Bridgewater College celebrating two important milestones

Story By Erin Gutzwiller

acad_deanscheppard.jpgIn the small town of Bridgewater sits a small private college. It is a college that is affiliated with the huge church on top of the hill, known as the Church of the Brethren.

According to academic-affairs dean Carol Scheppard, “Bridgewater focuses on the quality of education, introducing students to the liberal arts.”

This year marks the 128th year since the founding of the Brethren college, Bridgewater College. In 1880 a Brethren individual named D.J. Flory founded Bridgewater College at just 26 years old. During the month of April, we remember Bridgewater’s founder by celebrating Founders Day, and this year the 300th anniversary of the Brethren Church.

The Brethren movement began as a combination of a Lutheran movement known as Pietist and Christian Reformation known as Anabaptist. From this the Brethren religion began in 1708 in Germany, expanding out of the Christian religion. The very first Brethren Church was founded in 1723, called the German Baptist Brethren. In 1880 the Brethren religion divided into the Old German Baptist Brethren and the Brethren Church. The Brethren individuals themselves started Brethren-affiliated schools, the first founded in 1874 in Pennsylvania known as Juniata College. Today there are only six liberal-arts colleges that are affiliated with the Brethren religion, Bridgewater being one of the colleges.

pstone_2004.jpgThe Brethren Church stresses peace and justice, taking a firm belief in nonviolence. This belief is very much appreciated by the president of Bridgewater himself. In 1994, Phillip Stone became president of Bridgewater after serving on the school’s board of trustees. Stone is an alumnus of Bridgewater and grew up in the Brethren Church. When asked the question, What does being affiliated with the Church of the Brethren mean to you, Stone says that “personal loyalty to the Brethren Church and the appreciation of the church’s values that have affected the college in terms of its history, which is a strong sense of egalitarianism or quality that is shown in the fact women are apart of the original school.”

The Brethren belief is reflected in Bridgewater’s curriculum by striving to maintain a civil community as well as engaging the students in service learning and a personal development portfolio.

President Stone believes that it is not necessary for any of the students at Bridgewater to become Brethren, no matter what religion you are “religious faith is a fundamental part of ones education and is not to be ignored however expressed and continued to be a component.”

Scheppard became dean of academic affairs in 2007, and she accepted this position seeing it as an opportunity to take leadership in forwarding goals in liberal arts. She attended Wesleyan College in Connecticut, which is also a liberal-arts college. Scheppard grew up in the Brethren Church, and being affiliated with the Brethren religion through Bridgewater College shows a “commitment to community and living carefully. It matters to classmates, colleagues, and to our children. Every decision, even little ones matter.” She wants the students of Bridgewater to realize “that it matters how we treat each other and we make decisions together.”


Erin Gutzwiller is an Augusta Free Press Intern.        


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