Uncovering History

Study Abroad coordinator moonlights as the go-to person when it comes to researching Campbell’s early history, and her work played a big part in the success of the University’s first-ever Founders Week

The picturesque setting for a lazy late spring day — college friends running through the fields, listening to music, lying in the shade without a care in the world — Kivett’s Mill was where Kendra Erickson (’06) first decided she wanted to dive in to the history of Campbell University and learn more about the school she called home.

Erickson, an English major who started her college career at 16, decided to make the mill her senior project. Her 40-page report told the story of Hendricks Kivett, son of Kivett Hall architect Z.T. Kivett, and the mill he built in the early 1900s to provide lumber for the ever-growing Buies Creek Academy. Nine years after her project and graduation, Erickson — now coordinator of Campbell’s Study Abroad program and formerly an adjunct history professor — was asked to help plan an event to honor perhaps the most historical of all events in the University’s history — the school’s founding in 1887.

For Campbell’s first Founders Week, Erickson served as historical advisor and led the creation of the history room — a temporary museum of early-day Campbell artifacts including founder J.A. Campbell’s diary, his wife Cornelia Pearson Campbell’s bell used to signal the beginning and end of classes and several rarely seen photos from the late 1800s.

“I love, love, love researching history,” says Erickson. “I’ve always considered myself a storyteller — I love hearing stories and sharing them. Everyone has a story. That’s the philosophy behind what I do. Those stories are your identity; they’re tied to your history and your culture.”

Founders Week culminated with the unveiling of a new 7-foot-tall bronze statue of J.A. Campbell in front of Campbell’s oldest building, named for Z.T. Kivett, on Feb. 6. Erickson was instrumental in planning a long-overdue first to go along with that special event — she helped gather descendants of the Campbell and Pearson families for a special luncheon the day of the unveiling.

About 45 members of the families attended — including longtime Campbell supporters and students and faculty dating back to second President Leslie Campbell’s tenure in the 40s and 50s. Erickson got to know the Campbell family while doing her paper on Kivett’s Mill and was able to gather everybody’s contact information thanks to a family reunion scheduled the week before Founder’s Week.

“France Lynch Lloyd [granddaughter of J.A. Campbell] walked me through the family tree, shared some ideas with me and [Director of Annual Giving and Founders Week planner] Sarah Swain over tea and helped us connect the dots,” Erickson says. “The history is here. It’s just a matter of knowing who to talk to and where to find it.”

Erickson’s dream for Campbell is to see the creation of a university archivist or historian position, someone dedicated to centralizing historical documents, photos and videos for future generations. There is currently a side room with several historical items in the side room of the Lundy-Fetterman Museum (curated by Dorothea Stewart-Gilbert, one of the many Erickson says has been vital in helping her for Founders Week); and Wiggins Memorial Library has digitally archived several documents, including old newspapers dating back to the 40s.

But more can definitely be done, she says.

“Campbell is growing so fast and producing so much material, it should probably be archived in some manner in a central location, like a museum,” Erickson says. “The founding of the medical school, the upcoming engineering program, the law school moving to Raleigh — it’s all so huge. If we’re not careful, we’ll lose an opportunity to create a foundation for future Campbell history.”


Billy Liggett Writer
Lisa Gotwals Photography

This article is related to: