Celebrating Our Rich Legacy
“Tradition is there to arouse us, not to arrest us.”
-- author Toni Morrison
“Moving forward doesn’t mean discarding the past.”
--Trustee Beth Athol ‘82
We are now a little more than one month into the fall semester, one of my favorite times in the academic year as alumni return for football and other events, and remind us of the enduring and extended community that is Bethany College.
Our athletic teams are in full swing, and the campus is buzzing with activity almost 24 hours per day! The incoming class is talented and impressive; overall enrollment is strong. I’m reminded daily that this is a vibrant community of outstanding scholars. Students are benefiting from a variety of recent campus improvements contributing to a stimulating living and learning environment that warrants our national reputation. In Fall 2009, our College combines the best of both worlds, embracing present possibilities while preserving a rich legacy. Based in the classical tradition of the liberal arts, Bethany today is a highly contemporary institution.
As we gathered in historic Commencement Hall for our opening convocation last month, I was reminded of the significant history of the College: the processional down Alumni Walk to Commencement Hall; the heartfelt and sometimes humorous comments of Trustee Neil Christman ’55 H’08, who did a masterful job of making the College’s rich traditions meaningful to today’s students, and then, the moving comments from Dr. Kathy Gaberson of Pittsburgh, mother of the late alumnus Matthew Quay Ammon, who graduated in 1996 and passed away just 10 years later. Dr. Gaberson generously donated funds for the Matthew Quay Ammon Endowed Professorship in Mathematics to honor the life of her son.
“Matthew loved Bethany and always attributed his success in law school and employment to Bethany’s rigorous academic standards and the individual attention he received from the faculty,” Dr. Gaberson remarked. “I am thankful for the opportunity to establish a professorship in honor of my beloved son’s life—and also in gratitude for the faculty at Bethany College, who recognized and nurtured the development of his talents and interests.”
Standing among the assembled crowd, with everyone singing the Alma Mater, evoked for me the thoughts of Bethanians past and present. In this great hall inscribed with the names of Presidents Garfield, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy and Ford and with tributes to notable Bethany families like the Renners, flags hanging high above the audience symbolizing special moments in our history, I felt our legacy become dramatically real. Living in the oldest building on campus, historic Christman Manor at Pendleton Heights, has provided me with an additional perspective. Each time we host an event there, I hear more stories of prominent guests and the attributes that make this place so remarkable.
I want to remind you of another time-honored tradition: Bethany’s Homecoming is just around the corner on October 9-11. During the past two years, I’ve learned much about the special traditions of our College, Homecoming among them (a schedule and registration information can be found at: www.bethanywv.edu/alumni/events/homecoming-2009/Schedule).
“Homecoming” has special significance for some current students, as well as alumni. We currently have five fifth-generation Bethanians enrolled. The family stories are countless! Trustee Ken Bado ’77, a native of nearby Beech Bottom, West Virginia, recently recalled his childhood memories of accompanying his parents to campus from Pittsburgh for fall football games, and how meaningful it was for him to return decades later to visit his son, Matt ’01.
Other prominent alumni and trustees, including Greg Jordan and Linda Lewis, also trace their family roots to local communities; although many have lived and traveled throughout the world, they continue to “come home” to Bethany College.
This sense of continuity and community leaves an indelible mark on those who live and learn on this magnificent campus, chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia so many years ago. From our home in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, we are now boldly charting our future.
Our future is enriched by our founding ideals. Bethany is proud to participate in the October bicentennial commemoration of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address which inspired unity among Christians throughout the nation. The College honors the educational vision of his son, Alexander Campbell, the founder of our institution. His faith in the intellectual freedom of students who enroll here remains our call to action as a community of scholars; support for this timeless mission continues to grow among alumni and friends of Bethany. Our campus celebration is being led by Dr. Larry Grimes, our recently appointed Director of Church Relations, longtime faculty member at Bethany, and pastor of the Community Christian Church in Beech Bottom, West Virginia.
The hymn “O God, our Help in Ages Past” speaks movingly about “time…like an ever-moving stream.” Bethany’s rich heritage and tradition are like that, with alumni and friends from seven decades and three generations or more—families such as the Athols and Bados—continually refreshing and revitalizing that stream.
I hope you’ll join us for Homecoming and share our enjoyment of autumn at this most special place.
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
President of the College
To see Dr. Miller's biography:
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