The year was 1962. John F. Kennedy was president, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, Bluefield College opened its first girls’ dormitory, and a young business professor from Nebraska joined the BC faculty.
The year was 1968. Richard Nixon had just been elected president, cigarette ads were banned from television, Dr. Charles Harman was president of Bluefield College, and another young instructor, this one a BC graduate, returned to his alma mater to teach history.
That young business professor in 1962: Will Gordon. The history professor in 1968: David Armbrister. Together, these two professors would amass 72 years of service in the classroom — 40 for Gordon, 32 for Armbrister — before retiring just several years ago, and on Saturday, December 17, during Winter Commencement at Bluefield College, the two will be commended for their vast loyalty when the college presents them both Honorary Doctorate degrees.
Gordon, who holds the longest tenure of any member of the BC faculty, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree. Armbrister, who is also known as the college’s official historian, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
Approved by the college’s Board of Trustees and Academic Council, BC Honorary Doctorate degrees are reserved for “individuals who demonstrate outstanding professional and personal accomplishments” and “outstanding service to the community.” Nominees also are individuals who achieve significant literary, social, business, scientific, religious, educational, or other accomplishments.
“These honorary degrees provide an opportunity for Bluefield College to express its appreciation to Mr. Armbrister and Mr. Gordon for all they have contributed to the college, their profession, and society,” said Julie Hull Johnson, chair of the BC Board of Trustees.
Gordon, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial management from Georgia Tech, came to Bluefield College in 1962 as an assistant professor of commerce and business. During his four decades of service, he was promoted to associate professor of business in 1977, distinguished professor of commerce and business in 1983, and senior professor in 1997.
Gordon also served as chairman of the Division of Business and was once named a Distinguished Faculty Award winner. After retiring in 2002, he was granted Faculty Emeritus status in 2009.
Armbrister, who earned an associate’s degree from Bluefield College, a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Richmond, a master of arts degree from UR, and a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, came to BC in 1968 as an assistant professor of history and sociology. During his 32-year tenure, he was promoted to associate professor of history in 1978 and senior professor in 1997.
Armbrister also served as chairman of the Division of Social Sciences and faculty sponsor of Alpha Phi Sigma Honor Society. He also received BC’s Distinguished Faculty Award and published two books on the history of Bluefield College. After retiring in 2000, he was granted Faculty Emeritus status in 2009.
Troy Peery, a 1964 BC graduate and longtime president and chief executive officer of the Heilig-Meyers Company in Richmond, Virginia, had this to say about Gordon and Armbrister when they received their Senior Professor status.
“As we go through life, we are influenced by countless individuals — both good and bad,” Peery said. “To you, Mr. Gordon and Mr. Armbrister, we thank you for the positive influence you have had on countless individuals and the influence you will continue to have from now to eternity.”
Former students and colleagues, along with community friends are invited to join current students, faculty and staff in recognizing Gordon and Armbrister during Winter Commencement, December 17. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. in Harman Chapel. A reception in honor of the two longtime BC professors will follow inside Shott Hall.