BETHANY, W.Va. – On Thursday, Bethany College celebrated 183 years as an institution founded by Alexander Campbell during its annual Founder’s Day Celebration.

Dr. Joel A. Brown, President of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, joined students, faculty, staff, and other Disciples of Christ members for the celebration held at Commencement Hall. Brown warned those in attendance that the lecture may be “a downer” as the Civil War was a dark time in our nation’s history.

“It’s a hard part of Campbell’s history. And yet, I truly believe that we do a disservice to Campbell’s memory, and to the legacy of this place, this hallowed institution if we only tell the best parts of his life,” says Brown.

He went on to reflect on Campbell’s vision, not only for America but for this institution. He says Campbell had faith in the world around him, but he would realize how the Civil War would impact his outlook over time. He worried about the future, God’s plans, and national disunion.

“In his final years, Campbell encountered tremendous heartache and disappointment,” says Brown. “Campbell was isolated, alone, and he was by numerous accounts experiencing mental decline, losing his memory and mind, and he would never recover from the burden and pain he bore in these final years. Campbell would die less than a year after the end of the war, more uncertain about the future than he had ever been, yet holding firm to his faith that God was nonetheless still working.”

Brown went on to say that hidden in all of this is a message—to not hold too tightly to the visions of the future we have because we may miss the opportunity to do something that matters more.

“Worlds fall apart. But the good news is that maybe, just maybe, the broken pieces of our shattered worlds will be picked up and reassembled, put back together, even if in different configurations than we’d first known or imagined them. Bethany College is a living testimony to the possibility that broken worlds can be put back together,” Brown concluded.

Following the speech, President Dr. Jamie Caridi and Provost Anju Ramjee congratulated those who made the President and Dean’s List in the fall semester. A reception followed the event before the wreath-laying ceremony at Campbell’s gravestone at God’s Acre Cemetery.

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.