nature, society and the Bible to any extent commensurate with the wants of our nature and the limits of existence,” said Grimes.
Grimes noted how Campbell’s Christian values raises in a secular age and suggested that challenge is best met by adopting a truly pluralistic vision of religions and ethics in the life of a liberal arts college. He also noted Campbell’s deep commitment to the application of knowledge to life in the world, to issues of justice, to full and useful lives, and to meaningful and useful work.
“As the seal of Bethany College indicates, science, knowledge, knowing and theoretical understanding pass the bow to truth and for Campbell, truth requires action in the world,” concluded Grimes. “It is practice and not theory.”
Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of Bethany College, presided over the event.
“Every year at this time, the donning of vestments and symbols go back to the beginning of academia,” said Rodenberg. “It is a rare place in this world that men and women should dress auspiciously, matched with dignity, solemnity and responsibility. Today, by wearing full regalia, we are connecting the past and the present, then and now, and futures yet unseen.”
Each year at Founder’s Day, graduating seniors wear their regalia for the first time during Convocation.
“As we remember our founders who set before us this place, who taught us to learn and who inspired us to continue to grow throughout our lives, we celebrate today, our 177th Founder’s Day, with not only our faculty, staff and alumni, but also with our seniors, who are ready to step out into a future and lifetime of learning from the skills gathered here at Bethany College,” concluded Rodenberg.
Following the Convocation, a ceremony was held in remembrance of Campbell (1788-1866). Rev. Kenneth Hardway, Senior Minister of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), gave remarks on the legacy of Campbell, and Campbell Leadership Scholar Michaela Ross ended the ceremony with a prayer.
Founder’s Day at Bethany College is observed on the first Thursday of March. The College received its official charter from the Legislature of Virginia on March 2, 1840. The charter was affirmed on June 20, 1863, by the Legislature of the newly formed state of West Virginia.
Bethany College is located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.