This schoolyear’s celebration of 120 years has inspired me to sit and reflect on the changes, improvements, the highs and the lows, and the promises of what is now Oakwood University.
I have walked across the campus and imagined being one of the first 16 students to enroll at the Oakwood Industrial School on November 16, 1896. I think of what the original 360 acres looked like and where they sat in relation to the 1187 acres that is the campus of Oakwood today. I’ve read of the hard work it was to prepare the property for the first day of school: the brush clearing, the building and repairs that had to be made to the Old Mansion and the slave cabins to fashion them into dorms, classrooms, dining hall and living quarters for the teachers. I’ve viewed the photos of the first students and see the anticipation and fear of the unknown across their faces. I imagine, what would I have done as a student during that time?
Fast forward to March of 2012, to my interview for the position I now hold at Oakwood. I remember my feelings of wonder as I was given a tour of the grounds and told of this institution’s rich history. I have often reminisced of the time I spent in the Clara Peterson Rock Museum and my amazement at the artifacts, the pictures, and the accomplishments that line the museum walls. I remember hearing the many stories of students, alumni, faculty and staff, about their time on this campus and their fond memories.
I’m inspired by the blood, sweat, tears and love that have established this place called Oakwood since 1896, and continue to flow on this campus, in each department and in every classroom, every day. It’s no wonder that one of Oakwood’s founders, Mrs. Ellen G. White said, “The Lord led in the establishment of [this school].” 1 There is no denying that only by God’s grace does Oakwood University continue to transform lives and educate students who change the world each day.
It is my hope and prayer, 120 years from now, if God delays His coming, that the person who sits in my position will have the same reflections. That he or she will see that throughout time, wars, depressions, famines, civil rights battles, economic crashes, unemployment and uncertain governments, that God and God alone is the reason we have existed and will continue to exist.
Happy Anniversary, Oakwood University…here’s to many more!
1 Ellen G. White, Letter 25, 1902. Brackets supplied.