Concord University Hosts Convocation to Celebrate Name and “Keep an Eye on the Horizon”
Athens, W.Va. – Concord University President Jerry L. Beasley welcomed more than 500 students, faculty, staff and guests to a special ceremony celebrating the institution’s new name, and questioning how the institution might serve the citizens of West Virginia in the future as a university.
“It is good to have each one of you here for this celebration, reunion and re-dedication, not only of ourselves but of Concord University,” stated Dr. Beasley.
Dr. Paul Kane, assistant professor of English, provided the meditation. He noted that, “At its best, the university will value knowledge over usefulness, public service above personal profit, truth beyond the special planes of any party, class or ideology. Now, marvel at the notion of a public university . . . where luxury once reserved for aristocrats, is opened up to the children of farmers, coal miners, pulp wood haulers, and welfare recipients. Thanks to the Morrill Act of 1862, the G.I. Bill of 1944, the Higher Education Act of 1965, all of them have equal opportunities to become doctors, bankers, opera singers, social workers, poets, astronauts, dentists … even professors, if that is what they think they really need to do. Which brings us, of course, to this university, where for 130 years students have been bringing their hopes for a better life and trusting that we may somehow help them turn their dreams into reality. . . .”
“We are here today to continue the conversation that was begun in 1872,” Dr. Beasley, commented, “a conversation that links our past with the present, and casts our eyes toward the horizon. We are here to talk about a new mission, and we are here to express appreciation for those who have come before us. We are also here to rededicate ourselves to what it means to serve in new ways. We’re here, especially, to give our thanks to members of the West Virginia legislature who are with us, who saw new duties for Concord, and passed two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 653, and Senate Bill 448, that sets a new direction for Concord University. . . ”
Dr. Beasley then introduced Dr. Constantine W. “Deno” Curris, president of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU). Dr. Curris has spent his career serving those who benefit from an education from a public college or university.
“ . . . in the midst of the Civil War, Congress enacted and President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which extended higher education to the sons and daughters of the working classes. The Morrill Act was groundbreaking in its support for the ‘liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life,’” began Dr. Curris.
“From these two movements—the normal school and the land-grant college—has evolved public higher education. And here in the Mountain State no campus better reflects the convergence of citizen access and societal service than does Concord. . . .
“I would suggest to you that becoming a university entails three major responsibilities which will shape the work of the faculty and character of Concord’s service to this state and region. These three (in my words) are: commitment to strengthening the professions, commitment to enhancing place, and commitment to emphasizing scholarship in teaching and learning. . . .”
Dr. Curris then presented a hypothetical scenario to illustrate a concept he was discussing—the new covenant between the citizens of West Virginia and Concord University—by asking a series of questions.
“One example,” he stated, “would be to engage a public school suffering from below average student scores in math and science, above average drop-out rates, difficulties in retaining quality teachers, and criticism from civic and business leaders. To the community, improving public education is an imperative, to the university, an immense challenge. How can institutions as ‘Stewards of Place’ become partners with the school and the community to develop a strategic plan to reverse school fortunes? How can faculty through their scholarship assess what needs to be done and evaluate the successes and failures of similar initiatives? How can this engagement be incorporated into the learning experiences of students—or better still, how can students (both graduate and undergraduate) be active in the initiative?
“I raise these questions to illuminate a central theme: that becoming a university entails more than a name change. It signifies a renewed covenant between the people of West Virginia and Concord University.”
Next, D.J. Boland, president of the Concord University Student Government Association, narrated a candle-lighting ceremony. Candles representing the past, present and future were lighted by Professor Emeritus Mary Edna Beckett, Allen Smith, a Concord University student from Mullins in Wyoming County, and Martha Claire Ball, five-year-old daughter of Philip and Kathy Ball, both alumnus of Concord.
“For all that we have been in the past and for all that we are in the present, the future holds even greater expectations, for the future is vested in both our past and our present,” Boland told the audience. “Thus, we see today, not a diminishing of light but its expansion. May the light of this institution and the people whom we strive to serve and who have served this place, shine on in strength, wisdom and service to all those who seek the light of wisdom in a world so struggling to overcome darkness.”
The Collegiate Singers, under the direction of Dr. Christopher Ryder, director, performed “The Campus Beautiful,” a song written by Ken Moore, Concord class of 1970. Ms. Betty Wilson accompanied on the piano.
Board of Governors Chair, Margaret Sayre, provided the closing remarks. She hoped that today’s ceremony was an inspiration to those attending to recognize that an experiment is unfolding here. “Our Board pledges to you that we will make our way forward carefully but confidently in the challenging and exciting days ahead. The future will not be without problems or obstacles to be overcome, as is true of every other institution of higher education in America today. But, we will go forward. We invite you to join us in this journey . . . we are so proud of our students, faculty and staff, and hope that the days ahead and years ahead will prove to be among the very best in Concord’s long and proud history.”
The Collegiate Singers lead the audience in the institution’s alma mater.
The Concord University Bonner Scholars program provided the ushers.
PHOTO: Allen Smith, Concord University student, lights the candle of the present. Mary Edna Beckett and the center candle symbolizes the past, and Martha Claire Ball and the candle on the right represents the future.