President Dr. Annie Dove Denmark, the fifth president of Anderson University, called the first Founders Day into order in 1929. Only the bones of Anderson University as we know it today were standing. But from the early days of Anderson’s history, President Denmark saw the importance of celebrating its past, affirming its commitment to a Christian community and anticipating its future.
On Wednesday, Feb. 12, family and friends of Anderson University gathered to celebrate Founders Day, commemorating the 109th anniversary of the University. One thousand people filled Henderson auditorium, and hundreds more filled other venues across campus.
Alumni are bound together by memories of the white swings, footsteps through Merritt and magnolia blooms on the front lawn. But most importantly, a sense of family has remained throughout Anderson’s 109-year history.
And each year on Founders Day, Anderson University brings accomplished alumni back home. This year at Founders Day Convocation, the University honored Dr. Jarred Whitlock with the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award and Robert Wilson with the Alumni Achievement Award.
Dr. Whitlock, a class of 2013 graduate, is a research scientist who obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Emory University and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. The Distinguished Young Alumnus Award recognizes him as an alumnus no older than 40 who exemplifies in his life the educational philosophy of Anderson University.
Dr. Whitlock said it was amazing see the growth taking place. Since he graduated, the campus has undergone numerous enhancements, the G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center has been built and the Department of Biology and Chemistry graduating classes have more than tripled in size.
While Dr. Whitlock enjoyed seeing the physical growth of the campus, he said the leadership continues to be the key ingredient that makes the University special. He said an endless supply of raw materials of young men and women step foot onto Anderson University’s campus, and when assembled, they can change the city, the state, the country and beyond.
Dr. Whitlock said the Department of Biology and Chemistry is built from a fantastic group of faculty who have bought into the idea of training and fashioning students to prepare them for their next steps.
Dr. Whitlock said that his undergraduate education at Anderson gave him individual attention and training that other universities, even Ivy League schools, could not offer. He said his accomplishments are a result of his professors’ obedience to their callings.
“I benefited from almost 100 years, at the time, … of people simply being obedient tosomething God called them to do … And here I am,” Dr. Whitlock said.
Dr. Whitlock used his recognition on Founders Day as an opportunity to thank and encourage the leaders of Anderson University.
“Continue to be obedient with what’s been given to you. Continue to be Anderson,” Dr. Whitlock said at a luncheon following Convocation.
Wilson, class of 1983, also saw important lessons in leadership modeled at Anderson. He learned what family, faith and giving back to your community looks like. He said that his college days taught him that to be a great leader, you have to be a better servant.
Wilson has carried this philosophy into his position as president of Anderson Federal Credit Union. The organization’s mission is to “serve the people and community that have invested so much in us.”
Since its founding in 1953 with 10 members, Anderson Federal Credit Union has grown to be one of the largest credit unions in the state of South Carolina — currently boasting over 13,000 members and offices in three locations including the city of Anderson.
The Alumni Achievement Award recognizes Wilson for his significant achievements in his professional career.
Wilson recalls trying to use the library’s copier and accidentally shattering the glass when he was a student. And when his car broke down on Boulevard after picking up his now-wife for their first date, they came back to campus and sat on the white swings.
“I was just trying to figure things out,” Wilson said.
But he said he found friends and professors who believed in him and guided him through his college years at Anderson.
Wilson’s grandparents grew up in Anderson, and his grandmother served as a house mother for Denmark Hall when Wilson was a kid. The University has always been a part of his family and his memories, and he said it was a humbling experience to stand onstage in Henderson Auditorium on Wednesday to receive his award.
Dr. Whitlock and Wilson not only trace their professional success to Anderson but also made many fond memories and friendships while they were in college. Dr. Whitlock met his wife, Bethany, and Wilson met his wife, Amanda, at Anderson.
Anderson University truly is a family. And that’s the message Bill Manson, chief executive officer of AnMed Health, emphasized in his address at Founders Day Convocation.
Following Dr. Whitlock and Wilson’s award presentations at Convocation, Manson reflected on Anderson University’s long-time partnership with AnMed Health and shared the importance of professional and personal relationships.
Manson said that Anderson University is a wonderful example of leadership and relationships, and he encouraged the audience to work together to accomplish goals and continue leading the University forward. He said it was an honor and privilege to participate in the history of Anderson University at Founders Day.
As Founders Day Convocation concluded, “The Sounds of Anderson” rang across campus as over one thousand voices sang the alma mater song, celebrating “golden days gone by.”