Alumni Update August 24 – 30, 2020
Dumaguete Alumni Chapter Honors Dr. Laura Hibbard on her 51st Death Anniversary
A memorial service commemorating the 51st Death Anniversary of Dr. Laura Crooks Hibbard was recently held last August 24, 2020, at the newly opened Dr. Laura Hibbard Heritage Room at the second floor of the historic Silliman Hall. The memorial service honoring Dr. Hibbard was spearheaded by the Silliman Alumni Chapter of Dumaguete, also the main proponent of the Heritage Room. This is the first time that Dr. Laura Hibbard has been recognized as one of the main pillars in the birth pangs of Silliman University.
Present during the memorial service were the officers of the Dumaguete Alumni Chapter headed by Mrs. Gladys Rio-Malayang – Chapter President. Dr. Vicente B. Jurlano 2020 Outstanding Sillimanian Awardee and wife Genevieve, also joined the memorial service. We share with you Rio-Malayang’s reflections based on the life of Dr. Hibbard who exemplifies the University’s motto “Via, Veritas, Vita”.
“A bright and early good morning to all and in these most unusual and challenging times, we are blessed that we can still say “Happy 119th Founder’s Day” to Silliman University! As we come together this morning to remember and honor the life of Laura Carthara Crooks Hibbard, we give tribute to the one who championed and believed in the total development of the human being — body, mind and spirit. Dr. Laura Hibbard was the university’s first visionary who dared to put her dreams into action by bringing the love of learning to the hearts and minds of her students. She lived the “via, veritas, vita” that has been and is the guiding and inspiring light of Silliman University. To remember Laura Crooks Hibbard, allow me to shine a light on her who was the first educator and teacher of Silliman. I would like to recognize and give honor to the intrinsic value of what pushed and inspired her to leave her home in Kansas and travel to a distant and unknown place and even a more unknown future. Laura Hibbard was born in 1874 and grew up in Fredonia, Kansas. Fredonia was a very small town in southwest Kansas and at around the time of her birth, Fredonia had one main street, general store, a post office, a courthouse and a hotel. She left Fredonia to pursue learning and education and at the age of 22 she finished a liberal arts degree in a presbyterian college and in 1899. At the age of 25, she and her husband David Sutherland Hibbard left the USA to go to the Philippines under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. The couple arrived in the Philippines at the time of upheaval and under a cloud of conflict between the US and the Philippines. This however did not deter the Hibbards in their singular purpose of spreading Christ’s gospel. They were initially assigned as missionaries in Ilo-ilo and without much ado, Laura started teaching in a small school with the wife of another missionary. When Horace Brinsmade Silliman donated the first $10,000 to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions to start a school here in the Philippines, the Hibbards were tasked to made this donation into a reality. So, in August 10, 1901 the Hibbards left Ilo-ilo for Dumaguete and two weeks later on August 28, Silliman Institute born. The deteriorating health of David Hibbard a few months after Silliman Institute was founded, Laura Hibbard single-handedly did the start-up of Silliman. I am sure it was not easy task— a foreigner in a strange land with a language she did not understand and a culture that was as different as her life in Kansas. To educate mind, body and soul with God’s Word as her guiding light— to teach and mold, to inspire and to nurture— this is what Laura Hibbard’s life work was. After 95 years of a full and fruitful life, in August 24, 1969, she started her eternal journey with the Lord whom she had served her whole life. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles, California. So what was this intrinsic value that Laura had? She was a woman of passionate faith, unwavering courage and deep-bone strength who stood on the Rock of her faith and never doubted God’s promises. Through the early years of Silliman, she followed God’s calling in her life and God blessed her and her work which has now become Silliman University. As we celebrate the 119th year of the founding of our University, we stand on a brink of a murky future, in front of a great unknown so much like Laura and David Hibbard as they stood on the shores of Dumaguete. No longer do we see a clear path into what tomorrow will bring; the plans and steps we took at the start of this year have suddenly disappeared and our road ahead has lost the road signs and directions that were so clear just a few months back. But the legacy of faith, courage and strength from Laura is alive and well today. We too shall go boldly into this unknown standing on the promises of God. Let me quote to you these words from one of our theme songs for this year’s Founders celebration…” standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God we shall prevail, standing on the promises of God!” Yes! The legacy of our foremothers and forefathers is with us and Silliman University under God’s sovereignty shall prevail. Thank you!”