By Linda Coutant
The campus and local community celebrated Appalachian State University’s 120-year legacy of educational leadership with the second annual Founders Day celebration Sept. 5.
The day included dedication of the Lillie Shull Dougherty statue, the ringing of the Founders Bell, a panel discussion with past leaders, and research by faculty, staff and students.
“What began as Watauga Academy in the late 1800s has flourished into Appalachian State University — the premier, public undergraduate university in North Carolina,” Chancellor Sheri Everts said at the afternoon Founders Day Ceremony in Founders Plaza.
“The principles set forth by our founders have guided us to be the forward-thinking university we are today. Examining our past reminds us of our resiliency and our commitment to increasing access to education for all.”
Founders Day honors the first day of classes at Watauga Academy in 1899 and recognizes founders B.B. and D.D. Dougherty, who were brothers, and Lillie Shull Dougherty, wife of D.D. Dougherty.
“Appalachian’s values and commitments have persisted for well beyond a century: a life-changing educational experience, an appreciation of our surroundings, preservation of our resources and the enduring qualities of generosity and mutual respect that bind the Appalachian Community,” Everts said.
Lillie Shull Dougherty statue
Each year, the university adds a new layer of purpose and meaning to Founders Day, according to Everts. This year included dedication of a new statue at Founders Plaza honoring the vision, commitment and persistence of Lillie Shull Dougherty, now acknowledged as “the third pillar” in the founding of Watauga Academy.
“There were three, not two, co-founders of Appalachian State University,” said Doris Stam, great-granddaughter of D.D. and Lillie Shull Dougherty, who spoke at the dedication.
Stam explained how Lillie Shull Dougherty arrived in Boone in 1899 at age 24, married with a one-year-old child, with a plan to teach some music classes part time. However, she became a full-time working mother, teaching the younger children at Watauga Academy while her husband, Dauph, taught the older students.
“As would be the theme of her life, Lillie saw the problem, filled the gap and met the need, whatever it was, without being paid to do it,” Stam said.
Lillie managed the president’s house and hosted many guests, often unexpectedly. She had a hand in business decisions, and after her husband’s death in 1929, served as Appalachian’s business manager and treasurer until 1938. She also cared for her brother-in-law B.B. Dougherty, a lifelong bachelor, until her death in 1945.
“While the life of Lillie Shull Dougherty simply cannot be measured by her visible achievements as teacher or business manager at Appalachian, or even the decades of entertaining, less apparent and more lasting was her steadfastness of purpose to serve, and the integrity of her character in doing it,” Stam said.
Everts added, “Lillie’s influence is woven throughout the fabric of this special place. … From her advancement of academic programs to her leadership in community organizations, she set the tone for Appalachian to be viewed as a catalyst for change in education and as a friendly, respectful neighbor to the town, region and state.”
The sculpture was donated by William H. Brown Jr., the great-grandson of D.D. and Lillie Shull Dougherty, and crafted by local artist Suzie Hallier. Everts called the piece “a truly stunning statue that is a venerable tribute to a wise woman.”
Bell Ringers Society
Twelve people were inducted into the new Bell Ringers Society and rang the Founders Bell housed in the new Founders Bell Pavilion. As chair of the university’s history committee, Dr. Karl Campbell of the Department of History introduced each bell ringer and his or her connection to Appalachian. Each received a commemorative pin and rang the Founders Bell nine times.
“You honor our university with your service and dedication,” Campbell told the inaugural members.
To those attending the ceremony, including current and former faculty, staff, students and community members, Campbell said, “Collectively, those of us here today represent Appalachian’s past, present and future,” and encouraged all to recommit themselves to the vision of Appalachian’s founders.
Inaugural members of the Bell Ringers Society were:
- Dr. John Thomas.
- Reba Moretz ’52 ’53.
- Julia Adams ’56.
- Doris Stam.
- Philip Byers ’85.
- John Blackburn
- Jerry Moore.
- Penn Broyhill.
- Jeannine Underdown Collins ’79 ’81.
- Dr. Rennie Brantz.
- Sammy Hartley ’72 ’73.
- Dejon Milbourne.
“On Founders Day and henceforth, the bell’s rich tone will echo throughout campus, calling out to Mountaineers who, like you, believe deeply in Appalachian’s mission to educate and engage,” Everts said.
About the Bell Ringers Society
A new tradition at Appalachian State University — the ringing of the Founders Bell, an iconic symbol of Appalachian’s history — was established Sept. 5, 2019, as the university celebrated its second annual Founders Day. Twelve members of the Appalachian Community were selected to ring the bell 10 times each to signify the university’s 120th anniversary as an innovator and leader in higher education. These 12 bell ringers are the inaugural members of Appalachian’s Bell Ringers Society. New members are inducted into the society each year to ring the bell on Founders Day.
About Founders Day
Appalachian State University celebrates Founders Day on Sept. 5 to honor the university’s founders — B.B. Dougherty, D.D. Dougherty and Lillie Shull Dougherty — and the first day of classes at Watauga Academy in 1899. Appalachian began this annual tradition in 2018 with the dedication of Founders Plaza, a touchstone to the university’s early days that is located at the campus entrance on Hardin Street.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.