South Charlotte

Charlotte Christian celebrates 60 years

It's hard to imagine the 54-acre brick campus on Sardis Road hosting its first graduating senior class of seven, but that's the humble beginnings of Charlotte Christian School.

Charlotte Christian celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, looking forward to its next chapter while paying homage to the leaders of its past.

In 1950, Dr. L. Pointdexter McClenny began a ministry at Calvary Presbyterian Church uptown called Calvary Christian Day School with only 100 students, kindergarten to sixth grade.

Ten years later, a group of local businessmen - empowered by a monthlong Billy Graham crusade at Ovens Auditorium and who had hearts for Christian education - organized Christian High School at the current site of Central Church of God.

Seven seniors, the first graduating class, got their diplomas four years later.

Christian High and Calvary Christian Day schools merged in 1969 to form Christian School Association of Charlotte with grades K-12.

Soon after, the board began looking for a new site.

They purchased about 16 acres at 7301 Sardis Road two years later, and the campus has more than tripled in size since.

In 1976, the school was renamed Charlotte Christian with the Knight as its mascot.

The school celebrated its 60th anniversary April 29 in conjunction with its fifth-annual Tailgate and Donate event, where classes compete to donate the most food and materials for the Harvest Center, a nonprofit ministry for the homeless in Charlotte.

The students' donations of Styrofoam trays, canned goods and peanut butter and jelly filled an entire U-Haul truck.

Students also wrapped more than 22,000 napkins of utensils.

One of the school's founding fathers Harry Graham, 94, threw out the first pitch at the varsity baseball game.

Head of School Barry Giller is finishing his first year with Charlotte Christian. He, his wife and their seven children moved from Connecticut last July.

Giller said part of Charlotte Christian's legacy is some of the school's former employees are now the heads of schools at area Christian schools, including Covenant Day School in Matthews and Carmel Christian School on N.C. 51.

"We see them as partners in education," he said.

Charlotte Christian's enrollment reached 1,086 students in 2008, and three years later, 107 seniors are on track to graduate - the largest graduating class on record.

"The foundation for us is that we've remained true to our mission of a Christ-centered education of excellence," said Giller. "That's what attracted my family. ...It's a great community and a faith-filled community that desire to see the school grow and mature and improve."