Chowan University makes formal debut

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2006

MURFREESBORO – Turner Auditorium was overflowing with staff, faculty, students and visitors Thursday, a historic day for the institution.

Andrea Eason, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences announced the significance of the day to the several hundred people in attendance.

&uot;Today we have graduated,&uot; Eason said. &uot;We are no longer college employees, we are university employees.&uot;

That thought resonated across the entire campus, as Chowan College officially became Chowan University.

Dozens of dignitaries and university officials held a celebratory convocation to usher in a new era for the institution that began as Chowan Female Institute 158 years ago.

The faith-based institution is the second oldest of five North Carolina Baptist Universities.

The event was attended by Hugh Vincent, Chairman of the Chowan University Board of Trustees, A. Hope Williams, President of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, Murfreesboro Mayor Lynn Johnson, as well as former Chowan President Emeritus Dr. Bruce Whitaker who was in attendance with his wife Esther.

Whitaker was the President of Chowan from 1957-1989.

The ceremony opened with selections from the Chowan University Wind Ensemble conducted by conductor James M. Guthrie.

A procession of faculty and speakers followed the musical selections, and preceded Scripture offerings by Lynwood Grice, Chowan University Class of 1957, and Burke Holland former Chair of the Chowan University Ministerial Board of Associates.

Leading the panel of distinguished speakers, Williams spoke of the significance of the day.

&uot;Today is a special day,&uot; Williams said. &uot;The first degree granting University was founded in Italy in the year 1088. Today is the birth of the world’s newest university.&uot;

Williams noted Chowan’s record enrollment and increased endowment as indicators of the university’s growth.

Johnson took the opportunity to thank the institution and its students for making Murfreesboro a special place.

&uot;Here is where many dreams begin,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;The town of Murfreesboro extends its right hand in fellowship and the hope for future success.&uot;

Keynote speaker, Chowan University Dr. M. Christopher White, addressed the audience several times before offering his convocation speech.

White presented the University Citation for Meritorious Service to Paul Camp Marks for his contributions to the institution over several decades.

During White’s convocation speech, he reiterated the role of Chowan as both an institution of higher learning as well as a training ground for faith conscious leaders.

&uot;I see Chowan University becoming a recognized leader in quality Christ-based higher education,&uot; White said. &uot;I hope that you are beginning to see that also.&uot;

During White’s address, he recollected several ‘near death experiences’ the university traversed over the years to arrive at the position they now occupy as a four-year institution.

&uot;Our faith is on what happened after Jesus Christ’s death- the resurrection,&uot; White explained. &uot;Those who believed in the future of our university worked diligently to give it new life.&uot;

White described how the landscape of World War II affected enrollment numbers at the institution forcing it to close in 1943.

The university reopened in 1949.

Four years ago, budgets, faculty and staff were cut as the university declared financial exigency.

White said the University is going through a rebirth.

&uot;The spirit of the new Chowan is simply a rekindling of the old,&uot; White said. &uot;Ours is a feisty, visionary, industrious commitment to serve this region.&uot;

Following the convocation ceremony, White was joined by Vincent and Chowan Vice President of Human Resources John Hinton in changing the institution’s flag to the newly designed Chowan University banner.

Earlier, White unveiled the new Chowan University Seal on the speaker’s podium in Turner Auditorium.

A robust lunch was served adjacent to the McDowell Columns Building, after the flag ceremony.

The university has events planned for the remainder of the week, including a pep rally in anticipation of the institution’s first home football game of 2006

&uot;We are God’s agent to change the world,&uot; White remarked. &uot;One student at a time.&uot;