Founder’s 100-year-old telescope donated to college on day of eclipse

9-year-old Wilkie Snyder Bishop

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (August 21, 2017)—In 1915, a little boy ran and played in the woods on Emmanuel Hill, where Milligan College’s B.D. Phillips Building stands today. Wilkie Snyder Bishop had his trusty telescope, a favorite possession, likely studying wildlife, clouds, and even the sprawling Milligan campus in the valley below. Then, he heard someone nearby.

“What have you got there, son?”

Bishop turned to see family friend Dr. Josephus Hopwood, who was an austere man with a long, dark beard. Intrigued, Hopwood asked if he could look through the telescope, made with shiny brass and leather, and Bishop agreed.

Hopwood, who had recently returned for a second term as president, looked towards the Christian college he founded with his wife, Sarah LaRue, and could see how much it had grown since their arrival in 1875, 40 years earlier.

Wilkie ran home and recounted the story to his father, James William Bishop, who instructed his son to turn back and give Hopwood the telescope. He did–with some reluctance. According to Anne E. Bishop, who recounted the story, her father’s encounter with Hopwood was an important lesson on sharing and helping others. When Hopwood died in 1935, the telescope was returned to the Bishop family.

Today, after the country (and parts of the world) experienced a solar eclipse, Anne thought it was a perfect time to give back the telescope to the college she grew up near and graduated from in 1971.

“My parents and grandparents were historians and history was very important to them,” said Bishop, whose family farm joins the seminary. “The more I thought about it, I knew they would be pleased to hear we donated it.”

Bishop made the gift along with her nephew, James Allen Bishop (James William Bishop’s great grandson), and his wife and children (great great grandchildren) in honor of close family friends Dr. C. Robert Wetzel and his wife, Bonnie, for their service to the seminary and the college. The presentation took place today, after the eclipse, on Wetzel Terrace, the front porch of the B.D. Phillips Building—likely where Wilkie gave the telescope to Hopwood.

“The generosity of the Bishop family has echoed through generations now, and God has made the stars align in so many ways to bring us together on this cosmically important day,” said President Dr. Bill Greer. “It is our hope that this 100-year-old telescope will be a reminder to our students 100 years from now about not only the importance of history, but the importance of generosity.”

Despite learning a tough lesson on sharing a much-loved possession, Wilkie was rewarded for his generosity. That Christmas, he found a brand new telescope under the tree.


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 or call 800-262-8337.

« Back to News & Events