12/01/04 — Raper gives retirement speech

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Raper gives retirement speech

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 1, 2004 1:58 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College students gathered Tuesday in Rodgers Chapel to hear Dr. Burkette Raper give his final address before retirement.

Raper officially retired Tuesday from the college.

Ten years ago, he turned over the reins as president of Mount Olive College to Dr. J. William Byrd.

Today, he turns over the reins as director of planned giving to Jeff Daughtry, who joined the college in 2000 as assistant director of planned giving.

In 1954 when he came to Mount Olive College, Raper was 26, the youngest college president in the United States.

During his 40 years as president, he guided the development of the college from a two-year institution with an enrollment of 22 students in an abandoned school building to an accredited senior college with 2,700 students and modern facilities on a main campus of more than 100 acres.

He told the students he remembers when the college site was a corn field, with not a single building on it. The real measure of Mount Olive College, he said, is the difference it can make in your life.

Raper, who has spent two-thirds of his life at Mount Olive College, shared some things he has learned through the years: Never give up, have a purpose in life and you have to believe.

He hadn't planned to attend college when he was in high school. He had concentrated on vocational education in agriculture. Members of his class entered a public speaking contest, and he made it to the state level.

When he was eliminated from the competition in Raleigh, he told his teacher: "Mr. Wolfe, I have given my last speech. He said, 'Do you see that hill over there?' As we approached, it seemed to level off. ... It was a turning point in my life."

He entered Duke University during World War II under an agreement with the Navy. During his sophomore year, he read an author whose name he doesn't remember. The author said, "Is this the worst you can do to me? I'll fear you no more. ... I went from academic fear to the dean's list."

"Our life is as big as what we live for," he said. "It is a sense of purpose that has made a difference in my life. I believe in Christian education. ... The purpose of education is to help you burgeon forth all the things God has put in you."

After the worship service, the students joined Raper at a reception in the Murphy Center.

A week previously in the Murphy Center, college officials announced that they were going to name the college's new 56,000-square-foot academic building after Raper and his wife, Rose.

The academic building will house the School of Business, the Department of Science and Math and Agribusiness. It will have a new student lounge and a conference center that will hold up to 500 people.

It's one of three buildings in the college's most ambitious building program, which involves also building an 18,000-square-foot communications center and a 23,000-square-foot wellness center.