University of Mount Olive Mourns the Loss of W. Burkette Raper

UPDATE: August 2, 2011 – 9:30 a.m.

On Wednesday, August 3, 2011, from 12 PM to 7 PM visitors are welcomed to Rodgers Chapel on the campus of University of Mount Olive where the body of Dr. William Burkette Raper, president emeritus of University of Mount Olive, will lie in state.  The family will receive friends in the Chapel from 4 PM to 7 PM.  The funeral will be at 11 AM on Thursday, August 4, 2011, in Kornegay Arena on the campus of University of Mount Olive.

MOUNT OLIVE – University of Mount Olive is mourning the loss of W. Burkette Raper, president emeritus of University of Mount Olive.  Raper died Monday, August 1, 2011 at 4:53 a.m. surrounded by family at his home.

Dr. Raper’s association with University of Mount Olive could best be described as a pilgrimage.  It was the summer of 1954 that the Free Will Baptist denomination began searching for a leader of their fledgling Christian college.  They found that leader in the Reverend W. Burkette Raper, then pastor of Hull Road Free Will Baptist Church.  Raper began his role as president of University of Mount Olive on August 2, 1954.  He was 26 years old and at that time, the youngest college president in the United States.  When he retired in 1995, he had the distinction of being the current longest-tenured president in the country.

During his 40 years as president, Dr. Raper left his mark on the College through his leadership style and deep commitment to the Free Will Baptist Church and its role in higher education.  He guided the development of the College from a two-year institution with an enrollment of 22 students in an abandoned school building to an accredited senior college with modern facilities on a more than 100-acre campus.  In 1995, he retired from the presidency and took on the duties as director of planned giving.  He worked in this capacity for ten years, making a total of 50 years of service to University of Mount Olive.

“Dr. Raper was a true visionary, and it is because of his vision and his life–long devotion to achieving that vision that University of Mount Olive remains that kind of institution that transforms the lives of so many students,” said Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter, president of University of Mount Olive. “The College, the Church, and the community have lost a great person and a great leader.  Our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers go out to Mrs. Raper and the entire Raper family.”

University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit