Roanoke College

Roanoke College marks founder David Bittle's 200th birthday

  • Roanoke College marks founder David Bittle's 200th birthday

  • 11/11/11
  • Salem, Va.-The legacy of David Bittle, Roanoke College's first president, runs deep at the Salem campus.

    Bittle would have turned 200 years old this year, and the college will recognize his milestone birthdate with a special gathering on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

    Since 1993, the late president's birthday has been a big event on Roanoke's campus. Each year in November, the college's History department hosts a bonfire on Roanoke's back quad, horse-drawn carriage rides and a torch-lit parade to Bittle's Salem gravesite. An evening celebration, with karaoke and food, follows in the Colket Center.

    For this year's birthday bash, Roanoke also will host a 4 p.m. gathering, called Bittle @ 200, at Fintel Library. College representatives will speak about the former president's legacy and share historic relics to recognize Nov. 19, 1811, Bittle's birthday.

    Some of Bittle's important documents, photos and sermons (he was a Lutheran minister) will be displayed on the library's main floor for at least a month.

    Also, the college will unveil for the first time Bittle's pre-Civil War minerals collection. Last summer, several Roanoke faculty and staff members pulled bins of rocks from the attic of Crawford Hall, a campus residence hall. For the past few months, four Roanoke students have cleaned and identified much of the collection's 1,000 pieces that were found. The students will showcase more than 200 pieces during the birthday gathering.

    Refreshments will be served during a reception after the gathering.

    Traditional Founders Day activities are slated for the rest of the evening, beginning with a bonfire at 7:30 p.m. on Roanoke's back quad. A parade to Bittle's grave at East Hill Cemetery is at 8 p.m., followed by a party on the Colket Center's first floor.

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