BETHANY, W.Va. – Saturday is a significant day in history for Bethany College as Sept. 12 marks founder Alexander Campbell’s birthday.

Campbell, who lived from 1788 to 1866, was one of the principal founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He was a leader in childhood and adolescent education and championed universal education of women.

He founded Bethany College in 1840 in what was then the Commonwealth of Virginia and served as the college’s first president. Bethany is the oldest private college in West Virginia.

Campbell set the purpose of Bethany College to prepare students to become useful and responsible members of society by liberating them from superstition and ignorance, the tyranny of others, and “vulgar prejudices.”

He envisioned that students would be lifelong learners, becoming their own teachers after graduating from Bethany.

The Campbell legacy remains strong on the campus and in the village of Bethany.

Ten Bethany students affiliated with DOC churches recently received scholarships from the Disciples Appalachian Scholarship Ministry to help pay for their studies.

Campbell Mansion, which was built between 1795 and 1840, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1994. Though tours of the mansion are temporarily suspended, visitors are welcome to walk the grounds.

Campbell is buried in nearby God’s Acre Cemetery. Each March, a wreath is placed at the grave after the college’s annual Founder’s Day celebration.

The Disciples of Christ Historical Society opened on the grounds of Campbell Mansion in 2016.


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.