John Roberts was Decorated Army Veteran, Longtime Baptist Courier Editor, and Gardner-Webb University Friend
Boiling Springs, N.C. – With heavy hearts, officials at Gardner-Webb University and those within the Baptist community are saluting the life of a man who claimed that his time at Gardner-Webb guided him to fulfill his life’s purpose. Dr. John Roberts, the retired editor of the Baptist Courier and recipient of an honorary doctorate from GWU, died Wednesday, Aug. 15. He was 85.
“It was on these grounds and within association with this institution that I found who I am, and what God would have me to do with my life,” Roberts shared during a 1987 GWU commencement address. “No matter where I am or where I serve, Gardner-Webb is and remains a key influence, a major landmark in my life. That is simply who I am.”
John Elgin Roberts was born in Shelby in 1926 and spent his formative years in the Kings Mountain community of El Bethel. He graduated from Bethware High School in 1944 and served as a sergeant of intelligence in the United States Army. He was stationed overseas in the Philippines during World War II and in Korea during the post-war U.S. occupation, where he received six medals and commendations.
Following his military service, Roberts began attending Gardner-Webb College, where he served as editor of the student-produced publication The Pilot. In 1949, he earned his associate’s degree and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Furman University and a master’s from Vanderbilt University. Roberts began his career as a teacher in the Gastonia (N.C.) City School district and later became director of promotion and associate director of public relations at Gardner-Webb. In 1965, he joined the staff of the Baptist Courier as associate editor and business manager, and was promoted to the editorial position in 1966. Following a 30-year career as editor, Roberts retired in 1996.
He was awarded honorary doctorates from Charleston Southern University, Furman University, and Gardner-Webb University. The Outstanding Male Graduate Award, given at Gardner-Webb commencement each year, was named in his honor in 1993. He was a recipient of the award in 1949. Roberts also served as a GWU Alumnus Trustee in 2006.
Roberts died at the Rolling Green Retirement Community in Greenville, S.C. following a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Helen, six children, and eight grandchildren.
“Go from this place today in happy anticipation of finding joy, fulfillment, achievement, and success in life,” he told the graduates of 1987. “Hope must never be abandoned. It is the bond that links the shortcomings of yesterday to the bright promise of tomorrow. Hope is the light that drives off despair. It is the healing balm that eases the pain of disappointment. Hold onto hope every day of your life.”
Funeral services are planned for Friday, Aug. 17 at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church (Greenville, S.C.) with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m. Roberts will be buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park.
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Dolly Wilson is accustomed to a long-distance relationship with her two adult sons. Both men have served in the U.S. Air Force for a combined 23 years (and most recently overseas). Wilson had already made peace with the fact that her sons would not be able to attend her graduation ceremony, held Monday afternoon on the campus of Gardner-Webb University.
Except that they did.
"I just don't know if my feet will ever come back down to the ground," said a beaming Wilson, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing. "It was one of the best moments of my life."
Joshua Wilson, 36 and his younger brother Jeremiah Wilson, 29, arrived on campus in the early afternoon hours on Monday. Joshua flew in from Alaska, where he is stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. Jeremiah took a few days leave from his base at Davis-Monthan in Arizona. Both brothers brought their full military regalia and were whisked away to an office far away from the graduates.
University officials helped orchestrate the moment that would become forever etched in the memory of the woman who had raised four children as a single mom and adopted a fifth child. The men stepped onto the stage as their mother's name was read. Her shoulders heaved with emotion as she saw them for the first time, dressed in their military dress blues, holding flowers and waiting for the moment they would embrace. The audience stood and cheered.
The Wilson brothers each recently returned from active tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their sisters Sarah, 34, Rebecca, 32, and Makayla, 7, each live in North Carolina, but it has been more than three years since the entire family has been together in one place. This week is a chance to celebrate their mother's accomplishments and a rare opportunity to simply spend time together.
Dolly was eight and a half months pregnant with Jeremiah when she graduated with her Associate of Nursing degree from Western Piedmont Community College in 1984. Her career has spanned from a float nurse at Valdese General Hospital to collaborating in the creation of Frye Infusion Care. She now works for Blue Ridge Health Care where she developed the Patient Navigator Program, which guides and educates breast cancer patients from diagnosis through various services.
"My mom sacrificed for us, and we never went without," said Joshua. "She is an amazing woman, an amazing mother, and today, she accomplishes one more thing, her Master of Science in Nursing. There's none greater."
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.— Crossroads Worldwide Summer Camp 2012 began its seventeenth consecutive year at Gardner-Webb University this week. For five weeks, the ministry will immerse more than 3,400 youth campers in a variety of worship experiences focused on this year’s theme, “The Dwelling Place.” Nightly worship services, held Monday – Thursday at 7 p.m. through July 26, are open to the community.
Christians who feel called to ministry will tell you that receiving a clear “calling” is a piercing, wonderful experience. A calling brings clarity, but it also demands a response, one that usually requires courage, sacrifice, and deep sense of purpose. Just ask Gardner-Webb alumna and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter Rachel Buck (’09), who leaves this month to fulfill a two-year call to missions with New Life Deaf Ministry (NLDM) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
If you asked members of the audience what they most enjoyed about Gardner-Webb alumna Rita Gouveia’s commencement address during last December’s graduation, some would say it was her sincerity in congratulating her classmates on their accomplishments.
Boiling Springs, N.C.—Gardner-Webb University will host ChildlightUSA’s annual Charlotte Mason Education Conference, June 6-9. Approximately 150 educators from all over the United States and Canada will be attending the conference, titled “Offering Authentic Mason Education—Awakening to Delightful Living.”
University officials have announced that Gardner-Webb will launch a physician assistant program beginning January 2014. The program will help fill the healthcare industry’s need for primary care providers by training medical professionals for the primary care field.
Recently, six mission teams and 71 team members put Gardner-Webb’s core values of faith, service and leadership into action across the globe. These are their stories—of hope, healing, and “Happy Hands.”