Concord University Breaks Ground on University Point
Athens, W.Va. - Rain may have forced the ceremony inside, but the warmth and spirit of the Concord community was not hampered as they embraced the role of faith and heritage at a groundbreaking ceremony for University Point, which will be home to the Wilkes Family Interfaith Chapel and Museum and the Erickson Alumni Center. The event was held at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 7, in the Main Theater of the Alexander Fine Arts Center. The ceremony was originally supposed to take place on the lawn in front of the Science Building, where the Department of Highways has just laid the groundwork for a new road that will make room for the new complex.
The ceremony featured Dr. Jerry Beasley, president of the University; Mrs. Gayle C. Manchin, first lady of West Virginia; Mr. Jared Tice, president of the Student Government Association; Mrs. Rosalie Peck, president of the Concord University Alumni Association; Mr. W.T. “Tom” Bone III, representing the Concord Interfaith Chapel Foundation; Mr. David A. Barnette, chair of the Concord University Foundation; Mr. R.T. “Ted” Rogers, chair of the Concord University Board of Governors; Mr. Charles F. Erickson of the Erickson Foundation; and Ms. Betty J. Wilkes.
Remembering the spirit of Columbus, Dr. Beasley, in the text in the ceremony’s program, compared the University’s journey to build this facility with that of Christopher Columbus, “We’re like Columbus embarking for the new world. He was confident that it was there and that he had three seaworthy vessels and seasoned crews, but he was not precisely sure what he would find, only that it would be great and good.”
The ceremony began with Dr. Beasley welcoming guests, and with an invocation from The Reverend Gary Johnson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Beckley, which is the home church of Betty Wilkes and Joan Wilkes. The interfaith chapel and museum will be named in honor of the Wilkes family.
Dr. Beasley explained how the chapel and alumni center will benefit the Concord community: “ … students and faculty and others alike will join in the search for truth in our boundless universe.... The chapel will be a fundamental testament to a notion that I believe is critical to the life of this nation, and that is that people of all faiths will be welcome ....
“Those who know the history of this particular community and this college should not be surprised that such values remain constant here. After all,” noted Dr. Beasley, “the college was named for a church where three denominations shared the premises in ‘sweet harmony and concord.’
”Just as the chapel invites us to consider timeless values and concerns, the alumni center will provide a meeting ground for loyal friends of Concord from across the generations … continually rededicating themselves to the higher purposes of this University.”
“Seeing comes from our eyes and vision comes from our heart and soul. We break ground here today based on vision, a vision of many people with dreams,” said First Lady Manchin. “Today is indeed a time to show appreciation to Betty Wilkes and Joan Wilkes and to Charles Erickson for their very generous contribution of the interfaith chapel and alumni center.
“So, as we break ground today for this beautiful facility that will be built, we are opening not only our minds, but we are wanting the “Greater Hand” to open both our hearts and our souls,” Manchin shared.
SGA President Tice welcomed guests on behalf of the students and thanked those who have inspired student support for this new addition to the “campus beautiful.”
“The alumni and contributors have shown a commitment like no other to Concord in improving student and graduate life, and it is because of that commitment that students have, and will continue to support and embrace the University Point project,” Tice said.
Alumni Association President Peck shared the history of the dream of an interfaith chapel on the campus of Concord University that began during the administration of President J. Frank Marsh, Sr. “Thank you for believing in us,” she said to the contributors on behalf of all those who worked hard selling raffle tickets and collecting donations throughout the years.
Representing the Interfaith Chapel Foundation, Mr. Bone continued the discussion of seeing a dream come true for the campus, taking time to thank those who first worked to get an interfaith chapel as a place for “spiritual growth and uplift.”
“We’re here today to celebrate the coming of a good thing for Concord University, as a member of the Concord Interfaith Chapel Foundation, I am honored to take part today in the celebration of good,” he concluded.
Mr. Barnette, chair of the University’s Foundation also thanked those who made this project happen. “I want to say that University Point really means a lot more to the University than mere bricks and mortar, it symbolizes commitment.
Board of Governors Chair, Ted Rogers noted that the Board was proud to take on the responsibility for overseeing new projects like University Point, and that he hoped the facility would be beneficial to all members of the Concord community.
“Most persons refer to this facility as a chapel, a museum, an alumni center … I hope we can meld all these things together so we can serve different cultures from different regions,” he said.
Next, Beasley invited the guests of honor to don their hard hats and pick up their golden shovels as they officially broke ground on the project.
Following the groundbreaking, those whose names will grace the facility spoke to the guests: Charles Erickson president of the Erickson Foundation and Betty Wilkes, who represented her family.
Charles Erickson spoke about the importance of alumni to a University, and that there was a need for an alumni facility on campus. He then thanked the guests for their continued support.
Betty Wilkes shared that her sister, Joan, was not able to attend the ceremony due to illness. She then told the audience the story of her family and her years as a schoolteacher in West Virginia. Some of her former students attended the ceremony. She also expressed pleasure in helping what she and her sister felt was a very worthwhile cause.
Following the ceremony, a reception was held in the lobby for the guests.
The University hopes to commence with the project in the spring.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Jesse Call, a student majoring in political science and history, wrote this press release. His hometown is Pocahontas, Va.