Brewton-Parker celebrates its centennial with dedications, other festivities

By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations

Under the direction of Dr. Glenn Eernisse, chair of Brewton-Parker College's Division of Music, members of the BPC Centennial Choir, Baron Ringers handbell choir and the Brass Ensemble perform "Train Your Mind, Follow Your Heart," a commissioned anthem Eernisse wrote for Brwton-Parker's Centennial Celebration, during the Centennial Celebration Convocation Service on April 28 in Saliba Chapel on the BPC campus in Mount Vernon. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)

A brilliant blue, cloudless sky blanketed south Georgia on April 28 and provided the perfect natural backdrop for festivities that marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Brewton-Parker College.

A cool, crisp morning and bright sun greeted college personnel, family members and honored guests in three cities for services at the gravesites of four prominent founders who contributed to the signing of the institutional charter on April 28, 1904.

Activities then convened on the main campus in Mount Vernon under the rising sun, where a monument, a 50-year time capsule and a commissioned glass sculpture were among the items dedicated to celebrate the centennial milestone.

Following a lunch in the Historic Village that featured the same menu as that served on the charter signing day 100 years earlier, Brewton-Parker's newest facility received names of two prominent area families, Bartow and Jean Snooks of Ailey and the Hon. Jim L. Gillis Jr. and state Sen. Hugh M. Gillis Sr. or Soperton.

Students then enjoyed themselves with an afternoon of inflatable games on the Moses Soccer Field under mildly pleasant, late-April conditions.

With the sun making its descent in the western sky, evening activities began with an old-fashioned ice cream social accompanied by a Dixieland jazz band of Brewton-Parker music faculty and students.

Even after sunset, the sky was illuminated once more with fireworks that culminated a day of Centennial Celebration.

"We thank the Lord, our wise founders, our many constituents, and our proud heritage of students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees and administrators for the achievement of this centennial event," Dr. David R. Smith, president of Brewton-Parker, said in his introduction at the Centennial Celebration Convocation service in Saliba Chapel.

"In the spirit of Romans 12:1-6, we stand transformed into Christian servant leaders because of the great and good influence of Brewton-Parker College."

One gravesite service honored 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. President Smith led a ceremony at the John C. Brewton gravesite at Pinecrest Cemetery in Vidalia.

Also honored was Charles B. Parker, a prominent businessman in McRae, from whom Dr. Brewton enlisted financial support to fund his dream when it became a reality in a joint bid by Mount Vernon and Ailey, with support from the Daniell and Telfair Baptist associations, in 1904.

Dr. Ron Melton, provost and chief academic officer, conducted a service at the Parker gravesite at Oak Grove Cemetery in McRae.

The Mount Vernon-Ailey bid included the donation of 15 acres. David and Eliza Fountain donated 10 acres of land and Warren Crawley, an African-American citizen, gave the other five acres.

Jay Orr, vice president for college advancement, conducted a service at the Fountains' gravesite in Mount Vernon City Cemetery. Dr. John Waters, vice president for enrollment services, led a ceremony at the Crawley gravesite in the McKinnon Family Cemetery in Mount Vernon.

"This day is a day to remember those who provided for the foundation of what has become a great institution in south Georgia," President Smith said. "As we look back in our history, we realize that, without any one of these four families, the college would have never existed."

The Centennial Celebration Convocation began with the recognition of the area's Scottish heritage by bagpipe music from the Centerville Fire Department Pipes and Drums, Inc., which led the ceremony's processional and recessional.

Faculty processed into the chapel behind academic division banners -- all of which were designed by Zeke Addison, associate professor of art -- that were used in the formal convocation procession for the first time.

Other greetings were presented by and on behalf of: Joshua M. Hartley, president of the Student Government Association, from the students; Ricky Ussery, president of National Alumni Society of Brewton-Parker College, from the alumni; Keith D. Rudolph, information systems programmer and analyst, from the staff; Dr. Laurie A. Jossey, chair of the Faculty Assembly, from the faculty; and Thomas Conner, great grandson of Dr. John C. Brewton, from the founders.

