Chowan’s 22nd President inaugurated
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 2004
MURFREESBORO – Surrounded by dignitaries, faculty, staff, alumni, students, family and friends, Dr. Christopher White was inaugurated here Thursday as Chowan College’s 22nd President in 156 years of existence.
The ceremony took place in the campus’s infamous Georgian-style McDowell Columns, named after the College’s first President Archibald McDowell who served from 1848-1849 and began with an instrumental organ prelude by D. Elizabeth Clark followed by a celebratory selection of tunes performed by the Chowan College Wind Ensemble conducted by David N. Shaw.
The newly charged White expressed gratitude and honor at being chosen to serve as the college’s next Presidential leader and opened his speech by welcoming those in attendance stating, &uot;This is a significant day in Chowan College’s history. Hopefully, in years to come, we will look back at this day as a pivotal point.&uot;
White, who began his work with the college the first of July, 2003 as interim President, was subsequently chosen by the College Board of Trustees to serve in the position after much prayer and consideration had been given to his character, integrity and ability to lead the institution to the next level of greatness.
A native of Hartwell, Georgia, Dr. White earned a BA degree in Mathematics and English from Mercer University where he graduated magna cum laude, third in his class. Continuing his education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, he received a Master of Divinity degree, graduating second in his class.
He also pursued graduate studies in religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia from which he earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree and the first United States citizen to be awarded the honorary Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the prestigious Moscow State Conservatory of Music in Russia for his support of music and the arts in higher education.
&uot;Dr. White has a record of proven leadership,&uot; said A. Hope Williams President of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. &uot;He has won our respect and our hearts and the future of Chowan is looking brighter everyday,&uot; she said.
Dr. White began his professional career at Elon University and served there from 1972-1986 as faculty and staff member until being elected to serve as President of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina where he served until 2002, a period of 16 years.
Under his leadership, Gardner-Webb was transformed from a small college to a regional university, more than doubled its enrollment to nearly 4,000, increased the endowment 800 percent, improved student quality significantly, enhanced the campus with numerous capital projects, increased faculty and staff salaries to the upper quartile in the state, added doctoral programs and upgraded the athletic program to NCAA Division 1.
&uot;I believe Chowan College will play an increasingly important role in the region’s future,&uot; said guest speaker and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. &uot;Some people may think this college should play a roll of ‘quaint alternative’ in the higher education picture of northeastern North Carolina, nothing though is further from the truth.&uot;
Recalling the college’s humble beginnings over 150 years earlier, &uot;before computers, or global economies…the Wright Brothers and the Civil War,&uot; Marshall shared her belief that Chowan also serves &uot; a very modern role here in the young 21st Century.&uot;
Marshall also extended greetings from Governor Mike Easley, North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black, Speaker Richard Morgan and Senate President Pro-tem Marc Basnight from the General Assembly who were not able to attend the event due to schedule conflicts.
The event also included a call to purpose presented by Vice President of Student Government Association and Susan Parker Kerr Leadership Scholar William Andrews, III; invocation by David Horton, President of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; Scripture readings from Psalm 1 read by C. Preston McElheney, III Chair for the Chowan College Board of Visitors and Chowan Alumnus-Class of 1996; and John 3:16-18 read by Chowan College Ministerial Board of Associates Burke Holland.
Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, Danny Moore addressed the group with introductions and announcements while John T Roberson gave a Litany of Commitment, affirming the college’s Christian heritage, recognizing the divine responsibility of providing educational opportunities and dreaming &uot;big dreams&uot; of possibility for the future.
Drawing attention to the symbolic components of the college’s seal and &uot;soul&uot; of the institution, Dr. White asked the audience to &uot;look back into the colleges past, so that we can look with clarity into the future.&uot;
White described the first element of the seal (a Bible), citing the Christian character of the institution. &uot;Note that the Bible is open,’ he said. &uot;This suggests to me that not only is the Bible the religious foundation for the college, but that is the Bible is to be read and not just admired or even worshipped. Only by opening the Scripture can its truths be known.&uot;
White went on to the second feature of the seal, an ancient oil lamp. &uot;The age of the lamp denotes appreciation for the past, appreciation for the values of our forefathers,&uot; he said. &uot;Note that the lamp is lit. The lamp is alive with fire. The light, which symbolizes inquiry, is active. This is most appropriate for a college based on virtue and integrity.&uot;
Third, White noted that the seal contained the Latin words &uot;Lux and veritas,&uot; meaning &uot;light and truth.&uot; Defining &uot;light&uot; as the understanding that comes as a result of inquiry and &uot;truth&uot; as the ability to discern between conflicting viewpoints, he emphasized the importance of an education deeper than academic pursuits encompassing all aspects of an individual.
&uot;Speaking personally,&uot; commented Marshall, &uot;I have been educated at a big, public university with thousands and thousands of students. I have also been educated at a private university, Campbell University, which shares much in common with Chowan College in the way it views the whole education picture.
She continued, &uot;I have had the educational experience where no one knew if I made it to class or not. Then I had the Campbell experience, where the faculty cared if I was there. They cared if I was sick or well.
&uot;They cared if I was smiling or not and most importantly, they truly cared if I was retaining what I was taught in a way that would help me later in life…that is the kind of education all of you here at Chowan give our next generation as well. This college provides something our society needs, probably even more than it did 150 years ago.&uot;
During the ceremony, the audience sang the National Anthem and the hymn, &uot;God of Our Fathers, Whose almighty Hand,&uot; led by singer George W. Warren, under the direction of Gregory B. Parker.
