Rev. Richard W. McBride, Elon University’s chaplain for a quarter century, will deliver Elon’s 119th Commencement address. Commencement is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 23, Under the Oaks in front of West Residence Hall.
McBride, who will retire in May after 25 years as Elon’s chaplain, has left an indelible mark on the university community. In addition to guiding the university’s Office of Religious Life through its rapid growth in the past two decades, McBride has promoted service to the local and global community among Elon’s students, faculty and staff.
He founded Elon’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity in 1988 and also helped start the Elon Volunteers (EV!) program, which now is administered by the university’s Kernodle Center for Service Learning. He also started a Winter Term service-learning course in Guatemala which allows students to participate in various Habitat for Humanity projects throughout the country.
During his tenure, McBride has also launched several programs that have become hallmarks of Elon’s campus life. Among these programs are the Senior Showcase (now known as Leaders of the Twenty-First Century), which highlights the achievements of graduating seniors; Hometown Heroes, through which freshmen honor individuals who made a difference in their lives or their hometowns; the Turning 21 Dinner, which encourages students to mark their 21st birthdays by honoring their mentors; the Life Stories course he teaches for graduating seniors who are encouraged to develop a narrative of their experiences and life goals; and the annual Elon Holiday Lighting Ceremony.
McBride has also been a central figure in the joys and sorrows of the campus community. In 2001, he organized a campus gathering to help the community come to grips with the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and in 2007 he coordinated the campus service in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. He has presided over alumni weddings as well as funerals, memorial services and gatherings of friends for students, alumni, faculty or staff members who have died. He also regularly provides stirring remarks and prayers at campus gatherings, such as Commencement, convocations, faculty meetings and facility dedications, and provides support and partnership to those who want to speak out on issues related to social justice and warfare.
In addition to his more public duties, he has served as a trusted counselor and friend to countless numbers of students throughout the years.
In 2004, McBride published a book, Inventing a Life: The Journey Through College and Beyond, based on his interactions and interviews with Elon students. Also in 2004, McBride received Elon’s Periclean Award, which is presented each year to an Elon faculty or staff member whose work creates a learning environment that promotes social responsibility and civic concern among students.
McBride earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and a master of theology degree from Duke Divinity School. Before coming to Elon in 1984, McBride served as college minister at Gardner-Webb College (now University) and assistant chaplain at Wake Forest University.