McKendree University Celebrates 194th Year, Formally Installs New Reverend

Rev. Dr. Beverly L. Wilkes-Null(LEBANON, Ill., February 24, 2022) – On Sunday, Feb. 20, McKendree University celebrated its 194th year during its Founders Day celebration at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts on its Lebanon campus. During the event, the Rev. Dr. Beverly L. Wilkes-Null was formally installed as the University’s new chaplain.

Rev. Wilkes-Null, the former directing pastor at Highland Hope United Methodist Church in Highland, Ill., joined McKendree last summer after the former chaplain, Rev. Dr. Tim Harrison, retired. The campus community at large formally welcomed her to the community during this celebration, with many speakers already singing her praises.

“Rev. Beverly is a wonderful person who would give you the clothing off her back,” said Dr. Joni Bastian, vice president of student affairs, in her words of welcome. “In just a short time, she has made her mark with her love and support of students, faculty and staff.”

President Daniel C. Dobbins ’81 kicked off the installation with a brief overview of the University’s impressive history. The oldest institution of higher learning in the state, McKendree is also the oldest institution with continuous ties to the United Methodist Church.

“Here at McKendree, we cherish our historical relationship with the United Methodist Church and its tradition of Judeo-Christian ideals. Therefore, we hold in covenant the expectation that our University Chaplain will welcome students, faculty and staff from all walks of life to participate in open dialogue, free inquiry and mutual respect,” President Dobbins said. “We are blessed this year to celebrate this installation and all the good works that come from Rev. Wilkes-Null.”

Several leaders of various faiths were also in attendance. Following the formal installation performed by Mississippi River District Superintendent, Rev. Allynn Walker, four faith leaders presented interfaith symbols to the newly-installed reverend. Rev. Dr. Rose Booker-Jones, interim pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Carbondale, Ill., presented a cup, representing God’s favor, which overflows with the Holy Spirit. Rebecca Marten of the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Congregation Beth Jacob, in Carbondale, Ill., presented a travel-sized book of the Torah, a token to bring much knowledge on her journey. Deborah Kuth, pastoral associate at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lebanon, Ill., presented a statue of St. Joseph as an example of what it means to love and as a reflection of the new reverend’s love for the Bearcat community. Finally, Rev. Patricia L. Wilkes Stone, interim pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Woodlawn, Ohio, presented a Bible to steady the new reverend and to encourage students to search the scriptures for answers.

“This day would not be possible without each and every one of you,” Rev. Wilkes-Null said to the crowd after accepting her installation. “I thank God for blessing me with this new family; this is my Heaven on Earth – all of you. You have to get excited when a dream becomes a reality and has staying power. In 1828, it wasn’t just a dream but passion to make McKendree a reality so we could be standing here today. Our history, our story – the Bearcat story – is still happening, for there are days ahead of us yet to be revealed.”

The ceremony also included a spirit-filled homily by Bishop Frank Beard of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and songs of praise by members of the Trinity United Methodist Church in East St. Louis. Concluding the event were songs performed by the McKendree University Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. John McDonald, followed by a reception.