Silliman University (SU) last August 10 honored the founders of the University, Dr. David S. Hibbard and Mrs Laura Hibbard, with a floral offering and a re-enactment of the couple’s arrival and first few days in Dumaguete in 1901.
The ceremony was held in front of Hibbard Hall, where a life-size bronze statue of Dr. Hibbard guards the entrance to the building named after him.
Dr. and Mrs. Hibbard arrived in Dumaguete on August 10, 1901, rented a house along the coast of Dumaguete City, established it as the Silliman Institute, and held its first class for 13 young boys on Aug. 28, 1901. He was the first president and she was the first and only faculty.
Moses Joshua Atega, member of the SU Founders Day committee, said he hopes the event will be observed annually as part of the Founders Day Celebration.
“This has long been the wish of the Dumaguete community, because we always celebrate Founders Day, but we don’t really have an event (to honor) the founders.
He said that although it is good to have a floral offering on August 28 for Horace B. Silliman (the New York philanthropist who first donated money to put up an industrial school for boys in the Philippines, which would later grow into Silliman University), there is no commemoration for Dr. and Mrs. Hibbard.
“Laura was actually the real president we had during the time Silliman was built, because Dr. Hibbard was busy planting churches all over the country. She was the one left behind here to build the school,” Atega said.
Around 60 representatives from the SU administration, faculty, student organizations and SU Church attended the ceremony.
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and students from Dramatics Club of Silliman University Elementary School (SUES) re-enacted the founding story of the university.
Mrs. Dubhe F. Estallo, SUES principal, said the SUES was tasked to coordinate the event because Silliman started as an elementary school. She said it is important for everyone, especially elementary students, to appreciate the Silliman history.
“The purpose of the activity is for us not just to know the founders, Dr. and Mrs. Hibbard, but more importantly for us to learn from their lives. They inspire us to carry on, to be better, and like them to be of greater service,” she said.
Mrs. Dessa Quesada-Palm, mission co-worker and trainor in theater arts, read a letter she wrote for the Hibbard couple, in which she recalled the efforts and amusing days of the Hibbards in the early days of Silliman. She ended the letter with the following tribute:
“Today… with great love, respect, and admiration, we salute you both, Dr. David Sutherland Hibbard and Mrs. Laura Hibbard, for being the first parents and leaders of our beloved Silliman University.
“May we be as faithful and steadfast in making our lives a testimony to Christ’s love and teaching. Via, Veritas, Vita. Christ as The Way, The Truth, and The Life, now and always.”