HUNTINGTON, IN May 29, 1997 --- Huntington College has received as a gift a unique bit of aviation history and a swatch of the original fabric covering from the Wright brothers' flying machine. The material, mounted on a plaque, was recently hung in Wright Hall on the Huntington College campus.
The gift was presented by Wilkinson Wright of Dayton, Ohio, the grand-nephew of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Wilkinson "Wick" Wright visited the Huntington College campus in September, 1996, when he received a Huntington College Centennial Medallion on behalf of Bishop Milton Wright, father of the famous fliers and a founder of Huntington College.
Wilkinson Wright presented the fragment of fabric "as a reminder and a testimonial that Milton Wright’s concepts of a good education have proven to be remarkably sound over the years. His most notable success, of course, was in the schooling of his sons Wilbur and Orville, but I know that many Huntington graduates have achieved great eminence also."
The plaque on which the fabric is mounted bears an inscription explaining its history:
"When Orville Wright prepared the 1903 Wright flyer for public exhibition in 1928 he replaced the original fabric because it had been damaged by submersion in flood waters in 1913. He covered the flying surfaces with new fabric of identical material. After Orville’s death in 1948, his executors found some of the original wing coverings carefully preserved and labeled in his laboratory at 15 North Broadway in Dayton, Ohio. This piece of fabric is from the section that covered the lower left wing of the first Wright aeroplane on December 17, 1903. On that day, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the world’s first free, controlled and sustained flights in a power-driven heavier-than-air flying machine. "
Following is a handwritten personal note from Wilkinson Wright: "In memory of my great grandfather, Bishop Milton Wright."
Milton Wright was converted to Christ at age 15 under the ministry of the United Brethren Church. He became a preacher and circuit rider. He also taught school and traveled to Oregon as a missionary from 1857 to 1859. He served as the denomination's first theology professor at Hartsville College in Indiana. He later became the editor of the denomination's official publication, The Religious Telescope.
He was elected Bishop in 1877, a position he held almost continually until 1905 (despite a denominational split in 1889). He served as a member of the denomination's Board of Education and supported the Huntington Land Association's proposal to locate a new college in Huntington, Indiana.
As bishop, he helped lay Huntington College's cornerstone in August 1896 and offered the prayer of dedication when the College opened in September 1897:
"It has been Thy good pleasure, O Lord, to give Thy people this property, this building and these grounds to be used for the purpose of Christian education. Now, with hearts of gratitude to Thee, we desire to consecrate this edifice and these grounds to Thee. And now, O Lord, we dedicate this building from tower to foundation-stone with all its furniture of any and every kind, and all that may hereafter be put into it in harmony with piety and propriety, and dedicate these grounds with all improvements which may be made now or hereafter…. We dedicate all these to Thee, O Lord, to the cause of Christian education, in the name of the Triune God. Amen."
Wright Hall, a contemporary residence hall on the campus of Huntington College, is named in Bishop Wright's honor and memory. The fabric fragment from his sons' first flying machine is on display in the lobby.
For 100 years, Huntington College has offered high-quality academic programs "to equip men and women to impact our world for Christ." Located on a contemporary, wooded campus in Huntington, Indiana, the four-year liberal arts college offers graduate and undergraduate programs in nearly 50 academic concentrations.
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Note: Photos of the plaque being hung in Wright Hall, along with close-ups of the plaque itself, are available upon request.