Mount Olive College marks 59 years at Founders Day event
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 24, 2010 1:46 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College celebrated its nearly six decades of operation, and honored the leaders who made it possible, at the annual Founders Day service Tuesday at Southern Bank Auditorium.
Almost 59 years to the day after Mount Olive College first received its official charter, students and faculty of the private Original Free Will Baptist college gathered to remember the school's history through speakers, song and a tribute to Dr. James A. Coates, a former administrator who played an instrumental role in developing Mount Olive College.
The school did not get off to an easy start. At the end of its first year of operation, the foundation that initially managed the college was left with only $6.17 out of its $8,000 budget, the Rev. John Williams of Cragmont Assembly recalled.
"It's a leap of faith, a step of faith," Williams said.
In the years since that first uncertain leap, the school has grown into a four-year accredited institution with six satellite campuses that serve thousands of traditional and non-traditional students.
Williams, himself a Mount Olive College graduate, decided to go into ministry and met his wife while attending the school. His education at Mount Olive College instilled him with the self-confidence he needed to help him go on to his leadership position at Cragmont Assembly, Williams said.
The reverend called on the staff and faculty of the school to continue to inspire students and give them the confidence they need to serve others.
"That's what this college has been called to do. That's what you have been called to do," he said. "That's what gave me confidence, that's what gave me the strength to do what I've done so far."
College President Emeritus Dr. Burkette Raper spoke about his own recollections of the school's beginnings and early years of operation. The Original Free Will Baptist Conference always imagined the college as a liberal arts, Christian-based school, he said.
"We gather each year to honor their faith, the faith of our founders," Raper said.
The ceremony paid tribute to Coates, recognizing his contributions to the school over the many years he worked in various roles at Mount Olive College.
Dr. Opey Jeanes, vice president for special services, recalled his many years of working alongside Coates.
Coates served in the U.S. Air Force for nine years before retiring and earning a total of four college degrees from various institutions. He began his career at Mount Olive College in 1975 as a professor of business administration, and was later appointed vice president for finance and treasurer. He oversaw the construction of College Hall, now known as Kornegay Arena, and was instrumental in founding Mount Olive College programs in Goldsboro and New Bern.
"James Coates was a man of vision. He was a man who loved the college with a passion," Jeanes said.
Coates also served as dean of the Tillman School of Business, executive vice president for finance, director of continuing education, director of cooperative education, director of special programs, executive vice president and vice president for operations, among other positions, during his time with the college.
Coates was a good friend and colleague, and a dedicated teacher, Jeanes said, recalling one instance where the professor insisted on teaching a class himself, despite being very busy with other administrative duties.
"He said, 'These students have got to have the old man for at least one course before they graduate,'" Jeanes said.
Jeanes presented the award to Coates' wife, Barbara Coates, and son, Michael Coates, in his honor.
The college also presented student Brian Parnell with the $500 Founder's Leadership Award, initiated in 1995 by Raper and his wife, Rose Raper. The award is given in honor and memory of those who with vision and leadership initiated the founding of Mount Olive College, and those who have provided extraordinary leadership through their dedicated services leadership and support for the advancement of the college.
The recipient is chosen each year by a committee of faculty, student and staff representatives. Each honoree is a senior who has distinguished him or herself as an individual of character and initiative and who has demonstrated strong leadership qualities toward making Mount Olive College the institution of Christian higher education envisioned by its founders.
Dan Sullivan, vice president for student affairs, also recognized some of the many faculty and staff members for their dedicated service to the college. The ceremony honored 31 of the college family members, including Ken Dilda and Pam Wood for their 40 years' service, and Jean Ackiss, who has worked at the college for 45 years.