The University flags were lowered and a wreath placed in The William F. Bethune Center for Visual Arts Thursday, Sept. 14 in memory of William “Bill” F. Bethune (Aug. 31, 1932 – September 9, 2017).
Mr. Bethune passed away Saturday in Southern Pines after a prolonged illness. He was a loyal supporter of the art program at Methodist University.
Mr. Bethune came from a family of artists. His grandmother and his father were painters, so Bethune took up oil painting and fell in love with the craft. Mr. Bethune took art courses at Methodist University (then Methodist College) to hone his painting skills. Along the way, he fell in love with the school.
“Bill was an enthusiastic friend and an extremely generous supporter of Methodist University and the art programs,” said Gene Clayton, former Methodist University administrator and friend and neighbor to Mr. Bethune. “He was a major contributor to the William Bethune Art Building. We will miss his kindness and graciousness.”
“I think a lot of this university,” said Mr. Bethune. “There is no place in North Carolina like it.” The staff members at Methodist University, he said, have made a lasting impact. “When you see dedicated staff members, you’ll find a dedicated program.”
Having worked inside the college’s cramped art studio, Mr. Bethune had a vision to help the school create the arts center he felt it deserved. His vision was to make it the most attractive building on campus.
Mr. Bethune’s dream became a reality April 27, 2010 when Methodist officials dedicated the William F. Bethune Center for the Visual Arts. The $2.2 million building includes gallery space as well as classrooms for graphic design, photography, painting and printmaking.
Mr. Bethune donated the majority of the funds needed to build the art center because he believed in the university and in the staff, he said.
“I hope that there will be some outstanding artists and students here,” Mr. Bethune said. “And they’ll go on to make national headlines.”
The 8,844-square-foot building also contains the David McCune International Art Gallery. The works of Mr. McCune and Mr. Bethune are displayed inside the gallery.