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December 8, 2023 9:56 pm

University of Mount Olive celebrates founding, presents award

MOUNT OLIVE – The University of Mount Olive celebrated 72 years of Christian higher education on Tuesday with its annual Founders Day service held in Southern Bank Auditorium. The guest speaker at this year’s service was UMO Professor of History Dr. Alan K. Lamm.

Lamm spoke about the early days of then Mount Olive College, and the life and legacy of Lloyd Vernon, its first president. He shared a detailed history of the institutions and individuals that inspired what is now the University of Mount Olive. He talked about the importance of dedicated leaders like Lloyd Vernon, who remained faithful and focused in spite of numerous obstacles. Through those efforts, the dream of a Christian liberal arts school in Eastern North Carolina became a reality.

The congregation, led by Dr. David Hines, joined together to sing “God of Our Fathers” and the University of Mount Olive Alma Mater. Dr. Natalie Kemp, Associate Professor of Psychology, gave the Founders Day Prayer, and Jonathan Hanna, a Christian studies major, read from Psalm 121. Special music was provided by the University of Mount Olive Concert Choir, under the direction of Holly Rector.

UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom recognized several special guests from the audience including Former First Lady Rose Raper, wife of the late W. Burkette Raper, who served as president of Mount Olive College for 41 years.

Every year during the Founders Day service, one student is presented the Founders Leadership Award, a scholarship given in memory of the late Dr. W. Burkette Raper, President of Mount Olive College 1954-1995. The scholarship, payable on future educational expenses at UMO, is presented to a senior in the traditional undergraduate program who has distinguished qualities of character and leadership toward making the University the institution of Christian higher education envisioned by its founders. The recipient of the scholarship is chosen by a committee of faculty, student, and staff representatives.

This year’s Founders Leadership Award was presented to Morgan Elizabeth Prots, a senior elementary education major from Whispering Pines, NC. Prots was described as an “eager and conscientious student,” who is “dedicated to the education profession.” She is currently a reading tutor for the UMO Reading Clinic, and even travels to North Duplin Elementary School twice weekly to tutor a student whose parents are unable to provide transportation to UMO. Prots is a member of the UMO Women’s Volleyball team, where she defensively led her team to a winning season.

“Without a doubt, Morgan Prots exemplifies similar qualities as set forth by Dr. W. Burkette Raper,” said Dr. Amanda Bullard-Maxwell, Assistant Dean for Education, in her nomination of Prots. “She is an asset to the University of Mount Olive and the teaching profession.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University was founded by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit