Founder’s Day originated in 1920 as a celebration of the birthday of Daniel Christian (DC) Flory, the founder of Bridgewater College. Flory’s Spring Creek Normal School, co-educational from the beginning, opened on September 6, 1880 in nearby Spring Creek Virginia. The school moved to Bridgewater in September 1882 and was named Bridgewater College on July 12, 1889.
Daniel C. Flory was an educator, Church of the Brethren minister, and a student at the University of Virginia. He was born on a farm in Augusta County, Virginia on April 3, 1854. A few months after opening Spring Creek Normal School, he married Catherine “Kate” S. Driver, also of Augusta County, Virginia. Daniel C. was elected a minister in the Church of the Brethren in March 1888. He was a strong believer in coeducation, scholarship and connected learning. The Rev. Flory studied in the local community and took classes at UVA, using the funding from his inheritance to finance his higher education.
Daniel C. Flory passed away unexpectedly while traveling on church business in 1914.
Bridgewater College Founder’s Day celebrations have always included special assemblies, though Founder’s Day traditions have changed over the years.
In the early to mid-20th century, commemorative plaques and paintings honoring historic College figures were often unveiled and presented on Founder’s Day. It was also a time to hear influential speakers on whom the celebrations focused. Notable Founder’s Day speakers included: Senator Howard E. Hughes (1973), Dr. Harry G. M. (Doc) Jopson (1978), and John N. Dalton, Governor of Virginia (1980). Bridgewater College occasionally awarded honorary degrees on Founder’s Day. It also became a special time for older alumni to reunite. Included were fellowship activities for alumni and an evening awards program and banquet.
In the 1980s, Founder’s Day began to shift to our modern-day celebration with its focus is on graduating seniors as well as faculty and staff excellence within the Bridgewater College community. It is a special time for seniors to don their academic regalia for the first time prior to graduation with an academic processional and recessional a vital part of the tradition.