President Watkins, although more experienced and practical than Wray, fared little better as president. Apparently anxious to avoid a repeat of the incident the year before, when the men students had decamped to High Bridge all on their own, Watkins declared the first annual spring outing for the whole campus.
He was, however, unable to avoid other, more serious difficulties. Students apparently regarded him as unsound on the sacred doctrines of the College, and far too lenient in enforcing social rules. Watkins imagined himself under suspicion. He opposed Board financial policies. Relationships became “strained.” At the time of his Methodist Conference Watkins offered to resign and return to pastoral work, but “yielded to the urgent petitions of fifty of the best students and a hundred of the citizens of Wilmore” and withdrew his resignation.
But the rebel faction was not content. They pressed their campaign. One student made a formal complaint to a Board member. At their commencement meeting the trustees exonerated and re-elected Watkins.
Also at commencement, the first official college homecoming was held. The last stages of construction on the new administration building continued longer than expected, and it was not ready for official opening at commencement.
In June the Wilmore Real Estate Company sold sixteen lots for $450-$585 each. Even at the lower price, the sale represented a 44% profit on a six-months’ investment.
In July Henry Clay Morrison returned from his world tour and began the summer camp meeting circuit.
Watkins remained discontented. Upon reflection, he decided not to remain where “heresy trials are always imminent,” where “lingo and shibboleth” count for more than character and sound theology, and where the critical opinions of “mere children” and “half-educated” adults were taken seriously. (His letter of resignation was dated August 12, but the decision was clearly made earlier.)
The College was faced with a difficult situation. It lacked the financial resources to cover its current obligations. It was feared that enrollment would fall, partly because of a decline in the national economy but far more because of the clear division on campus. Asbury had no effective leadership in place to meet the crisis.
The Board turned naturally to Henry Clay Morrison. With his prestige as an orator, his credentials as a proponent of holiness doctrine, and his control of the Pentecostal Herald, Morrison was already the dominant influence in college affairs. As far as the Board was concerned, Morrison was the only choice. If he did not come in as president, they would close the College in order to settle with creditors. An emissary, A.P. Jones, went to Morrison at Silver Heights Camp and told him this flatly.
On Aug. 12, The Pentecostal Herald announced that Henry Clay Morrison was the unanimous choice of the board of trustees for president of Asbury College.
Morrison was a man of exceptional determination and forceful personality. Despite serious problems on the scene, he began the fall term as president with crusader zeal. Enrollment was lower than capacity, the College was in heavy debt and the new main building that housed the administration and almost the entire academic program was still not finished. At one of several low points, the building contractor boarded it up and demanded payment before work was resumed. Morrison was forced to plead with him personally. A little later Morrison organized men students to clear away construction debris and rocks from the grounds. Even when the building was in use teachers were compelled to carry small oil heaters from class to class until the steam radiators began to function.
Other campus facilities were doubtful as well. There was a single bathtub on campus, no running water and no sewer system—only wells and cisterns.
Much more seriously, Morrison had to find the means to reduce the debt and start an endowment fund. And he had to increase enrollment, upon which the College depended for both its operating revenue and its mission.
On a more cheerful note, the College’s first band and Ciceronia, the “Father of Debating Clubs,” were started in the fall.
On Feb. 25 a fire broke out on Main Street and destroyed many business buildings.
Throughout the year, and for many years to come, Morrison pushed the cause of Asbury College with unrelenting zeal in the Pentecostal Herald. Issue after issue, month after month, the College was “vigorously advertised” in the pages.
The College’s commitment to world evangelism was by now a marked feature of campus life. On May 26 the Jessamine Journal, quoting College sources, claimed that Asbury College had sent more missionaries to foreign fields than “any other institution in the United States.”
Morrison completed his first year in office with a “splendid Holiness convention” held as part of the Commencement exercises.
For the first time in five years, fall enrollment increased substantially.
The annual “Thanksgiving Appeal” for Asbury appeared for the first time in Pentecostal Herald.
Beginning in the fall, the girls’ uniforms at Asbury College were modernized to blue jumpers and mortarboard hats.
