WILSON, N.C. — November 14, 2016 — A 100-year-old gift recently made to Barton College has stirred great interest and conversation on campus this fall, especially during the recent Homecoming Weekend celebration. The thoughtful and heartwarming gift from James Van Taylor III, M.D., of Wilson, is a 1916 Atlantic Christian College diploma that was awarded to Sallie Hadley Bunting in the spring of that year. Mrs. Bunting is the late maternal grandmother of Dr. Taylor. While Barton has some wonderful examples of early-awarded diplomas in its archives, the gift of this diploma is particularly meaningful to the College because of its century anniversary this year.
“We are incredibly appreciative of this gift from Dr. Taylor, a well-respected physician in our local community, who also serves as a physician in Barton’s Student Health Center,” shared Dr. Douglas N. Searcy, president of Barton College. “We are privileged to be able to honor the legacy of this graduate, Sallie Hadley Bunting, who understood 100 years ago the intrinsic value of a college education for a full life, especially for young women.”
Dr. Taylor’s grandmother, Sallie Hadley Bunting, was born in 1895 in Williamston, N.C. She took the train to Wilson to attend Atlantic Christian College and completed her degree in 1916. Her roommate was Fannie Harper, the daughter of A.C.C.’s 2nd president, Dr. J.J. Harper.
When Dr. Taylor’s grandmother graduated, she began a career in education as a principal for a small community school in Hassell, N.C., not far from Oak City and Bethel. A couple of years later, she and her soon-to-be husband, Vance Bunting, married when he returned from World War I, and they began their family. While she raised her family of three daughters, she continued to instill in them the importance of education. They followed in their mother’s footsteps becoming educators who taught in the classroom.
“Mrs. Bunting believed in the importance of higher education, which led to her daughters completing their degrees and her grandchildren following suit,” continued Dr. Searcy. “Her encouragement also touched the lives of students during her early career as a principal, and there are untold stories about those students who went on to earn college degrees and encourage others. The centrifugal influence of just one person can be staggering when used for great purpose. Mrs. Bunting used her influence to encourage the pursuit of higher education at a time when it was not necessarily the norm for men, and even less so for women.”
“We are excited to be able to share this piece of our family history with Barton College,” Dr. Taylor said. “My grandmother was very proud of her A.C.C. education, and she believed it was important for her children and grandchildren to also earn a college degree. I think she would be pleased to know that the family has returned this cherished diploma to her alma mater, and that it is on display to inspire those students enrolled now at Barton.”