BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College celebrated Founder’s Day with events on campus and around the nation Thursday, March 5. This year’s program honored the College’s 175 years as a small college of national distinction.
Dr. Scott D. Miller, President of the College, welcomed students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests to Commencement Hall for Founder’s Day Convocation. Miller spoke of Bethany College founder Alexander Campbell, who began Bethany’s legacy in 1840.
“When Mr. Campbell founded this campus, the great-great-great-great grandparents of students here today would have been living in the early 19th century,” Miller said. “Ahead lay many challenges for our young nation - and for our College. Yet it was because of the willingness to take risks and to accept those challenges that our country has endured, and Bethany College has also survived and flourished. We are today West Virginia’s only national liberal arts college, and a true leader in American higher education.”
Dr. David Jolliffe, a 1974 Bethany College graduate, author and professor of English at the University of Arkansas, addressed those in attendance with his speech titled 'The Well-Read, Well-Spoken Citizen: Important to Cicero in 55 B.C.E., Important to Alexander Campbell in 1842, Important to Us Today."
In his speech, Jolliffe discussed how Cicero, a Roman philosopher, was an advocate of the liberal arts education. Cicero believed that, to be a good speaker, it was necessary to be knowledgeable about current events and to have a well-rounded education, Jolliffe said.
Jolliffe quoted Cicero: “Be in and of the world. Read. Praise. Interpret. Correct. Refute.”
“In 85 B.C. Rome, in 1783 Edinboro, in 1842 Bethany, and ideally today in Bethany, these same verbs signal the same directives to foster the citizen orator, the uniter of the wisdom and eloquence that excellent higher education must strive to produce.”
He pointed out the similarities in Bethany’s education requirements to those that Cicero recommended.
“If students wonder today why they are required to complete the Bethany Plan, freshman seminars, general education courses, out-of-class learning, capstone experiences, written and oral comprehensive exams, I hope they are open to seeing the intellectual heritage they are following.
“From ancient Rome, to 18th century Scotland, to Alexander Campbell’s founding of this wonderful institution today, to their own four years on this magnificent mountaintop, thank you and all hail bright Alma Mater.”
Following the address, Miller conferred a Doctor of Letters degree to Jolliffe for his significant achievements. The conferring of the degree was presented by his close friend Dr. Gary H Kappel, professor of history and the Perry E. and Aleece C. Gresham Chair in Humanities.
Jolliffe, who serves as the Brown Chair in English Literacy at the University of Arkansas, began his career as an educator at Triadelphia High School and then at Wheeling Park High School, where he taught both English and theatre.
He has authored or edited 13 books and more than 40 articles on the history and theory of rhetoric, the teaching of writing, and the preparation of writing teachers. His office sponsors the Arkansas Studio Project, which offers arts-infused literacy-enrichment activities in secondary schools in Springdale, Arkansas.
A magna cum laude graduate of Bethany with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Jolliffe also earned a Master of Arts in English from West Virginia University in 1980 and a doctorate in English from the University of Texas in 1984. He has taught at West Virginia University, Bethany, the University of Texas, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and DePaul University. He began his work as the Brown Chair, with the mission to promote critical and effective literacy among Arkansans, in 2005.
Following the event, a wreath-laying ceremony was held in the Agostino Room in remembrance of Campbell (1788-1866), the College’s founder and first president. Dr. D. Duane Cummins, historian, author and former Bethany president, spoke of the legacy of Alexander Campbell at the ceremony.
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 March 2, 1840. The charter was affirmed June 20, 1863, by the Legislature of the newly formed state of West Virginia.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.