In November, Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, was elected President of the U.S. William Jennings Bryan, a close friend and frequent associate of Morrison, was Wilson’s rival at the nominating convention. He was made Secretary of State in the new administration.
For much of year, Morrison advocated in speech and print the need for serious theological training at Asbury College.
In the fall, the first formal “Theological Course” was introduced. There were two programs. The “Certificate Course” was for those with no high school education, whose age or “other conditions” precluded a regular academic course. The “Diploma Course” was for those with at least two years of high school but who did not have time for the complete preparatory program before starting a regular college course. The former granted the student a certificate; the latter, if completed, resulted in a regular A.B. degree along with a “theological diploma.”
Also in this year the Romanov dynasty celebrated three hundred years on the throne of Russia.
The Class of 1914 was first to give a class gift. They planted trees on campus.
At the same commencement Morrison warned against “the ocean of worldliness that beats with fury upon the boundary line of all that is sacred and holy, and would engulf and sweep away all that magnifies the Christ and brings peace and happiness to the human race.”
In August the Great War started in Europe.
In the fall, the Periclea Debating Club was founded, along with the “Senior Theologues,” a club for theology students, and the first regular student newspaper, The Asbury College New Era.
Commenting upon the notable fact that a large number of Asbury students came from other states and a few from foreign countries, the student newspaper proudly announced that at Asbury, students were “introduced into a miniature world.”
John Wesley Hughes retired from the management of struggling Kingswood College and returned to Wilmore. He did not sink in obscurity; he was on the College Board at once, and soon on the executive committee as well.
The April 6 issue of the Asbury College New Era was dedicated to T.W. Shannon, the College’s first graduate. Shannon, a well-known author and public speaker, was President of the Single Standard Eugenics Movement. This movement embraced a number of topics, such as race, the nurture of children and personal hygiene, and arranged them in a kind of scientific social philosophy that enjoyed considerable prestige at the time.
In the Spring the first College annual, the Asburian, was produced by the senior class.
At commencement the college granted its first honorary degree. This was a D.D. to Fred B. Fisher, graduate of 1905, a missionary, and later bishop, in India.
In the fall Morrison decided to buy nearby farm property for the college. In his mind a working farm would provide both food for the College dining hall and paid employment for needy student workers.
Also in the fall the College opened a “Correspondence Study Department.” This was designed to assist persons who wanted more preparation for life’s work, but who were kept at home for lack of funds, age, or obligations to job or family. Young men who wanted to get a start on college while remaining at home to earn money for regular enrollment, preachers, Christian workers, businessmen, “mechanics,” shut-ins and in short “anyone who, for any reason, desires a broader view of life and its problems and possibilities” were invited to apply. Students were classified as secondary, collegiate and “special.” Certain high school and college courses counted toward a “certificate in theology.” As much as 1/3 of the total credits required for an Asbury College degree could be supplied from the Correspondence Department.
The Mountain Missionary Society was established by Claude Mingledorff.
During January-February, Morrison published many appeals in The Pentecostal Herald for funds to buy a farm for the college. Among other things, a cow was donated.
More practically, Morrison’s appeals in the Herald and on the camp-meeting circuit raised income for the College. His claims for the College were consistent in every appeal—Asbury held revivals, it had an excellent faculty, it appealed to high-quality young people and to pastors, it was co-educational, it was recognized as an educational institution, it was in a beautiful setting, it was a safe investment, it held to the “great doctrines of Methodism” and was a “great center of prohibition influence.”
The donations that came in response to Morrison’s appeals were mostly very small, but there were thousands of them, and they were sent regularly. The debt on the Administration Building and Wesley Hall were paid, although other debt remained. The farm was purchased.
In March a campus-wide revival broke out after a testimony meeting during the weekly sermon practice session held by the Boys’ Conference. The College New Era declared that the Boys’ Conference was the “coaling station” that kept the “old ship of real vital Christian life moving onward through the nine months” because of constant intercessory prayer.
The “Asbury College March” was written by Irene McCague Idhe.
In the fall John Haywood Paul became vice-president and professor of philosophy and systematic theology. He noted that Asbury College was “probably the most cosmopolitan school of its size in America,” with students from 35 states and “several” foreign countries. He, too, wrote a series of articles about Asbury in The Pentecostal Herald.
