CU Honors Gaston Caperton
Athens, W.Va. – “Today is a day to rededicate ourselves to dreams,” said Dr. Jerry Beasley, president of Concord University, at the annual Charter Day Convocation held on Wednesday, March 1 in the Alexander Fine Arts Center. The Charter Day Convocation is a celebration of the institution’s “birthday”—or the anniversary of it’s founding by the West Virginia Legislature on February 28, 1872. However, this formal ceremony was not used as a time to praise the institution but rather to be challenged and inspired. “Part of what we’re about today is … to find sources of inspiration to rededicate ourselves to dreams that we’re fashioning together at this place,” Dr. Beasley shared during the event. As part of the celebration, Concord University honored former West Virginia governor and current president of The College Board, a not-for-profit membership association of the nation’s leading schools, colleges, and universities, Gaston Caperton. He was given an honorary degree—the Doctor of Humanitarian Service, Honoris Causa for his spirit of service.
The event began with a processional of the honoree, dignitaries and faculty with music provided by Concord University student Jesse Ratcliffe of Nimitz.
“Charter Day is a lot like a family reunion … we can congratulate each other just the way we are,” said Dr. Paul Kane, associate professor of English, in the opening meditation. He then referenced an old English prayer which said “God is the author of peace, and lover of concord.”
Next, Dr. Jerry Beasley welcomed guests to the event and shared some the history of the institution since its inception in 1872. He emphasized the University’s role in ensuring academic freedom of speech throughout the struggles and triumphs of our nation. He also thanked donors for the support they offered when the state did not fund the University’s vision. Dr. Beasley then recognized Dr. Brian Noland, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, members of the Board of Governors, and President Emeritus, Dr. Joseph F. Marsh.
Then the President introduced the person chosen to be honored as an inspirational figure to the University’s vision, Governor Gaston Caperton. He spoke of the Governor’s career beginnings in the insurance industry, and he referred to his discovery of the Governor as “a very humble person who listened,” citing a chance when he took students to the Governor’s office and he encouraged questions; after not knowing the answer to one, he made sure that someone got back to that student on their question the next day.
Improving education is not new for Caperton. As governor of West Virginia from 1988 to 1996, he developed a comprehensive plan that emphasized the use of computers and technology in the public schools, beginning with kindergarten to sixth grade, and later expanding to include grades seven through 12. He also raised teachers’ salaries to 31st in the nation from 49th. In addition, he brought the state back from the brink of bankruptcy to having a $100 million surplus and lowered the unemployment rate from 9.8 percent to a 6.2 percent with the creation of more than 86,000 jobs. As president of the College Board, the Governor created a new website for used by more than 4 million students is in charge of a series of programs including two of the best-known programs, the Advanced Placement Program (AP) and the SAT.
Governor Caperton provided an inspiring address that included an example from his work at Harvard University. In a workshop on state government, he had presented the opportunity for students to fill the various roles within government and they all argued from their perspectives effectively. At the end of the workshop, Governor Caperton said he was approached by the professor and asked if he would have wished students like those in this room were in his state’s government. In response, Gov. Caperton told the professor, “You don’t understand what democracy is about. It isn’t about a lot of Ph.D. students arguing a point. It’s about citizens represented from all sections of our society deciding what’s best for all of us,” and added, “…I believe in the quality and character and the debate that we are so fortunate to have in this country.”
The College Board President also related, humorously, his experience with being hired by the not-for-profit. “I absolutely hated that test,” he told his interviewers, chuckling. After the interview, however, he worried, “Would they look up my SAT score?”
He then began to talk about his struggles through his life with dyslexia. He said that in school he was often looked down upon due to his learning disability and many thought he could not handle making appropriate decisions in the classroom or on the football field. He shared how he continues to deal with dyslexia to this day but has overcome it in many ways.
“The greatest violence in our society is the killing of potential,” Gov. Caperton shared after talking about his experiences with dyslexia. The former governor also stressed the importance of education, adding that we should fear not educating our youth more than we fear terrorism.
In conclusion, the Governor offered a list of rules that he attempts to follow, including: (1) Love God and seek to do his will; (2) love deeply your friends and family; (3) seek and tell the truth and expect it from others; (4) love, respect, protect and enjoy God’s creation; (5) be enthusiastic and full of love, hope, and joy; (6) be purposeful, positive, and work hard; (7) be courageous, compassionate, and determined; (8) have a sense of humor; (9) be a continuous learner with high expectations and curiosity; and (10) and have healthy habits.
Next, Gov. Caperton was honored with the investiture of his honorary degree by Vice President and Academic Dean, Dr. Dean Turner, and Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. R. T. “Ted” Rogers, as Dr. Beasley read a citation referring to the Governor as a selfless leader who values boldness, initiative and transformation, excelling as entrepreneur, public servant and educator.
After the investiture, the ConChords, a choir ensemble under the direction of Dr. Kelly R. Hudson, performed.
In closing, Dr. Beasley thanked the faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and community members for attending. The ConChords led the audience in the Concord University Alma Mater, and Dr. Kane offered the closing meditation. The event was followed by a luncheon honoring the former governor catered by ARAMARK, Concord’s dining service.
PHOTO: Governor Caperton
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Jesse Call, a senior majoring in political science and history, wrote this press release. His hometown is Pocahontas, Va.