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Making Milligan: Club helps keep alive storied history of the Buffaloes

By Madison Mathews
Press Staff Writer
mmathews@johnsoncitypress.com

MILLIGAN COLLEGE — Did you know a Milligan graduate was present in the courtroom during the Scopes Monkey Trial in which Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan debated evolution, or that brothers Alf and Robert Taylor, who ran against each other in the 1886 gubernatorial race, were graduates of Milligan College?

Milligan’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, a national history honor society, is aiming to keep these types of discoveries documented as part of the school’s long and storied history.

“For me, history never happens in a vacuum. History affects everything that happens today and everything we are,” senior Phi Alpha Theta member Kayla Rodgers said.

Rodgers was one of seven new members inducted into the society in September. She said she joined to help promote that idea, as well as promote the history of the school.

The Milligan chapter began in 2002 at the request of student David Harris and has grown every year, according to Dr. Ted Thomas, who serves as the chapter’s faculty advisor.

“We’ve had a fairly active club all the way along,” he said.

When he was first approached about the society, Thomas said he had never heard of it. In an effort to learn more about the college’s history, Thomas began a “personal project” called “This Day in Milligan History,” a daily e-mail newsletter which collects the group’s findings.

Each newsletter includes several pieces of interesting and significant trivia in the college’s history, as well as significant world events.

“Part of my interest was trying to become familiar with the college’s background. That peaked my interest. … I was looking for a project, and I don’t know exactly where this idea came from, but it’s been fairly well received,” he said.

Understanding the college’s rich history hasn’t only been a benefit for Thomas but it’s been helpful to the students involved with Phi Alpha Theta.

“It’s such a wealth of information here at Milligan. … There’s so much more to understanding and being at Milligan,” she said.

For junior chapter member Sam Beale, every time he learns something new about Milligan he also learns something about the area.

“I think that Milligan really gains a lot from this area’s history, because without it I don’t think it would’ve happened here,” he said.

Thomas said he gets a certain level of satisfaction when researching the college’s history. As a historian, he said he’s curious about where he came from, why we are, what we are and whether we’re true to the reasons for which we were created.

“I think part of keeping the heritage and the history alive and keeping these stories in the common mind is so that we don’t forget who we are and where we came from,” he said.

Beale said the group helps bring an awareness to a lot of students and faculty regarding the school’s beginnings and how much it’s changed.

“If you can see where you’re coming from and where you’re at, it gives you a really good idea of where you’re going, I think,” he said.

Phi Alpha Theta consists of more than 300,000 members nationwide. To become a member, students must have a 3.1 GPA in at least 12 college history courses and maintain an overall GPA of 3.0.

 

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MILLIGAN COLLEGE is a Christian liberal arts college in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The college offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan College, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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