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Oakwood University Celebrates 120 Years with Founder's Day Events


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By Debbe Millet

Oakwood University, a Seventh-day Adventist school consistently ranked among America’s best Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), celebrated its 120th anniversary with a week of Founder’s Day activities from Nov. 9 to 16, 2016.
University president Leslie Pollard said, “For 120 years, Oakwood has advanced the mission of Seventh-day Adventist education, creating competent Christian professionals for servant leadership. I am immensely grateful for the 120th year celebration of Oakwood University. Since 1896, we have been in the blessed business of transforming lives.”
Oakwood, located in Huntsville, Alabama, was founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to provide education for the region’s African-Americans, who had recently been freed from slavery. Originally, the school was called “Oakwood Industrial School,” opening its doors on Nov. 16, 1896, with 16 students. The 380-acre former slave plantation was dotted with towering oak trees, which inspired the name “Oakwood.”
Founder’s Day activities began with a special Wednesday night prayer meeting service on Nov. 9 at the Oakwood University Church, where senior pastor and Oakwood alumnus Carlton P. Byrd (class of 1994), Breath of Life speaker/director, presented an inspiring reflection on how God has led us in the past.
Pastor Anthony Bolden, class of 2015, spoke during the University Chapel service on Nov. 10. Following chapel, a commemorative photo was taken. Several alumni participated, as well as students and employees.

Attendees to the Oakwood University Founder’s Day celebration on Nov. 16, 2016, join the festivities with commemorative shirts.
Photo provided by Oakwood University


Also on Nov. 10, the school dedicated the E. E. Rogers Biblical Languages & Resource Center, honoring Ernest E. Rogers, who served as Oakwood’s first full-time professor of biblical languages, from 1945 to 1979. The center fosters the learning and use of biblical languages, and provides computer-based resources for students. Later that afternoon, a portrait of President J. L. Moran was unveiled at Moran Hall, honoring Oakwood’s first African-American president (1932-1945).
On Friday evening, Nov. 11, guest speaker MyRon Edmonds, class of 1999, senior pastor of the Glenville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Euclid, Ohio, addressed a vespers service. Dynamic Praise ministered to the congregation in music.
The speaker for divine worship on Sabbath, Nov. 12, was Calvin B. Rock, former Oakwood president, and member of the class of 1954. The world-renown Oakwood University Aeolians and Orchestra ministered in music. The Gospel Music Fest took place on Sabbath evening, featuring the Aeolians and guest choirs from Bethune-Cookman University, and Alabama A&M University.
Frank and Anita Jacobs of Williamsport, Maryland, visited the campus of Oakwood on Founder’s Day, Nov. 16. Frank is the great-grandson of Solon M. Jacobs, the first principal of the Oakwood Industrial School.
Oakwood celebrated its 120th birthday with cake, balloons, and music in Blake Center during the lunch hour on Nov. 16, where “Mr. and Miss Oakwood” distributed commemorative t-shirts.
Founder’s Day festivities concluded following prayer meeting at the Lawrence Jacobs Historic Silos Plaza with hot chocolate, donuts, cider, and a fireworks display.
Continuing Education
Oakwood University continues to view education as indispensable in preparation for wider service to God and to the human family. Since 1896, thousands have received the blessings of our motto: “Enter to Learn; Depart to Serve.”
Oakwood University, Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning, offers quality Christian education that emphasizes academic excellence, promotes harmonious development of mind, body, and spirit, and prepares leaders in service for God and humanity. Consistent with its mission statement, Oakwood University is in the business of transforming lives – both for now and, more importantly, for eternity.
Oakwood is consistently recognized by national media, business and educational associations. U.S. News and World Report ranks it perennially among the nation’s “Best Colleges,” both in terms of the HBCUs and “Regional Colleges/South” categories; the magazine also ranks Oakwood among the top ten HBCUs with highest graduation rates. In its first-ever HBCU ranking, the September 2012 Ebony Magazine top-rated Oakwood’s science program.
Additionally, Oakwood is the nation’s fifth-ranked producer of undergraduate black applicants to medical schools, according to the Association for American Medical Colleges. The university has tremendous local impact hosting, since 1946, the annual Camp Meeting for the South Central Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a 10-day spiritual/educational/recreational retreat accommodating 8-10,000 attendees.
For those interested in additional information about the school and its history, an informative journey through Oakwood’s history is available in the Spring 2016 issue of Oakwood Magazine.
— Debbe Millet is an "Oakwoodite" by birth, as she was born while her father, Dr. Garland J. Millet, was president (1954-1963). She serves as the communication services coordinator at Oakwood University’s Office of Integrated Marketing & Public Relations; this article originally appeared on Adventist Review online.

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