Bethany College Founders Day Celebration Ties History with Current Events

BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College celebrated Founder’s Day on March 1 with an academic ceremony and celebration among faculty, students, and guests on its scenic West Virginia campus.

The program honored the College’s 178-year history and its founder, Alexander Campbell. Campbell 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).

Rev. Dr. Richard H. Lowery, President of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, gave the Founders Day address entitled, “Out of the House of Slavery: Faith and Public Witness in the Life and Thought of Alexander Campbell.”

During his address, Lowery contrasted the liberation of slaves from Egypt in the Old Testament with American slavery during the 19th century and modern day racial unrest in America. He portrayed Campbell as “a flawed messenger,” since he opposed slavery yet was, himself, a slave owner for a time.

“Campbell, like the bible itself,” said Lowery, “is a mixed bag. But you and I are mixed bags, too. We often find ourselves pulled between competing values. Our solutions are sometimes messy, incomplete, and inconsistent but that cannot keep us from taking action.

“We, like Campbell,” Lowery added, “live in a time of moral crisis. Ironically, the crisis we face today is the legacy of the moral crisis of Campbell’s day. Racism, the sin of white privilege and white supremacy took root in America to justify slavery. Even still today, we are all affected in various ways by this deeply embedded moral sin in our culture. But that cannot discourage us from acknowledging and confronting it so that we can transform our own hearts and build a better nation and a better world.”

Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of Bethany College, presided over the event. “While much of the world has changed since Alexander Campbell founded Bethany,” said Rodenberg, “his vision for a strong academic institution has not changed. The goals of Bethany College have remained the same through the years—preparing students to become useful and responsible members of society by “liberating them from superstition and ignorance and the tyranny of others and vulgar prejudice.’”

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.

About Bethany College
Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.

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