Rev. William Jenkins ’36 celebrates his 100th birthday on April 29, 2012. The centenarian fondly recalls his four years at Shenandoah’s Dayton campus, including memories of drama teacher Madge Keiter, roommate John Adams ’37, classmates Forrest Racey ’37, Julia Wynnyk Rohr ’40 and Virginia Brown Camicia ’39 and President Wade Miller.
Jenkins dropped out of high school at age 15 to work, yet earned his high school and junior college diplomas at Shenandoah.
“I waited tables and helped clean the kitchen to help pay expenses,” Jenkins said. “I was in the chorus, sang bass in a male quartet and acted in several of Madge Keiter’s plays.” Classmate Forrest Racey served as Shenandoah president from 1956- 1969 and Wade Miller served as president in the mid-1930s along with his brother, Millard Miller, who served as chaplain. “I knew them both quite well,” said Jenkins.
His dream was to attend medical school, but Jenkins didn’t possess the financial resources. He decided to become a licensed preacher in the United Brethren Church in 1933 and was ordained in 1943. Jenkins attended Shenandoah because it was United Brethren Church affiliated and because his pastor in Charleston, W. Va., said tuition was inexpensive. Jenkins served as a minister for nearly 80 years. His career highlights included many positions within the church and service as a Shenandoah University trustee during the 1960s, when he represented the West Virginia Annual Conference.
Throughout his long life, Jenkins has seen many milestones. He was born in a log cabin in Nelsonville, Ohio, and now resides in a modern retirement community. He was born a few weeks after the Titanic sank and lived through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. He witnessed church mergers from United Brethren to Evangelical United Brethren to United Methodist. “I always remember to place emphasis on the word “‘United,’” he said.
He plans to celebrate his 100th birthday with his family (daughter Alice Hilderbrand and son-in-law) and friends from the Inn at Westbrook, where he resides.