11/20/13 — Mount Olive College celebrates 62 years

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Mount Olive College celebrates 62 years

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on November 20, 2013 1:46 PM

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Jean F. Ackiss, director of church support at Mount Olive College, delivers the Founders Day address Thursday. The college is celebrating 62 years this year.

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Elvia Rodriguez, the 2013 Founders Leadership Award recipient, receives her award from Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter, president of Mount Olive College, on Thursday.

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Barbara Whitfield, a cashier in the business office, receives her 40-year service award from Mount Olive College on Thursday.

A lot can happen in 62 years.

For Mount Olive College, those 62 years have meant steady growth.

For MOC cashier Barbara Whitfield, they have meant at least 40 years of a meaningful career. And for college senior Elvia Rodriguez, 62 years means a solid foundation of education where she could launch her own future.

During MOC's 2013 Founders Day, the college celebrated 62 years of value-centered liberal arts education and honored those who moved that ideal forward.

"Founders Day is a time of reflection, a time of appreciation, a time of opportunity and encouragement, a time of challenge," said Jean Ackiss, the keynote speaker for the event.

Mrs. Ackiss, the current director for church support, started working at the college 48 years ago with her first position as past MOC president Dr. Burkette Raper's secretary.

"I'm thankful for the people who came before me, who have helped me to become what I am today, and I'm thankful that I'm still learning and growing. Don't ever stop learning and growing," she said.

"Consider what our forefathers accomplished with much less than we have today. Beginning with a treasury of $6.17. Today the college has an operating budget of $37 million. That's a lot."

Mount Olive College, or Mount Allen Junior College at the time, officially began with a charter issued by North Carolina on Nov. 27, 1951. Since then, the institution has moved from Cragmont Assembly in Black Mountain to Mount Olive, created a 140-acre campus in the middle of the town, grown into a four-year institution, opened a number of branches in other areas of the state and recently started an online graduate program. Its growth continues today.

During the Founders Day ceremony, MOC also recognized 31 different employees who have worked at Mount Olive from give to 25 years. But the top recognition went to Barbara Whitfield, a 40-year employee of the college who works as a cashier in the business office.

Mrs. Whitfield, a Mount Olive native, was approached by the Mount Olive College bookkeeper after she finished high school in 1973. The college was looking to hire a cashier before the Whitfield's predecessor left the job. Mrs. Whitfield said yes, and she learned her job in about a week's time. Over the next 40 years, she worked with MOC legends Dr. Raper, Jean Ackiss and Dan Riley.

"I loved every minute of it. That's why I stayed so long," Mrs. Whitfield said. "I have enjoyed every day and look forward to getting up for work."

As for the next few years and upcoming retirement, she isn't sure when or if she plans on stop working at the place she has dedicated so much time to.

"Right now, I don't know. I haven't quite decided yet," she said.

The college also gave out the Founders Leadership Award. This year's award went to Elvia Rodriguez, a senior mathematics education.

Ms. Rodriguez arrived in the U.S. in seventh grade knowing one language. And it wasn't English.

Through hard work and with the help of a teacher dedicated to her success, she learned English in about a year.

At Mount Olive College, Ms. Rodriguez works as a peer tutor and peer academic leader for supplemental instruction in algebra, and she is a member of the women's soccer team, recently being selected as the Scholar-Athlete of the Month in the fall 2013 season. She begins student-teaching in the spring.

"(MOC) is truly a remarkable story that needs to be told," MOC President Dr. Philip Kerstetter said. "May God bless you all and may God continue to bless MOC."