"The seed that was planted 100 years ago has been carefully nurtured and has flourished to become a vibrant intellectual community and a setting to advance the concepts of lifetime learning and Christian discipleship for all of its members," said Conner, who is from Nashville, Tenn.

Following a musical interlude by senior music major David Symons, Dr. Ron Melton presented greetings from the administration; Dr. William Starr Miller, president emeritus, from the former presidents; Dr. Allen Hughes, chairman of the Brewton-Parker Board of Trustees, from the trustees; Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, from the GBC; and state Sen. Jack Hill of Reidsville, from the state of Georgia.

Smith recognized Dr. Harry M. Bayne, associate professor of English in Brewton-Parker's Division of Arts and Letters, who composed "The Ministry of Education," a poem commissioned to honor the Centennial Celebration.

The BPC Centennial Choir, Baron Ringers handbell choir and the Brass Ensemble performed "Train Your Mind, Follow Your Heart," a commissioned anthem composed for the Centennial Celebration by Dr. Glenn Eernisse, chair of Brewton-Parker's Music Division.

"What a wonderful admonition from the spirit of Romans 12 to train our minds and follow our hearts," Smith said.

Dr. Tony Dickerson, pastor of Pinehurst Baptist Church in Columbus and president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, delivers the keynote address during Brewton-Parker College's Centennial Celebration Convocation service April 28 in Saliba Chapel on the BPC campus in Mount Vernon. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)

Dr. Tony Dickerson, pastor of Pinehurst Baptist Church in Columbus and president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, began his keynote address by recognizing the college history book, "Brewton-Parker College: Triumph Over Adversity, the First One Hundred Years" written by Ann C. Turner, librarian, college archivist and director of the Fountain-New Library.

"As I read its inspiring paragraphs, I was certainly moved to conclude that the story of Brewton-Parker is one of commitment, struggle, sacrifice and triumph," said Dickerson, who, after quoting from the book's preface, concluded: "Congratulations. May God bless this wonderful institution to endure another 100 years or until the Lord Jesus returns."

Dickerson said the legacy of the college includes vision, sacrifice and steadfastness.

In supporting the legacy of vision, Dickerson looked to John C. Brewton and Charles B. Parker and their shared vision that eventually became Brewton-Parker College. He also mentioned two former presidents, Dr. Ted Phillips and Dr. W. Starr Miller, and their visions of growth.

"Today we are all grateful for the wonderful leadership being offered by Dr. David Smith," Dickerson said. "My sincere prayer is that God will give him length and strength of days, wisdom of mind and courage of spirit to lead Brewton-Parker College where he believes and where you and I believe it will eventually go."

In supporting the spirit of sacrifice, which he said is evident throughout Brewton-Parker's history, Dickerson spoke of Parker's initial pledge of $10,000 when a local, Christian-based school was organized to match a gift he had made to another institution. "I may have to sell every bail of cotton in my warehouses or even borrow a part of the money, but it is my purpose to make this pledge good," Parker said according to the college history.

"That is the spirit of sacrifice," Dickerson concluded.

On its steadfastness, Dickerson said: "Throughout the years presidents, faculty, trustees, staff and supporters have stayed the course to bring Brewton-Parker College to where it is at this hour, an institution with a priceless legacy."

Dickerson also explored the process of learning, using Paul's instruction in II Timothy 2 to "commit these things to faithful men." "That was the directive Paul gave Timothy about the process of discipleship and the process of learning," Dickerson added.

"The process of being educated and the process of education goes on and on and on. If we regard it as being an experience with a beginning and an ending, then we fail to take advantage of the blessed value of the education that is available to us. It is a task that knows no boundaries and knows no end.

"It is also a trust," Dickerson said. "Paul said, 'You commit this to reliable persons.' That suggests that the legacy of education is to be regarded as an investment that pays dividends into our lives and into the lives of those whom we touch.

