Why We Give

President Creed remembers his first visit to Buies Creek and driving down Leslie Campbell Avenue — his first impression and the first impression for many when they come to Campbell University. The symbolic “window” to the Academic Circle was framed by two residence halls built in the 1950s. Kitchin and Baldwin Halls mirrored each other, both three stories tall and both dotted with window air-conditioning units to make up for the 60-year-old buildings’ lack of a central cooling system.

“It looked like the buildings had warts on them,” Creed recalls. “And I told my wife, ‘If it’s the last thing I do, those buildings have gotta go.’” It turns out, it was one of the first (big) things Creed did as president. Roughly 16 months after his inauguration, Kitchin and Baldwin were met with the wrecking ball to make way for the Oscar N. Harris Student Union, which began construction in 2018. 

And though his own days as a Campbell student were well behind him, perhaps nobody was happier to see this kind of progress than Dr. James Purvis.

James and Veronica Purvis look on at the April 1 gala celebrating the Campbell Leads campaign. Photo: Ashley Stephenson

A 2009 biology graduate who would go on to dental school and eventually start his own practice in his native New Bern, Purvis says he loved almost everything about his Campbell experience. And that one “wart” on his experience was weekends.

“With very few exceptions, weekends were the time when I would either drive home or drive out to Fairmont, North Carolina to visit my granddad,” Purvis says. That granddad, the late P.C. Purvis — who was also a dentist — was a 32-year member of the Board of Trustees and a longtime supporter of Campbell University. He and James’ grandmother, Peggy Purvis, shared a long-term vision for the beautification of Campbell’s main campus, and together they established Purvis Gardens, the fountain surrounded by small shade trees in front of the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business.

“My grandmother would come to campus when granddad went to meetings, and back then, she thought the campus was a wasteland,” Purvis says. “It was too sandy, the grass was dead, too many bricks. When granddad wanted to make a gift in the late 90s, she practically threatened him — ‘I’m not going to let you give another dime to that school unless it’s earmarked for beautification.’ And so he told that to [former president] Dr. [Norman A.] Wiggins.”

Wiggins, he says, laughed and agreed to the gardens.

“We were known for years as a ‘suitcase school,’ so we really wanted to enhance the residential experience and have a place for people to gather. I live just a block over, so I’m in that building frequently, and I’m always seeing students there. And so when I think back to a time not very long ago when this building wasn’t here, the enormity of the project really sinks in.”

— President J. Bradley Creed —

“I’ve taken my little boy who’s 2 now to those gardens, and so when my wife and I are giving, we think about these things,” Purvis says. “We’ve prayed about where the need lies, and I think about my grandmother and her focus on beautification.”

Rewind to Purvis’ statement earlier about his weekends at Campbell. While his trips home were nice and his visits with his grandparents are cherished to this day, he admits it’s pretty sad that he felt the need to leave campus on weekends to enjoy his youth. No undergraduate campus wants to be known as a “suitcase campus” on the weekends, but Purvis says that’s exactly what Campbell was during his formidable years.

“I wasn’t the only one who did this,” he says. “The campus was a ghost town on the weekends.”

When Creed announced the pending construction of a large student union — one that would be equipped with newer dining options, social spaces for students, study lounges, game rooms, a movie theater, a two-story workout facility, a large ballroom for events and office areas for student-led organizations, he was thrilled for his alma mater. Like his grandmother and beautification, Purvis found his focus.

(Right) Purvis Gardens was the result of a gift made by James Purvis’ grandparents with a focus on beautification. Photo: Ben Brown

He wanted to give to this student union. He wanted to make a difference in the undergraduate experience at Campbell University. The second floor reception area outside of the building’s movie theater is now named for James and Veronica Purvis. Like the gardens on the other side of campus, there’s is a gift that will last for generations.

“I’m a dentist, and as a former biology student here, I was really excited about the health sciences campus and everything Campbell was doing for the graduate experience,” Purvis says. “But as excited as I got for health sciences, those buildings were already there, and my heart really wanted to help foster something that undergraduates could utilize and enjoy. Not only that, it’s a building that is going to draw people here.”

Next: Why We Give | Chandler and Meredith Rose