BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College on Thursday celebrated 182 years as an institution of higher education and the vision of Alexander Campbell during its annual Founder’s Day event.
Dr. Douglas A. Foster, author of “A Life of Alexander Campbell,” delivered an address titled “Alexander Campbell and 2022: Three Ways He Is Teaching Me How to Live as a Christian Today.”
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) and Bethany College.
Foster is a scholar-in-residence at Abilene Christian University, where he was a full-time professor for more than 25 years. Published in 2020, “A Life of Alexander Campbell” is considered the first critical biography of Campbell.
“Since publishing ‘A Life of Alexander Campbell,’ I’ve sometimes felt compelled to start my lectures about him with the statement, I assure you I do not hate Alexander Campbell. Quite the contrary. I admire him immensely for his ideas of simple Christian unity among all followers of Christ, in his relentless pursuit of his understanding of the Kingdom of God.”
Foster delivered the Bethany Founder’s Day address virtually in 2021, discussing how a culture of Christian nationalism, domestic terrorism and white supremacist racism shaped Campbell.
“Today, too, Christian nationalism, domestic terrorism and white supremacy have become woven into a destructive web to which even many Christians have become blinded,” Foster said Thursday.
In his latest address, Foster focused on how Campbell’s best impulses taught Foster how to live as a Christ-follower in a polarized nation and world today.
“The lesson that strikes me so powerfully is this: Even if a person like Campbell, who has come to such a profound understanding concerning the necessity of submission, humility and love in approaching the written word of God, can be blinded on a matter that reflects the very nature of God, I must be intensely self-reflective and self-critical about things I have missed that are central to the nature of God and what it means to be a Christian. The issue that blinded Campbell was the most politically and morally divisive one in the United State in his day and today: Race.”
Bethany also welcomed the return to campus of Bethany President Emeritus and Professor of American History D. Duane Cummins, who served as the respondent for the Founder’s Day luncheon.
A wreath-laying ceremony at Campbell’s gravestone at God’s Acre Cemetery followed.
The College and DOC recently launched its Friends of God’s Acre giving fund to pay for the upkeep of the cemetery, where members of the Campbell family and Bethany College presidents and professors are laid to rest.
The DOC also honored Jeanne Cobb, an archivist and former coordinator of special collections at Bethany College, as the Best Friend of God’s Acre for her contributions to the cause. Cobb’s children and grandchildren joined in the celebration.
Bethany College holds Founder’s Day annually on the first Thursday of March. Bethany President Perry Gresham began the tradition in 1953.
The college received its original charter on March 2, 1840, from the Legislature of Virginia. The West Virginia legislature reaffirmed the charter on June 20, 1863, upon statehood.
ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE
Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.