08/06/11 — A real legacy: Burkette Raper taught many what it takes to succeed in life and as a person

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A real legacy: Burkette Raper taught many what it takes to succeed in life and as a person

A legacy is not just found in bricks, mortar or a building with your name on it -- although it is likely that is how some people will remember the contributions of Dr. W. Burkette Raper.

But a lasting impact, a real difference and a true understanding of what really matters is how a person decides to live his life and how he includes others in that living.

We do not have to tell you that Dr. Raper made it his mission to help others. He lived that calling every day -- and many of you are likely the product of that faith, determination and belief that everyone deserves the chance to be someone special.

But perhaps we can remind you just how rare it is to find someone like Mount Olive College's former president and the guiding hand who directed its growth and changed lives for decades.

We are faced with people every day who preach one way of life and live another. We encounter "good samaritans" who announce their good deeds, but who never really have a clear vision for why they are doing them.

We must navigate a world where in some cases faith is a coat that is worn by some and taken on and off depending on who is in the room. We see people who pretend to care -- as long as their own lives are not affected.

Such was not the case with Dr. Raper.

He loved being an Original Free Will Baptist and sharing his faith with those in his home church and in other places around the area.

But that was not enough. He wanted to do more.

So, when a chance came calling, he decided to put his all into creating a college where even an orphan boy like himself could aspire to be great and to live the life God intended.

Then he focused on making that dream come true.

It is true that he was the fundraiser of all fundraisers, and that if he was in your office, he was there to talk you out of a check.

But that should surprise no one -- not if you understand just what Mount Olive College meant to this man and why he wanted so very much for it to succeed and grow and for others to be part of that mission.

He believed deeply that the future of his faith and of his country could be found in the education of young men and women. He wanted them to have the chance to become great keepers of not only his faith, but of his community. He knew college could open those doors and that, for some, it just was not possible to dream that big.

So, he grew a college that would allow them to pursue their dreams.

He needed the money, of course, to make that dream a reality, but it was more than that. He wanted others to know the joy he felt in inspiring others and to feel the sense of being a part of something bigger than themselves.

He knew just what kind of impact that kind of contribution could have on not only the recipient, but on the giver.

Dr. Raper lived his life as a man of faith and as a champion for education. He gave so many the gift of a future and a compass by which they could move forward and find their way.

He will be remembered for bricks and mortar, of course. But Dr. Raper's true legacy is in the generations who can say that they discovered what they could become because he believed in them.

There is no higher compliment than that.

Published in Editorials on August 6, 2011 11:31 PM