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William Wightman and the Cornerstone

Written By: Phillip Stone - Apr• 25•14

Before a crowd of several thousand people from all over South Carolina, The Rev. William M. Wightman, the first chair of the Wofford College Board of Trustees gave an address of several thousand words that laid out some of the major principles that he hoped would be central to the new college.  At President Nayef Samhat’s inauguration this morning, student Laura Kate Gamble read some of the highlights of the address.  Here’s some of what she shared:

We are assembled this day, fellow citizens, to perform the pleasant task of laying the cornerstone of Wofford College.  A noble building is to arise on this spot, bearing on its entablatures, and emblazoning in its heraldry, the name of a citizen of Spartanburg District whose liberality has made a princely contribution to the cause of Education.  We this day give that name down to posterity…

We make this beautiful grove classic ground.  For posterity emphatically, we lay this cornerstone – Generations unborn are interested in the transactions of this hour.  We summon the future, with its great “cloud of witnesses” to join us in the ceremonies of this joyous occasion.

It is impossible to conceive of greater benefits, to the individual or to society, than those embraced in the gift of a liberal education combining the moral principle… with the enlightened and cultivated understanding which is the product of thorough scholarship.

Wofford College…will be known throughout the United States as a Methodist institution of learning…

I make this frank and distinct avowal on the present occasion, for,… on behalf of that religious organization, that its leading principles are abhorrent of sectarian bigotry, and breathe the true spirit of catholic liberality, of universal good will…. In the spirit of these broad and liberal views, we shall open the doors of this institution …

We may shout the praise of our glorious Constitution in Fourth of July celebrations, and sing to our model republican institutions.  Far better would it be to go to work, each one in the appropriate sphere of action, to strengthen the foundations on which these rest – intelligence and moral principle.

We must have better schools and more of them…Public opinion must be brought to a higher standard of judgment…  institutions of learning are the nurseries in which these noble virtues are trained.

For the good of posterity we plant the foundation of this institution.  After the hopes of ages, and amid whatever chances or changes may in the eventful future befall our social and our political institutions, may this cornerstone support a fabric still flourishing in its early freshness.


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