Milligan receives founder’s 100-year-old telescope during solar eclipse

Published 8:07 pm Monday, August 21, 2017

A story rich in Milligan College lore, and generosity, that started in 1915 was put on full display Monday.
Representatives from the school joined atop Emmanuel Hill following a 97-percent total eclipse to receive Milligan College founder Dr. Josephus Hopwood’s telescope. The presentation was held outside the college’s B.D. Phillips Building.
Anne Bishop was in possession of the telescope, which is 100 years old, and was a gift provided to Hopwood by her father, Wilkie Snyder Bishop, at a young age. Bishop was joined alongside her nephew, James Allen Bishop, his wife and their children, all descendants of Wilkie, and made the presentation to honor close family friends Robert Wetzel and his wife, Bonnie, key members of Milligan’s growth over the years.
Right after the college held a viewing party for the eclipse, the presentation proved to be the perfect way to cap off the day, according to Milligan President Dr. Bill Greer.
“It’s been an exciting and interesting day,” Greer said with a smile.
Anne shared the story of the telescope during Monday’s event. The story of the exchange between Wilkie and Hopwood actually took place on Emmanuel Hill.
With some reported reluctance, Wilkie adhered to his father’s request to present the telescope to Hopwood after the Milligan founder expressed interest in the item, made of brass and leather.
The story of sharing and helping others rang true for Anne. In 1935, the telescope was returned to the Bishops after Hopwood passed away.
But the idea of presenting the item back to the college, especially during a rare occurrence like the eclipse, only made since, according to Anne.
“My parents and grandparents were historians and history was very important to them,” Bishop, a Milligan graduate, said in a statement issued to the Elizabethton Star. “The more I thought about it, I knew they would be pleased to hear we donated it.”
Monday’s event was just another in a long line of ways Milligan College preserves history, and it comes to the help of different families, according to Greer.
“The Bishops have lived in the area for decades and decades,” Greer said. “Her ancestors knew the Hopwoods, the founders of Milligan College. The Wetzels have also played a key role in the development of Milligan College and Emmanuel. Dr. (Robert) Wetzel was a dean and professor at Milligan before he eventually became the president of Emmanuel. He’s had a hand in the development of both institutions.”
Robert also shared kind words about the family and the excitement of the item being back with the college. James presented the telescope to Robert, who then presented it to Greer. The telescope will be housed inside Milligan’s library archives.
According to the story, Wilkie’s decision to give away his favorite toy did come with a reward, with a brand new telescope sitting under a tree during Christmas.

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