Heritage Chapel launches Brewton-Parker's centennial celebration

By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations

MOUNT VERNON -- With its president proclaiming that Brewton-Parker College "is stronger today than at any other time in its history" and the provost stating that the college has "triumphed over so many adversities," a semester-long centennial celebration began Jan. 13 with the annual Heritage Chapel service.

Dr. Ron Melton, provost and longtime history professor at Brewton-Parker, presented the college's past and Dr. David Smith, Brewton-Parker's president, addressed the present and future in the morning's keynote address.

In setting the stage for the keynote address, a re-enactment by Reader's Theatre students of the signing of the institutional charter on April 28, 1904, and events leading to that event were narrated by Josh Hartley, the Student Government Association president.

The students portrayed the vision of Dr. John Carter Brewton, pastor of the McRae Baptist Church from 1902-05, who was a strong advocate of Christian education and had long held a dream of bringing this type of education to the children of south Georgia.

After gaining support from the Telfair and Daniell Baptist associations, Brewton enlisted financial support from Charles B. Parker, a prominent businessman in McRae, and the Telfair and Daniell associations decided that the school would be located in the community where the most support was received.

Melton reiterated these events in the first element of his summary of the college's history, in which he concentrated on vision, Christian heritage, academics and a triumph over adversity.

"Think of the vision and commitment it took for a small group of people living in this area 100 years ago, to boldly decide to establish a school, Union Baptist Institute, a Christian elementary and secondary school," Melton said. "There were a number of key individuals involved. We should note in particular Dr. John Carter Brewton (minister and president), Mr. C.B. Parker (businessman) and the local residents who gave the original land, Mr. and Mrs. David Fountain and Mr. Warren Crawley.

"Mr. Crawley, an African-American, did so even though African-Americans could not attend the school when it was established. Could these people have possibly envisioned the many buildings on the campus today or the thousands of students who have been educated here and the countless lives that they have touched?

"Integral in that vision was the desire to establish a Christian school. From the first days as an elementary and secondary school through the transition to a junior college and more recently to a baccalaureate degree-granting institution, UBI and now BPC has remained true to that Christian heritage."

Melton noted the appropriateness of "Be Thou My Vision," presented by the BPC music division's College Choir, and the congregational singing of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past."

In summarizing the college's academic history, Melton said: "As the institution has grown other programs were added, particularly professional programs, but always with a firm foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. Thousands have gone from this place prepared to meet the challenges of life, to become productive citizens, and to seek and find answers to life's most essential questions. May it ever be so!"

Finally, Melton examined Brewton-Parker's triumph over adversity, which happens to be the subtitle of the college history book written by Library Director and Archivist Ann Turner.

"Throughout our history, BPC has been confronted with many situations that could have caused us to close the doors. There have been fires, financial difficulties, periods in which the enrollment was so low that it looked as if there was no alternative to closing the institution and all manner of other situations," Melton said. "The interesting thing is that we have survived and grown stronger and become a better institution through all of this.

" Because we have triumphed over so many adversities, I will have greater confidence about our future."

President Smith began his presentation, "Strength in the Present; Power in the Future," by recognizing the achievement of the 100th anniversary as "a pivotal accomplishment in our world of constant change and nano-second expectations."

"Difficult times really aren't the enemy of the creative and progressive human spirit. Great institutions are honed to a precision capacity during times of difficulty," Smith said in introducing his assessment of Brewton-Parker's current status.

"I believe that Brewton-Parker College is stronger today than at any other time in its history because we know how to survive adversity, and we believe in Him who sustains us during times of struggle and despair. I am delighted to tell you that as we begin 2004, Brewton-Parker College can point to strong empirical evidence that assures even the most critical observer the college is healthy, reliable, and qualitative.

"Our accreditation, our finances, our students and our faculty are encouraging signs to everyone that BPC is healthy, progressively improving and oriented toward meeting its ambitious goals for a second century of service."

In presenting his vision for Brewton-Parker's future, Smith presented thoughts on academics, student and faculty opportunities, and about the campus itself.

Tomorrow's academic program will be even more scholastically challenging, one in which students will be better prepared for the classroom, where they will confront faculty members "who will dynamically introduce, inform and analyze the classic academic disciplines that define a liberal arts education," he said.

"The academic curriculum at BPC will become, I believe, wider and deeper. Although Brewton-Parker College may never become a research institution, I am confident that we can develop niches of excellence that define scholarship here."

Smith also shared his belief that Brewton-Parker's students and faculty will continue to increase in diversity, in an environment where "we will see people of all races and from many nations and cultural backgrounds finding ways to express their faithfulness to Christ."

"We may not sing the same hymns, nor will we necessarily identify the same heroes," he said. "But we will all know one Lord, and our College will unite around Him."

Smith also said future students and faculty will continue to have greater technological opportunity as the computing environment increases.

Smith also shared visions in the growth of the physical campus in Mount Vernon, which he said begins immediately.

"In the next 18 months, I hope to announce that sufficient funds have been raised to begin the construction of a 500-seat auditorium in the parking area between the Miller Music Building and the convenience store on the southwestern corner of the campus," he said, adding that the paved area from the Miller Music Building to the Phillips Student Center will give way to a wide, well-lighted sidewalk that will allow for wider lawns and better landscaping.

The addition of the sidewalk and the auditorium will begin to transform the front portion of the campus, which Smith said "lacks a large edifice facing U.S. Highway 280 that compels those on the highway to look toward the campus."

He said in time, a new administrative facility will be constructed in front and to each side of Gates Hall. Upon that building's completion, he said Gates Hall would then be completely renovated as a home for the college's humanities division.

"Intellectual development, individual and social development, community development, spiritual development," Smith said in his conclusion. "These attributes represent the hallmarks of Brewton-Parker College for 100 years. They will continue to identify us in the next century of activity and service."

Other events during the services included the recognition of the area's Scottish heritage. Shirley Blunk of Warner Robins played a prelude of bagpipe music and led the processional and recessional of faculty and staff. Members of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society's Atlanta branch also performed two traditional dances.

In addition, the college Brass Ensemble performed "Marche Triomphale," and student Sam Chafin announced that the Alpha Delta Omega sorority was the winning group in the student-made centennial banner competition.

Other events during the spring semester will honor the Centennial Celebration, which will culminate April 28 with a daylong series of celebratory events.



Students in the Brewton-Parker College Reader's Theatre perform a re-enactment of events leading to and including the signing of the institutional charter on April 28, 1904, during the Centennial Heritage Chapel service Jan. 13 in Saliba Chapel on the Mount Vernon campus. Depicted from left are the partnership between Mount Vernon and Ailey, visionaries Dr. John Carter Brewton and financial supporter Charles B. Parker, and the cooperation between the Telfair and Daniell Baptist associations in the founding of the initial primary and secondary school.

Members of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society's Atlanta branch perform a traditional dance to honor the area's Scottish heritage during the Centennial Heritage Chapel service Jan. 13 in Saliba Chapel on the Mount Vernon campus. The service marked the beginning of the college's semester-long centennial celebration.