"Personally, I am of the deep and abiding conviction that a Baptist college or university ought to make a moral and spiritual impact on the community where it serves, and ultimately on the world through those who graduate from that institution. It is a trust that we are to guard jealously and faithfully.

"I believe the first 100 years would also acquaint us with the privilege of leadership," said Dickerson, in quoting Paul in II Timothy 2:2: " 'You entrust this to faithful men, who will be capable of passing it on.' That is the way Paul described and defined the leadership role every person has who enjoys the benefits of having a Christian education, passing it on."

Dickerson illustrated his point by using a quote from a noted bridge builder from Columbus, who saw his work as for benefiting those who followed him.

"The work that we invest in education, the work that we invest in serving the Lord in our churches, the work that we invest in our communities will not bring its total benefit to us," Dickerson added. "We are building bridges over which others will travel as they pass into the future. You and I are building bridges for those who will come after us.

"I see that as one of the principal functions of a college, particularly a Baptist college that is built on Christian principles and built on the Word of God. … It is a bridge to learning and productive living. Now the right foundation for that bridge is today what it has always been, the Word of God."

In concluding his remarks, Dickerson said: "I believe that our Baptist colleges ought to be built without apology on the Word of God, and I am so delighted that the administration of this school acknowledges that -- in order to build an institution where academics are at their very best, and there is spiritual impact and where are moral standards -- the foundation must always be the Word of God.

Dr. Albert Sidney Johnson, professor of political science and vice president emeritus at Brewton-Parker College, presents to the college a boron glass sculpture, designed by Frabel Studios of Atlanta, during Brewton-Parker's Centennial Celebration Convocation service April 28 in Saliba Chapel on the BPC campus in Mount Vernon. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)

"My prayers are with Brewton-Parker College. I stand in amazement at how you have weathered the storms, endured the trials and have emerged into the sunlight of a bright new day. May God broaden your boundaries, may God give you limitless horizons, and may the future be far brighter than the past. God bless you with a hundred years plus or until the Lord Jesus comes."

Dr. Albert Sidney Johnson, professor of political science and vice president emeritus, presented to the college a commissioned boron glass sculpture designed by the Fräbel Studios of Atlanta. The sculpture, depicting the Brewton-Parker presidential seal in a bed of thistles, was a gift from President and Mrs. David R. Smith.

"We appreciate and admire this sculpture," Johnson said. "Its clarity will remind us of our vision and our mission. Its symbols will reinforce our values. And, as it rises from its bed of thistles, we will be reminded of our humble yet noble beginnings.

"These things will guide us and remind us of who we are, and this sculpture will be a beacon that draws us inevitably to a future of which we can all be proud."

Other Centennial Photos

Dr. David R. Smith (left), president of Brewton-Parker College, officiates a service at Pinecrest Cemetery in Vidalia to honor Dr. John Carter Brewton, the institution's co-founder and first president of what was then known as Union Baptist Institute for grades 1-11, as part of Brewton-Parker's Centennial Celebration on April 28. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)

Jay Orr, Brewton-Parker College vice president for college advancement, places a wreath on the graves of David and Eliza Fountain in Mount Vernon Cemetery as part of Brewton-Parker's Centennial Celebration on April 28. The Fountains donated 10 acres of the original 15 acres given to begin what was then known as Union Baptist Institute for grades 1-11 in 1904. (BPC Photo by Charles Conkin)

An explosion of fireworks over Jones Lake on the Brewton-Parker College campus culminates BPC's Centennial Celebration on April 28 in Mount Vernon. (BPC Photo by Charles Conkin)

Brewton-Parker College's Centennial Monument, unveiled on the morning of April 28 during Centennial Celebration activities on the campus in Mount Vernon, points toward an explosion of fireworks that evening over Jones Lake that culminates the day's festivities. (BPC Photo by Terry Gaston)

Brewton-Parker College freshman Josh Ballard takes his turn on the mechanical bull during an afternoon of games available to students and others to mark the college's Centennial Celebration. (BPC Photo by Charles Conkin)