BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College officially opened the 2019-2020 academic year during its annual Fall Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 12, in Commencement Hall.

Elizabeth McClanahan Fall Convocation SpeakerThe event featured an address by Elizabeth McClanahan, dean of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., and the recognition of outstanding achievements by Bethany faculty, students, and staff.

In her opening remarks, Bethany College President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg welcomed students, faculty, and staff back to campus. The theme for the year is “One Team, One Tradition, One Bethany.”

She also announced that on Thursday morning she and McClanahan signed a 3-3 articulation that would allow a student to complete three years of undergraduate work at Bethany and three years of legal courses at Appalachian School of Law. The student would receive both a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years.

In her address, McClanahan, who recently retired as a justice from the Supreme Court of Virginia, encouraged students in their individual pursuits.

She acknowledged that some Bethany students have a clear picture of where there future will lead, while others aren’t quite as sure.

“Remain flexible,” McClanahan said. “Know that there will be surprises and unplanned events, and live through them one day at a time. As for unplanned events, I know them all too well.”

Fall ConvocationIn 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said waiting for information on her diagnosis and treatment were some of the toughest times of her life. Almost 13 years later, she is cancer free.

But her diagnosis taught her the importance of the 72-hour rule. The rule refers to what she called her magic number – the amount of time that passed after her chemo at which point she could set aside the pain and anger she felt.

“I wasn’t completely better after 72 hours, but at least I wasn’t getting worse and I could look at life a bit differently,” she said.

The 72-hour rule is applicable in many situations, she said.

“After a disappointment, a bad grade, or friend who betrays you, if you wait 72 hours before you post that Instagram message or tweet your views on the matter, you will often find that your perspective has changed drastically,” she said. “There’s absolutely no advantage to sending a hastened response when you are hurt, angry, or disappointed.”

When the tough times arise, she encouraged students to guide their lives according to the “Three Gs”: Be grateful, give, and set goals.

“These ‘Three Gs’ form together like a simple mathematical equation,” she said. “It’s as easy as A plus B equals C. When you are grateful for those who have strengthened you and you give back to those who have loved and supported you, you will achieve your goals.”

Fall Convocation was also a time for Bethany to recognize individual achievements.

Rodenberg presented three faculty and staff members with special awards recognizing their contributions to the college.

Katherine Shelek-Furbee, associate provost, professor, and social work program director and chair, received the John R. Taylor Memorial Award in Liberal Arts. The award is named in memory of John R. Taylor, ’44, an emeritus professor of English at Bethany.

Dr. Diane Snyder, assistant professor of psychology, and Becky Pauls, director of enrollment, received Presidential Awards of Excellence.

Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Gerald Stebbins announced the recipients of the Anna Ruth Bourne Award, the W. Kirk Woolery Award and the Richard B. Kenney Freshman Leadership Award.

Fall Convocation SGAAlpha Xi Delta received the Bourne Award, which is given each semester to the women’s social group maintaining the highest scholastic standing. Beta Theta Pi received the Woolery Award, which honors the men’s social group with the same achievement.

The annual Richard B. Kenney Freshman Leadership Award recognizes a sophomore who has demonstrated outstanding scholarship, leadership, and character at Bethany during his or her freshman year.

Allison Paxton, a sophomore psychology major from Canonsburg, Pa., is the 2019 recipient. She is the organizer of the recent Special Olympics Field Day on campus.

Paxton also installed the Student Government Association leadership: Reed D. Long as president and Hunter D. Bowman as vice president.

Watch Fall Convocation in its entirety here.


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.