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First Ever Founder’s Day Walk

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First Ever Founder’s Day Walk

Ethan McElvaney

Ethan McElvaney

Ethan McElvaney

Ethan McEvlaney

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William Peace University students, faculty, staff, and alumni took part in a new Founder’s Day tradition March 15, when they walked to see the grave site of William Peace.

Beforehand, two speeches about Peace’s life were made to commemorate Founder’s Day. The first speech was made by Dr. Lee Carter and explained how miraculous it was that Peace founded Peace College during a global economic downturn in the year 1857, when it would have been understandable if he only looked out for himself.

As the “Merchant Prince of Raleigh,” Dr. Carter said that William Peace was driven by both the common good and by God to provide more opportunities for women by founding Peace College with his fortune as opposed to hoarding it to himself, especially during the mid-10th century, when most women were not even allowed to be educated.

Dr. Wade Newhouse’s speech followed soon after, with him explaining how WPU was once at the edge of the city of Raleigh and is now in the central area of the city. Dr. Newhouse believes this fact has contributed to WPU’s success as the university’s students start their professional lives in the heart of Raleigh.

He also listed off the many firsts of Peace College, such as how it was one of the first arts colleges in the South, had the first telegraph line in North Carolina, was the South’s first kindergarten, and the first Southern college to have a home economics curriculum.

Arts colleges, kindergarten classes, and home economics curriculums are now virtually omnipresent in the American South’s academic landscape to college students and younger students alike.

As his closing message, Dr. Newhouse read a section from the original founding documents of Peace that told students and faculty to “eliminate all species of humbug.” The crowd was very amused by this statement and Dr. Newhouse told them to find their personal humbugs and eliminate them.

After this, WPU President Dr. Brian Ralph gave a short opening statement for the day and signaled everyone to either walk with him or take the trolley bus to the Raleigh City Cemetery to visit William Peace’s grave site in the Peace Family Plot for a commemoration service.

Dr. Ralph felt that the Founder’s Walk was a crucial addition to the traditions of WPU and says that it shall continue years into the future.

“We’ll do a walk every year going forward,” said Ralph, “I think it’s a great time to gather as a community and celebrate our past and our history.”

According to the official program for the event and Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation Incorporated president, Jane B. Thurman, the Peace Family Plot where William Peace was the focus of a massive restoration effort that began in 2008 after Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation Incorporated saw the grave plot in complete disrepair from years of wear and vandalism.

The work Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation Incorporation put into restoring the plot is what inspired Dr. Ralph to start an annual Founder’s Walk to the grave site. He was highly impressed with their work and their dedication to preserving the plot for future generations.

“The Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation Incorporation raised a lot of money to do it and then they brought in experts, so they didn’t shortcut anything. They really did a great job and brought people to the project that could really bring about a restoration we can all be proud of,” said Dr. Ralph.

Over the course of nine years, Raleigh City Cemeteries Preservation Incorporation repaired the plot’s stone walls, restored the monuments of William Peace and brother Joseph Peace, and installed a cast iron fence similar to the one that was used for the walls. This effort was completed in June 2017.

After Dr. Ralph and Thurman spoke of the importance of remembering WPU’s founder, descendants of the Peace family put a wreath next to the grave site to commemorate the start of the Founder’s Walk tradition. This was followed by a short exploration of the site by students, faculty, and alumni, and then everyone returned back to campus for the singing of the alma mater and cake on the Main Lawn.

Peace alumnae Cynthia Mandese was new to Founder’s Day and has many hopes that Peace continues the tradition as it was a great addition to remind the community where WPU came from.  

“It was really good, really peaceful, and you got to see the old side of Raleigh,” said Mandese.

 

Founder’s Day happens every year on March 15. Students, alumni, and faculty who missed out on the Founder’s Walk should attend next year, 2019, and should make sure to leave their humbug at home.

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