Founders Day: September 14, 1924

HPC Opens its doors: September 14th marks the 95th anniversary of the opening of High Point College. Classes began on a campus of three buildings and nine faculty members. 122 students trekked through muddy walkways to attend classes in HPU’s most iconic building, Roberts Hall. Tuition, room, and board with other fees came to less than $400 for the year.

Robert’s Hall, completed in 1923, cost the school $120,000, more than $1,500,000 today, and was home to the chapel, library, administration, faculty, a cafeteria and academic rooms.

John Calvin Roberts

Though deceased by the time the school was completed, John C. Roberts was instrumental in building support for a Methodist Protestant College in High Point. Roberts’ position as a Kernersville merchant allowed him to leave $10,000 dedicated in his will for a Methodist college in High Point, should a school open by 1920. The will further stated that if the school did not open by 1920, the gift was to be used for the training of young men for the ministry, its ultimate use as HPC did not open until 1924. The Roberts Bequest Papers, held by HPU Archives, include requests for loans from $50-$100. It may seem a small amount today, but at the time $50 would cover a full semester’s tuition or rooming costs.

In addition to being recognized by the dedication of Roberts Hall, the Roberts family donated a 19th century bible at the start of classes in 1924 to honor John Calvin and his contribution to the school. Jennie Donnell Kerner, niece to John C. Roberts, penned a beautiful dedication as seen here.

It reads:

This Bible is today presented to the Roberts Memorial Hall; In loving remembrance of our sainted and much beloved “Uncle Calvin and Aunt Caroline Donnell Roberts”. Feeling that this building is the proper place for it, because as their loved ones we know that this act would meet their highest approval.

Sincerely – a Niece
Mrs. Jennie Donnell Kerner
(on behalf of the family)
September 18th, 1924

For many years, staff considered this bible lost. The volume was mistakenly discarded when library materials were moved to the new Smith Library in 1984, but was saved by HPC alumni Scott Morgan who remarked that students were encouraged to take materials from the discard bin. The library recovered the iconic bible three decades later, when it underwent significant conservation procedures. Professionals from a Brown Summit restoration firm unstitched the pages and reinforced those that were damaged with new cotton backings. They renewed the broken leather spine and damaged binding. The restoration work took over six months, and cost around $2000. This special book is now on display in Smith Library.

Welcoming Words

Throughout the years, upperclassmen, faculty, and staff alike have offered advice and encouragement to incoming students.

In 1927, just after HPC graduated its first class of students, one Hi-Po writer encouraged freshmen to “Put the college before yourself, first, last, and always”, in addition to showing “voluntary obedience of the freshman rules”. Words from older students often emphasized the duty of freshmen to be respectful of their elders, and in 1930 the Hi-Po published official rules for freshman, including “Freshman shall show reasonable courtesy and respect to the upperclassmen at all times”. Also mentioned in these rules is the freshman beanie, also known as a ‘dink’ or ‘rat cap’, that had to be worn at all times from August to April. You can see an original Dink on display in Smith Library!

To learn more about the founding of our school, John C. Roberts, or past HPU Presidents, visit the HPU Archives online or in Smith Library.

-Blog post by Laura Silva, Archives