The Bethesda story spans almost three centuries and will unfold as a historical narrative tying the past to the present through the universality of the human experience. It is a story of human complexity that will be explained so as to deepen our understanding of other times and how those times affected choices made. It is a story of continuous threads, hard work, and the evolution of methods, and styles, a story of people who believe everyone should have a chance to succeed. Ultimately, Bethesda is a story of individual achievement and empowerment for young men who seize the opportunity Bethesda has provided since 1740.
Bethesda has not only a rich past, but a valuable purpose. Within the past lies the deep and diverse history of Bethesda Academy and a significant part of our nation’s history. The interpretation of this unique place begins with facts and information, but the interpretation will go on to explore what these facts mean and how they relate to the present. Bethesda’s story is relevant and worth telling. It is our goal that this museum will celebrate our rich history, underscore our current relevancy, and inspire visitors to support us as the journey of Bethesda Academy continues.
William ‘Bill’ Ford, Sr. came to Bethesda as a young boy in 1941, and left as a young man in 1952. Bill graduated from college, and seminary, and later held an honorary doctorate degree. Along the way, he married his college sweetheart, Boonie, and raised a wonderful family. He pastored several churches, but some of his proudest days as a leader and servant, came during his tenure as Superintendent at Bethesda from 1970 until 1989. Bill Ford holds the honor of being the only ‘Bethesda boy’ to become his alma mater’s leader. For his accomplishments during his years as Superintendent, to his love for the place where he spent his childhood years, Bethesda Academy is proud to stand with the Ford family in remembering Bill’s legacy of service in naming the museum and visitors’ center in his honor.
A project on this scale of importance demands the best creative minds; therefore Bethesda Academy has tapped the design expertise of Jody Marcil, owner of Jody Marcil Design Studio in St. Augustine, FL. The vision created by Jody and her team is impressive. After extensive research and multiple trips to Savannah to review Bethesda’s archives and artifacts, the museum storyboard began to take shape. The various panels and components were fabricated under Jody’s supervision in FL. The video components were created by Bethesda Academy’s Video Production program. Renovations to the 1st floor of Burroughs Hall: new carpet, paint, track lighting and the relocation of two offices began in November 2012. In December, Jody and her team arrived in Savannah with trucks filled with cases and panels and lots of excitement. The installation went smoothly and the museum was ready!
Working closely with the Ford Family, Bethesda began coordinating efforts to hold a ribbon cutting. Video from that day can be seen in the right-side margin. The William H. Ford, Sr. Museum & Visitors Center held its official public opening on March 23, 2013.