In October 1917, in a home on East Fifth Street, the Church of God opened the door of the Anderson Bible Training School, enrolling 60 students. There were five faculty members, men and women, hailing from all over America.
Almost 90 years later, in August 2007, Anderson University dedicated the Anderson University Flagship Center right off of a little-known thoroughfare (that didn’t exist in 1917) called Interstate 69.
Anderson University has been a part of the city, and Madison County, for the better part of both their histories. What else is a center of higher-education but a crown jewel — and, as President Emeritus Robert A. Nicholson said, “a jewel in the world of Christian higher education.”
In recent years, Anderson University has expanded greatly within the community, building new facilities at its campus (still located near that Fifth Street home where it began) and expanding into new territory, such as with The Flagship.
In 1999, the university completed a $75 million capital campaign, which resulted in more expansion for the campus. Last year, a $110 million capital plan was launched, aimed at gaining a new student center and a performing arts and communications building on campus.
But to come so far, the place we know as Anderson University (its name changed in 1987 from Anderson College, which had been around since 1929) went through many changes.
The original purpose of the university — the Bible school, that is — was to carry on the teachings professed in The Gospel Trumpet, a Church of God spiritual publication.
According to “Guide of Soul and Mind: The Story of Anderson University,” by Barry L. Callen, the Bible school began offering liberal arts education programs in the 1925-26 school year. What had been a three-year ministerial program was turned into a four-year program, the last year containing courses such as philosophy, sociology, logic and comparative religions, among others. In 1925, the school received a charter from the state.
In 1935, after a visit to Indiana University, President John A. Morrison reported that students at the college could transfer credits to the state university. In 1937, the then-superintendent of Anderson Community Schools, Arthur Campbell, a friend of the college, was elected to the state Department of Education. He lobbied on behalf of the college to get it accredited for graduate students with teaching degrees. In 1946, full accreditation was conferred by the North Central Association of Universities, Colleges and Secondary Schools.
Ten years later, in 1957, Anderson College had 1,000 students enrolled, charging $225 per semester for tuition.
During the 1960s and ’70s, the institution seemed to hit a boom, even more so than in years past. In the 1960s, a computer center was built; the theological seminary building was completed; Rice Hall was constructed; and in 1970, Decker Hall and Myers Hall were completed.
In the 1970s, the college saw the opening of an athletic complex for baseball, football, track and tennis; and in 1979, the Krannert Fine Arts Center was built.
In the 1980s and ’90s, the college became a university, held its 75th anniversary, established a broadcasting center, opened a sports medicine center and built Reardon Auditorium.
In 2007, Anderson University continues to be a center of the community, even the county. The campus serves as the focal point for the Church of God, drawing thousands from around the country each year to an annual retreat. It’s the only four-year higher-education institution in Madison County; and since the humble beginnings of 60 students 90 years ago, the population and size of the place have grown with its importance.
—Neal McNamara is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.