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It’s the big 149. Bethune-Cookman University celebrates founder's birthday

Mary McLeod Bethune and her students.
State Archives of Florida/State Archives of Florida
Mary McLeod Bethune and her students.

Bethune-Cookman University is celebrating its founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s birthday this week, and it’s a big one.

Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of B-CU, was also a civil rights activist, educator and the first Black American to get her statue in Statuary Hall in Washington, DC.

This week, students at her university in Daytona Beach will celebrate what would have been her 149th birthday, by learning more about her life and legacy.

Sherry Paramore is the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the school.

“We want to just pause and really remember all the work that she has done. Well before we knew what a civil rights movement was, she was the one that really wanted to bring people together,” Paramore said.

Festivities will continue throughout the year as the historically Black college prepares to mark its 120th anniversary.

Paramore said the university that Bethune started in 1904, still stays true to her final wishes.

“As she expressed in her last will and testament that when you graduate, you come back, you give back, but also you are impactful in your communities around the world. And that's more important today than ever before,” Paramore said.

The university is having a particularly good year for its special birthday.

In March, a benefactor donated $1.4 million to renovate the campus, after students protested living and study conditions on campus in 2023.

Then in April, B-CU officials reported a surge in applications and Freshman commitments this year compared with last.

A popular band camp also sold out on campus, after being on hiatus during the COVID years, as interest in HBCUs continues to rise.

Learn more about B-CU here. And about its founder here.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.
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