University of Mount Olive Turns 60

MOUNT OLIVE- On Thursday, November 3, University of Mount Olive (MOC) celebrated 60 years of providing Christian higher education.  It was the start of a two-day celebration, which continued Friday night with a concert and fireworks.

To mark the anniversary, banners commemorating major milestones of the first six decades of the College’s life were created and used in the opening processional.  Alumni, representing each of the six decades, were selected to carry the banners.  The College also commissioned a commemorative anniversary coin, which President Philip P. Kerstetter indicated will later be given to the College’s faculty and staff as tokens of appreciation.  As part of the service special music, composed by Kurt Erickson, was performed by Ryan Spell on trumpet and Stuart Burnham on piano.
In his opening remarks University of Mount Olive President Philip P. Kerstetter stated, “More than 60 years ago, a group of very concerned, very committed, and very dedicated individuals met to discuss the need for establishing a college to serve the church. They were full of hopes and dreams, but most importantly, they had a vision.  From its first inception, this College was intended to provide a high quality academic program that was firmly rooted in the liberal arts.  From its first inception, it was designed to serve the church and serve the people of this region.”  Kerstetter went on to note that although the College has expanded its programs, its services, and the number of students it serves, the College has remained true to its original values and mission.  “We remain a Christian faith-based, Christian values-centered institution that offers a variety of educational programs that all have their roots in the liberal arts. And we continue to serve our students, our founding church, and our communities.”
Amanda Ropp, president of the Student Government Association; the Reverend Harold Swinson, president of the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists; and The Honorable I. Ray McDonald, Sr. brought greetings from their respective organizations.
In the keynote address Dr. A. Hope Williams, president of the NC Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU), challenged all those connected to the College.  “The weight, the responsibility, the challenge for the future of University of Mount Olive is now on the shoulders of everyone in this room.  The accomplishments of the next 60 years will be determined by how well all of you are able to carry that weight.  Fortunately, you are a team, and because you are a team, the responsibility you share is more than doable.  Some of you are carrying more than your share, while others can do more to help University of Mount Olive become an even greater institution and a life changing college in the state.  University of Mount Olive is your college.  Be proud of the past, share the responsibility of the present and build for the future.”

The festivities continued on Friday night, and even the rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd.  The 60th Anniversary Concert featured the University of Mount Olive Concert Choir performing a newly commissioned work in observance of the College’s founding.  California-based composer Kurt Erickson composed three choral settings using poems by David Rigsbee, award-winning poet and MOC professor. The songs were performed with piano and cello accompaniment.  The University of Mount Olive Symphonic Band performed works by Sigfrid Karg-Elert, James Curnow, Jack End and John Zdechlik.
At the close of the Friday night concert Hale Artificer Fireworks Display lit up the night.  Onlookers enjoyed hot chocolate and s ‘mores.
Public Relations Director Rhonda Jessup noted that the celebration of the College’s 60th anniversary will continue throughout the year.  “The College has a year of activities aimed at drawing attention to the institution’s rich history and heritage,” she said.  For a complete list of events, visit
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, Jacksonville, and Washington.  For more information, visit