Friday, January 31 will forever be remembered as a pivotal moment in the history of Saint Augustine’s University. The university hosted 15 descendants representing 6 of the 11 founders at a very special brunch that was the highlight of the Founders week activities.
During the brunch, the university honored the past, present and future of Saint Augustine’s University and remarks were given from some of the descendants of the founders.
Descendants in attendance for the celebration included Smedes York, the great, great grandson of Rev. Aldert Smedes, founder of Saint Mary’s School (now St. Mary’s College) in Raleigh; Stanley Black, who is the Georges Lurcy Professor of Economics, emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and John Mebane, the great grandson of Dr. Kemp Plummer Battle, who in 1867 accepted the office of treasurer without salary for the newly formed Saint Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute.
“I am really proud to be here today for this celebration,” said York, who was accompanied by his son, George York.
Smedes York served two terms as mayor of Raleigh, serving from 1979 to 1983. From 1977 to 2009, he was president of York Properties.
Atty. Joseph B. Cheshire V, whose great, great grandfather, Rev. Joseph B. Cheshire Sr. supported the development of SAU, stood before the audience and expressed with joy in his voice how proud his father was of their family involvement with the university.
“He would always tell us that one of the greatest things that our family has ever done was to participate in the developing of this school [Saint Augustine’s University],” said Cheshire, who is a local Raleigh attorney and was rated as one of North Carolina’s top 10 lawyers in 2012 and 2013 by SuperLawyers.com.
Virginia Wilkes Strickhouser, the great, great granddaughter of John Wilkes, stated how wonderful the event was.
“This truly was an excellent program,” she said. “All the information about the history of the school was great!”
President Suber gave remarks on how momentous the program was for the university.
“What makes today’s event even more extraordinary is the fact that our students have an opportunity to be part of this ceremony,” Suber said. “Our students are truly the light of the future for Saint Augustine’s University.”
The SAU Readers Theatre paid homage to the founders with a thought-provoking performance and the lyrical sounds of the SAU Choir showcased the many talents of the gifted students in the music program.
Although members of the Saint Augustine’s University family were celebrating, they were also mourning the death of Mr. Alpha Howze Jr., the university’s former archivist. Mr. Howze, who died on January 22, was instrumental in connecting with the founders descendants which made this event a success. His untimely passing was a shock to the university family.
“He will be remembered as a hard worker who was dedicated to preserving the rich legacy of Saint Augustine’s University,” President Suber said. “He will be missed.”
The founders whose vision helped created the rich legacy of Saint Augustine’s University are as follows:
Rev. Jacob Brinton Smith (Episcopal Clergy) 1822-1872
First principal of Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute
Bishop Thomas Atkinson (Episcopal Clergy) 1807-1881
North Carolina Diocese; he led the move to open the Episcopal school for blacks near Raleigh that eventually became Saint Augustine’s University.
Dr. Kemp Plummer Battle (Episcopal Lay) 1831-1919
He held the position of office of treasurer in 1867.
Rev. Joseph B. Cheshire Sr. (Episcopal Clergy) 1814-1899
He supported the 1867 development of Saint Augustine’s College (now Saint Augustine’s University), a private Episcopal school to train black ministers and teachers. He also helped establish St. Luke’s as the first African-American parish in the Diocese of North Carolina.
Gen. William Ruffin Cox (Episcopal Lay) 1832-1919
Dr. Armand John DeRosset (Episcopal Lay) 1807–1897 (1899)
Saint James Church, Wilmington, NC
Rev. Edward McCartney Forbes (Episcopal Clergy) 1811-1893
Christ Church, New Bern, NC
Rev. Dr. Richard S. Mason (Episcopal Clergy) 1795-1874
Rector, Christ Church, Raleigh
Rev. Aldert Smedes (Episcopal Clergy) 1810-1877
Founder, Saint Mary’s School (Now St. Mary’s College), Raleigh
Richard H. Smith (Episcopal Lay) 1812-1893
One of the founders of the Trinity Episcopal Parish, Scotland Neck, NC
John Wilkes (Episcopal Lay) 1827-1908
A member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte
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