Chowan’s beacon burns bright

Published 8:56 am Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Proudly, I was a part of Chowan University’s heyday back in the early 1970’s.

Enrollment was booming back then, the dorms were full and so were the storefronts along Murfreesboro’s Main Street.

I can recall the groundbreaking ceremonies and formal grand openings of Parker Hall and the Helms Center, both still standing as vital parts of the university’s historic campus.

That was 30-plus years ago. Since that time I’ve watched Chowan suffer through some lean years. At one time it was rumored that the mighty “Cho” would become a victim of internal bad business decisions and be forced to close its doors. Thankfully for proud alumni like myself and those of the future, Chowan survived and remains today as a shining beacon of quality education.

Although I was unable to attend last week’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Whites Crossing (I was at the office placing the finishing touches on our next Front Porch Living magazine that will come out at the end of this month), it warmed my Chowan “Blue and White” heart to see the university take a bold step towards what promises to be an exciting future.

Not since the days of  Dr. Godwin Cotton Moore, who sat down with Baptist laymen of northeastern North Carolina and southside Virginia in April of 1848 to establish a school of higher learning for young women, has Chowan’s flame burned brighter. It took a bold step by Dr. Moore and others 163 years ago to first open the doors for 11 young ladies to enroll at the newly christened Chowan Female Institute.

Now, in 2011, Dr. Chris White and the Chowan University Board of Trustees are taking a bold step of their own. With enrollment on the rise in each of the past several years, room is needed for student housing. Chowan’s existing dorms are full; the university has gone as far as to purchase a few homes near the campus to provide additional housing.

Whites Crossing is destined to become a multi-stage student housing complex to address current and future needs. Phase one of that project, scheduled to open next August, will include the construction of two new residential dorms capable of housing 136 upperclassmen.

The key in all this is maintaining Chowan’s high level of academic integrity, a trait that began with Dr. Moore. The university has taken huge steps in broadening its educational offerings, to now include The School of Graduate Studies (offering a Masters program in Education) as well as an Adult Degree Completion Program.

Thanks to that broadened spectrum of educational opportunities, Chowan is attracting new students in record numbers as well as improving their retention rates of those already enrolled. That, in turn, not only improves Chowan’s standing among its peers, but provides a steady source of employment at the university, jobs filled by local individuals.

The bigger picture shows a brighter economic outlook for Murfreesboro, Hertford County and the entire Roanoke-Chowan region. Students spend money; university employees spend money….both are “win-win” scenarios for local merchants and the town/county local tax base. More of both further boosts the economic impact.

Congratulations and best wishes to Dr. White, the Trustees and the whole of the Chowan Nation. Our future looks bright.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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