Dressed in the formal wear of the 1850s on Sunday afternoon, a college historian took on the persona of the Rev. Benjamin Crever, a founder of Lycoming College, for a Charter Day celebration in honor of 200 years.
Dr. John F. Piper Jr. gave a first-person history of the man who helped bring about the school's charter, standing at Crever's grave.
"(Acting as Crever) captures people's attention," Piper said. " 'Is that really what they wore?' "
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Dr. John F. Piper Jr., dressed as Benjamin Crever, who helped found Lycoming College, talks about Crever’s life on Sunday at the Williamsport Cemetery, where Crever is buried.
The charter for what now is Lycoming College was received April 2, 1811. The bicentennial is being celebrated this year because the school first opened in 1812.
The college began as the Williamsport Academy in 1812. It taught both men and women. By 1847, it was for sale because Williamsport had a public school system in place.
Crever, a Methodist preacher based in Milton who went to Dickinson
College, walked for two days to see it because he believed the area needed a school similar to his alma mater.
He recommended the Baltimore Conference purchase the school, which opened in Fall 1848 as the Williamsport Dickinson Seminary. In 1929, it added junior courses and became Williamsport Dickinson Junior College.
In 1948, the school changed its name to reflect the county's, which comes from the Native American word "lacomic," meaning great stream.
Along with the reenactment, a cannon was fired on the campus quad at 12:39 p.m. The significance of the time referred to years - "12" for 1812, when the school first opened, and "39" for 1939 when the Junior College erected Clarke Chapel, Piper said.
"It's important for students to understand those that came before them that helped create an institution that they're now a part of," said college President Dr. James E. Douthat.
Douthat learned more than he previously knew about the Crever family as he listened to Piper's historical monologue.
Piper, who served as dean for 15 years until his retirement in 2007, has been playing the part of Crever for 10 years. He took on the role from the recommendation of faculty members who thought he was tall enough and sort of looked like Crever, though Piper said he does not see the resemblance.
His knowledge of Crever and history of the school came from spending four years researching and writing his book, "Lycoming College, 1812-2012: On the Frontiers of American Education."
Tyler Breech, a senior and executive president of the college's Student Senate, represented the student body at the event.
His favorite part of the celebrations came from Piper reading parts of the school's charter.
The original charter from April 2, 1811, reads: "There shall be and hereby is ... an academy or public school for the education of youth in the English and other languages, in the useful arts, sciences and literature, by the name and style of the Williamsport Academy."
The January 1848 charter reads: "Instruction shall be given to youth of both sexes designed to offer a liberal education to females and quality young men ... Pupils of all denominations shall be educated on the same basis."
"I never heard even a part of it before," Breech said. "It really struck a chord with me and it will stick with me for life. It's been like that since it started. Its foundation is still alive."
Being a senior during the school's bicentennial is something special, he said.
"Knowing you're in the 200th year is unbelievable," Breech said. "It's been 200 years that people have been doing this."