By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
Campbell University used its celebration of Founder’s Week to mark a special place, not only on it’s campus, but in its history.
Thursday morning school officials, students, families and guests gathered just outside Kivett Hall on the spot where the original Buies Creek Academy stood in 1887.
Buies Creek Academy was the predecessor to today’s university that makes up more than half of Buies Creek as a whole.
The site was dedicated with a herring bone inlay of bricks surrounding a circular marker commemorating the location of the wooden church that housed the first students.
The marker puts in just a few words the history of the school and the disaster that struck early in its lifetime when fire ripped through the church, nearly ending the dream of its creator.
“On Jan. 5, 1887, James Archibald Campbell, a 26-year-old Baptist minister, opened the school with 16 students and a dream of providing a faith-based education to young men and women,” the marker reads. “On Dec. 20, 1900, a fire destroyed the campus. Kivett Hall was built in its place in 1903, representing a fresh start and assurance that Dr. Campbell’s vision would live.”
For current university President Dr. J. Bradley Creed, the ceremony represents not only a link to the past, but a stepping stone to the future.
“We are very blessed here in the present and we think we have a bright future, but it all connects back to the past,” he said. “It helps us understand our place at Campbell, the heritage we have and how we can make the most of our opportunities.”
The marker is more than simply a representation of where the college got its start. Dr. Creed says it’s also a testament to the perseverance and faith the school continues to embrace.
“It’s an amazing story and I believe it says the hand of God has been on this place,” Dr. Creed said. “None of this would have been possible without the blessings of the Lord and the faith of the people who gave so much to this university.”
The monument was created as a part of the university’s efforts each Founder’s Week to highlight and recognize a historic or significant part of the school’s history.
Previous contributions have included a statue honoring Dr. Campbell and the school’s Scottish heritage, this year the Founder’s Week Committee decided it was time to bring Buies Creek Academy to the forefront.
“As we stand and sit today under these oak trees that are 75 to 80 years old, we can feel the pride of the Campbell family that gave their life, accepted the challenges and provided for that big miracle at little Buies Creek,” Campbell University Vice President for Business Jim Roberts said honoring the family who owned the land that is now the university.
Graduate student Chris West spoke on behalf of the student body and offered a brief look at Buies Creek’s earliest history, praising the efforts and the faith the first 16 students had in Dr. Campbell and his vision.
“It grew from a one-room school house to a building the length of Kivett Hall,” he said. “Until on Dec. 20, 1900, when the wooden building burned to the ground. The community came together with students and faculty on what seemed to be an impossible mission to rebuild Buies Creek Academy. Mr. Z.T. Kivett headed this effort.
“They built a new building in brick in this area,” he said. “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the new Kivett Building was a hope for Buies Creek Academy and the school flourished.
“The story of Buies Creek Academy is our story,” Mr. West said. “It’s a story of endurance, perseverance and community. Buies Creek Academy, its leaders, its students, its community supporters set a firm foundation for what is known today as Campbell University.”
Dr. Creed admitted the university that rose up from the ashes of the fire is a tribute to the faith of the people who are involved with the school as well.
“There have been lean times and this has never been a prosperous area,” he said. “But, Campbell has touched the lives of a lot of people.”
Those people, Dr. Creed believes, are the lasting legacy.
“I think our greatest contribution is through the students we send out, who go to serve and lead with purpose in the communities where they live,” Dr. Creed said.