The University of Olivet Celebrates Founders’ Day

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This month, The University of Olivet will commemorate its 174th year with a Founders’ Day celebration on Feb. 21 at 1:30 p.m. and continuing throughout the afternoon. There is an abundance of rich history to honor, from the college’s founding in 1844, to earning a state granted charter in 1859, and finally graduating its first class in 1863. Today in 2018, the OC community is proud and excited to continue making history guided by the same values the college was founded on.

Why We Celebrate

Reverend John J. Shipherd, who helped found Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1833, traveled north with 39 friends and families members to further his mission, founding The University of Olivet in 1844. Now fondly known as Father Shipherd, he set out to form a Christian institution that would not only educate both men and women, but would co-educate them. Further, Father Shipherd believed education should be available to all regardless of gender, race or financial means, and opened the college to people of color. During the period when slavery was still practiced in the United States, it was this abolitionist belief that prevented the college from receiving a state charter until 1859.

Mary N. Barber, Sara Benedict and Sophia A. Keyes comprised the first graduating class in 1863, and The University of Olivet’s history has only grown richer since. The basis of Olivet’s guiding principle was established by the founders when they wrote, “We wish simply to do good to our students, by placing in their hands the means of intellectual, moral and spiritual improvement, and to teach them the divine art and science of doing good to others.” This remains at the core of The University of Olivet’s mission today. In fact, the college’s founding fathers words are echoed across campus today in the motto “Be More. Do Good.”

Schedule of Events

On Feb. 21, events begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Olivet Congregational Church. Cassie McDoanld Ross ’13 will give a special presentation highlighting her experiences as a The University of Olivet student and graduate. In addition, McDonald Ross will be a part of the The University of Olivet Alumnae Panel at Cultivating Women Leaders: Pioneering the Future on March 2.

McDonald Ross is a physical therapist at Agility Physical Therapy & Sports Performance in the Kalamazoo area. She has an extreme passion for physical therapy in the area of sports, orthopedics, pelvic health, pregnancy/postpartum, and overall injury prevention. McDonald Ross earned her doctor of physical therapy degree from Grand Valley State University in 2017. She graduated from The University of Olivet in 2013 with a degree in mathematics. She was a member and captain of the volleyball team, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council, and participated in the first cohort of the President’s Leadership Institute. Leadership continues to be one of her main focuses both personally and professionally.

Immediately after McDonald Ross’ presentation, there will be a ceremonial wreath-laying on the grave of Father Shipherd, followed with cookies and hot cocoa in the Oakview Room at the Kirk Center. In addition, the reception will feature displays of the plans and progress on the Hosford History Center and Lawrence Archives. The event is free and open to all students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and friends of the college.

Learn More

For questions about the Founders’ Day celebration, contact Margaret Heppner, executive assistant to the provost, at mheppner@uolivet.edu or 269.749.7618. Learn more about The University of Olivet by contacting the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivetcolleg.edu or 800.456.7189.


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