MARSHALL — Alumni, students and community leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder Friday to honor three notable men from Wiley College's 143 years of history.
Three Texas Historical Commission markers were unveiled during a ceremony in the Julius S. Scott Sr. Chapel to recognize each man's accomplishments.
"This is an extraordinary day in the history of Wiley College, the city of Marshall, Harrison County, the state of Texas and the nation," Wiley professor Bernard Clayton said, introducing the program.
The men recognized are professor H.B. Pemberton, the first graduate of Wiley College; Matthew W. Dogan, the longest-serving president of Wiley; and professor Melvin B. Tolson, the faculty member who created and coached a debate team known as the "Great Debaters."
Walter L. Sutton, chairman of the college board of trustees, said it "was these visionary persons whose prayers, sacrifice and tireless efforts ensure that the beacon light of our dear Wiley College will shine brightly for generations to come."
Thomas Spier, chairman of the Harrison County Historical Commission, spoke on the importance of the monuments' dedication.
"The Official Texas Historical Marker program helps bring attention to community treasures and the importance of their preservation," Spier said. "Awareness and preservation are among the best ways to guarantee the preservation of our community's history. This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness, the important cultural resources and these great community leaders and educational founders that we honor here today. We still stand in the shadow of their achievements."
Marshall Mayor Eric Neal said the success of the city and Wiley College were reflective of one another.
"On behalf of the city, I want to thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to share in the ceremony to honor three individuals who were truly a landmark of this college. They pulled it together and set a legacy here. … Wiley's history is Marshall's history."
Several graduates spoke about the legacies of Pemberton, Dogan and Tolson.
"I am fortunate enough to be the only one in this building that can say, 'I've known someone who knew all three,' " said Trustee R. Foppe Hodge. "That person was my father. My father taught chemistry at Central High School where Professor Pemberton was principal. He worked at Wiley for 44 years where Dr. Dogan was president and professor Tolson was one of his co-workers. I feel very fortunate to be here."