In November Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President of the U.S.
In late December Germany announced the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, in which the rights of neutral ships in the war zone would not be respected.
In January, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Germany. Also in January, revolution began in major Russian cities, including the capital. Czar Nicholas II abdicated and a provisional republic was established.
On Feb. 21 the College Board published a formal resolution, printed in the Pentecostal Herald, praising Morrison’s inspired and profitable leadership and confirming their unanimous support.
The U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6.
The New Era devoted much attention to the war. In May students noted that the presence of 20 Kentucky national guardsmen, who were on official duty at High Bridge protecting it from German saboteurs, made the war seem much nearer. Nearly every issue carried war news.
Morrison and most faculty and students were keenly interested in the war. He and others were worried about its impact on the College.
Fall enrollment was 416 and of these, 160 were studying for the ministry or mission field. The “Boys Conference” was renamed “Ministerial Association.” The format based on Methodist conference activity was dropped, and a new schedule of weekly meetings with outside speakers adopted. But ministerial exemptions did not cover the majority of men. Many, including some with exemptions, enlisted. Many others left school to take high-paying jobs in war industries.
Perhaps because he appealed to the Herald readers so regularly for money for Asbury, in September Morrison explained to them how little he profited personally from his connection to Asbury. He declared that he had received no salary during the seven years since becoming president, and in fact he often donated part of his private camp meeting earnings to the College as well.
In October the Bolsheviks, a radical faction among Russian revolutionaries led by V.I. Lenin, overthrew the provisional republic in Russia and declared the beginning of Communist rule.
During the first year of the war, the New Era predicted the war would have little effect on Asbury enrollment. Students were urged to contribute to victory by conserving food resources and by fighting the tobacco and liquor interests, which used their land for unpatriotic and wasteful purposes. By the beginning of 1918, however, the student paper took a stronger position, urging men to enlist—to answer “the unmistakable call of duty—the clear, shrill, bugle call to war.” Morrison did his part as well, declaring that it had been revealed to him that the downfall of the Kaiser was prophesized in the Bible. Three of his sons, by two marriages, served in the war.
Morrison, shrewdly noticing the dramatic increase in land values due to the rising wartime economy, decided to sell the new college farm and use the profit for debt reduction and new projects. The eight-piece “Land Sales Band” made up of Asbury men in blue uniforms traveled locally to advertise the sale.
On Feb. 24 Wilmore was incorporated as a sixth-class city. [Cities are classified under Kentucky statue according to population size.] It was still too small to warrant its own elected government, so the state governor appointed a governing council. This group elected A.P. Jones as mayor.
The college offered a bond issue—its first—to friends and investors.
At commencement, Morrison announced that Asbury’s “service flag” had 35 stars in it, “with a few more to go.”
Out of 23 graduates that year, 19 declared they were going into ministry or missionary work.
As the outcome of the war in Europe became increasingly certain, the national government began to encourage college-age men to stay in school, where, if need be, military training would be provided for them. Asbury College planned to participate in such training programs. In the meantime, friends of the college were urged to send a copy of a special summer combination of the New Era and college Bulletin to “some boy at the front” or anyone else that ought to be at Asbury.
The fall Catalog described Asbury as ”both a College and a School of Theology, although not pretentious in her claims.”
A “Student Wives’ Sorority” was organized for the wives of married students. The benefits included “free use of the Library” and “in general an honorary relationship to the school.”
On Nov. 11, Armistice Day, the Great War ended. Seventy-eight Asbury students had enlisted by the end of the war.
On Jan. 29, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, establishing national prohibition.
In July the Pentecostal Herald published the first of a long series of “Greater Asbury Editions,” with numerous stories and photographs advertising the College.
In the fall Jay B. Kenyon was named “Preceptor,” in effect, first dean of men. A Home Economics department was added.
On Nov. 15, the first meal was served in the new College dining hall. (On the façade of the building itself the date “1920” appeared.). Meals were served “family style” to groups of students assigned to tables. New students were instructed to bring four cloth napkins and a personalized napkin ring when they came to college.