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Love of Learning advocate the Rev. Brenda Tapia dies at age 70
Davidson College chaplain mentored students
Published Tuesday, February 11, 2020 11:19 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

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The Rev. Brenda H. Tapia, a longtime chaplain and mentor to Davidson College students, died Feb. 4 at age 70.

Rev. Tapia joined the Davidson staff in 1985 as a part-time chaplain, the first African American to hold the position. She was promoted to a full-time position a year later and was founding director of the Love of Learning program for two decades. She left an indelible mark on many of us.

The Rev. Brenda Tapia

A memorial service will be held on Feb. 14 at Davidson College Presbyterian Church in the Sanctuary, 100 N. Main St. Visitation is 11 a.m. and funeral is
12 p.m. A reception will be held following the service in the Congregation House, 218 Concord Road in Davidson.

A Davidson native and North Mecklenburg High School graduate, Tapia's father James Howard worked on the college maintenance staff, then moved to an assistant in the chemistry department, where he worked from 1949-1968. Both of her parents—James and Dovie Howard—insisted that she get a good education.

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Rev. Tapia's lasting legacy at Davidson is the Love of Learning program, a program that pushed students with academic potential to become better scholars. The summer initiative, which started as a pilot class of rising high school juniors in 1987, was a holistic approach to supplementing students' curriculum. According to Davidson's website, two students from the inaugural class – Rafael Candelario and Nethea Rhinehardt – were the first Love of Learning alumni to enroll at the college.

To Rev. Tapia, who didn't have children of her own, Love of Learning was “church in disguise” as a vehicle to help young people realize their potential.

“On the side we taught them a little reading, writing, and arithmetic," the college website quoted her as saying. “But anyone can pick that up. The real emphasis was on freeing the light within.”

“Brenda’s service to Davidson College and the larger community was a blessing. She had the will and the skill to change lives, both as a chaplain on this campus and in neighborhoods beyond,” Davidson College President Emeritus John Kuykendall told the school's website. “In the very best sense, the Love of Learning Program became her lengthened shadow. She took the inkling of a dream and transformed it into an unforgettable experience of growth and discovery for hundreds of young people in Mecklenburg County.”

Rev. Tapia earned a degree in psychology at Howard University and started a career. She worked as a counselor for several years, but came to realize that psychological problems and spiritual problems were often connected, which led her to the ministry. She studied at Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Atlanta and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1988.
Tapia returned to Davidson in 1985, where she was hired part-time by Davidson as a consultant for minority student affairs. She was hired as a an assistant chaplain and minority student counselor.


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