Accompanying Amy H. Burton in a classical-style vocal solo of &uot;Thanks Be To God with For the Beauty of the Earth,&uot; Paula Pressnell played a piano piece arranged by Dennis Allen. Parker also led the attendees in a resonating rendition of the school’s alma mater.
&uot;Even though the northeastern part of the state is more isolated, this campus has been host to many local programs and events,&uot; said Elaine Early Myers, a Chowan Trustee and Alumnus from the Class of 1960.
&uot;Despite the college’s size, many graduates have excelled and remained in the area to invest in their community the skills and knowledge they acquired here and today, Chowan is one of the largest employers in the region and we look forward to the future under the leadership of Dr. White.&uot;
Murfreesboro Mayor Ben McLean also expressed his support of White stating, &uot;This marks the beginning of a new era for the town and for eastern North Carolina. Dr. White offers freshness, vitality and wisdom that will affect positive economic change.
&uot;When asked the question, ‘Isn’t Murfreesboro in the middle of nowhere,’ he responded, ‘Murfreesboro is in the middle of everywhere’. That response shows his attitude and eagerness to carry Chowan into the future and I’m sure the return on his efforts will be rewarded,&uot; he said.
In his address, White took time to recognize some historic figures, he referred to as &uot;Chowan Saviors,&uot; thanking them for their steadfast persistence to reopen the college in 1949, including Governor W. Kerr Scott, Charles Revelle Sr. George Gibbs, Bob F. Hill, Sr., Elwood W. Parker, Edwin Pierce Brown, Rev. Lonnie Sasser, Rev. Oscar Creech, Dr. Raleigh Parker, F. Roy Johnson, Ellen Futrell and E. Pat Banks Sr. Those present or their family members were asked to stand in honor of their presence.
President of Chowan Student Government Association, Rebecca Dawn Lapham spoke of the positive changes already taking place on the campus. &uot;This is a turning point for the future,&uot; she said. &uot;Faculty and staff have a new attitude and students are seeing the physical improvements being done before our eyes. I believe Dr. White will aid this college in becoming a strong Baptist college and I look forward to seeing the visions for Chowan become a reality.&uot;
Ralph Brabban, E. Lee Oliver Fagan Professor of Bible at the college stated, &uot;We have a new set of expectations and hopes set on a foundation of previous Presidents. We have a distinguished heritage and bright future before us, ready to be molded as big as we can dream, and we can dream big. The future begins now, where we cross the threshold together and I believe that greatness is not only possible, but inevitable.&uot;
Dr. White encouraged his audience to be steadfast and upright stating, &uot;Obstacles have always plagued Chowan. For example, there has never been enough money. Many of the obstacles, such as the issue of women’s education, are gone; but new ones have taken their place. But, the original vision is remarkably unchanged, to have a ‘school of high order’.
&uot;In my experience, hardships are a part of life. We all get knocked down…the question is whether we get up again. Chowan has been down on many occasions, but she has always risen to the challenge.&uot;
Dr. White also distinguished the historic Christian college from other educational institutions. &uot;A Christ-centered college nurtures the mind far differently than 90 percent of the 4,200 degree-granting institutions in the United States,&uot; he said. &uot;Since the founding of Harvard in 1636 as a Christ-centered campus, hundreds of campuses with similar intent by their founders have given up that holy and honorable distinction. They have become silent as if to be ashamed of it, but we’re different. We’re committed to our Christian past, present and future.
&uot;Yes, we are to fill our students’ minds with knowledge, analytical skills, the ability to communicate and so forth. But unless we fill our students’ hearts to care deeply about others and about the condition of the world, we fail,&uot; he admonished, holding onto a quote by Dr. Elton Trueblood to foster &uot;Tough minds and tender hearts.&uot;
White encouraged his audience to facilitate the sacred calling of educating the next generation, citing the words of the apostle Paul not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and charged his peers to commit to uphold the school’s mission statement, which he signed during the Litany and Covenant of Installation administered by Bynum Brown. The Prayer of Investiture by Chowan Trustee and Minister at Early’s Baptist Church, Ronald McSwain was followed by the Presentation of the Indicia of Office where White was presented with the Chain of Office (a medallion hand-crafted in honor of the college’s history and heritage).
He also charged a commitment to attract and nurture good scholars, maintain a high level of expectations and serve the needs of the Roanoke-Chowan area.
&uot;We take the responsibility we have before us seriously and we believe God sent Dr. White here for this season for a reason,&uot; said Robert Newsome, Jr., Vice Chair, Board of Trustees and Chowan Alumnus from the Class of 1964. &uot;The college is already stronger under his leadership.&uot;
&uot;The inauguration of a President is only partially about the individual who serves as president. It is really a celebration of the institution,&uot; said White. &uot;Let us dare to dream dreams for Chowan. Let us dream big, for only big dreams are worthy of the God who created us. I challenge you, as I believe the Lord has challenged me to not only dream, but to work to make those dreams come true.&uot;
A closing prayer for the ceremony was offered by special guest Tony Cartledge, Editor and President of the Biblical Recorder. A time of fellowship and food followed.
White is also an ordained minister and served pastorates in three different states including the Brookwood Baptist Church in Burlington from 1972-1975 and has organized and conducted study-tours of the Middle East and Europe.
He has worked with the Council on Christian Higher Education of the Baptist State Convention and the National Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools and is active in the Council of Independent Colleges and the North Carolina Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and chaired numerous accreditation teams for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
He has also been involved with community organizations including, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Boy Scouts, YMCA, Foundation for the Carolinas and historical associations.
He and his wife Linda have have two sons and three grandchildren.