History: 1920-1929 – Asbury University
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History: 1920-1929


The students took proud notice of the fact that there were war veterans among the student body—“men who faced deadly fire and gas in some of the fiercest campaigns on France’s battlefields. All honor to them!”

Beginning in the mid-1890s in frequent preaching expeditions to the West Coast, the Morrisons met and cultivated Mrs. Elizabeth Glide, a wealthy woman living in San Francisco. On July 14 the Pentecostal Herald reported that Glide donated $50,000 for a new women’s residence hall.

In August Edna Isabel Roberts, professor of history, was named first official dean of women. This appointment was urged upon Morrison by his wife, who had served as “Preceptor of the Women’s Department.”

On Aug. 26, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote.

Construction began on Fletcher Hall, a new residence hall for men, with money raised from the profitable sale of the College farm. The rest of the profit was used for debt reduction.

With the start of the fall term, enrollment in the college was greater than that in the high school and primary programs for the first time in Asbury history. Asbury high school, formerly the “Academy,” was renamed “Bethel Academy.” College publications intended for the public began to list college and pre-collegiate students separately.

Asbury adopted the semester system.

In November, Warren G. Harding, Republican, was elected President. Radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcast the election results, the first commercial radio broadcast in the U.S. In addition, Wilmore was moved up to a 5th class city, the smallest-sized city entitled to an elected government of its own. For the first time the city council and Mayor of Wilmore were elected officials. The first elected mayor was J.L. Gaugh.


The mid-Winter Revival in February was a “dynamo that shocked them out of earth into glory.” Throughout the preceding fall term, intercessory prayer went on for this revival.

Fletcher Hall was completed.

Asbury’s Department of Theology was upgraded to a “School of Theology.” The new program had its own faculty: Morrison, J.H. Paul, Fred Halsey Larabee and Claude Lee Hawkins.


On Jan.1, J.W. Grimes became Wilmore’s first city patrolman.

Increasingly committed to the theological training program at the college, Morrison planned a separate building to house and instruct men who were preparing for the ministry. In March, Morrison and his wife called upon Mrs. Lizzie Glide to solicit funds for the new theology building on Asbury campus. He noted that nearly 200 Asbury students planned upon some form of ministry. Glide agreed to donate $20,000 providing the remaining $30,000 were raised from other sources.

By May Morrison announced that enough money and pledges were in hand to build the new building.

The Class of 1922’s gift was a new observatory. The commencement speaker was William Jennings Bryan. Like Bryan, Asbury College was officially committed to fighting the doctrine of evolution. Asbury gained a wide reputation among like-minded people for this stand. Happily, this scientific controversy did not harm the quality of Asbury’s pre-medical training program.

Morrison began a campaign to raise money to loan to needy students who were preparing themselves for the pulpit ministry or missionary work.

In September, the Pentecostal Herald appealed for books for Asbury’s library. Many ministers, evangelists and teachers made donations in response to this appeal. The largest was from W.W. Cary, who donated more than 3,000 volumes.

Automobiles were now common enough that a rule against them was needed. A new regulation declared that boarding students would not be allowed to own and operate a car without permission.


Early in the year Morrison called together a group of faculty to discuss his plans of opening a separate seminary on campus.

The Henry Clay Debate Club was founded.

In April the new Asbury Theological Seminary was announced in the Pentecostal Herald and in other publications.

The first summer school was offered. It was designed for students to improve grades in courses already taken—“to make up irregularities incurred in regular courses”— to provide instruction for teacher certification and in theology.

During the summer Lela G. McConnell, a junior and member of the Mountain Missionary Society, conducted a series of revival meetings in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. McConnell had great affection for the people there and had visions of schools and chapels dotting the hills of Breathitt County.

In August President Warren G. Harding died suddenly of heart failure and was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge.

The new Seminary was formally opened in the fall. Morrison intended Fred Larabee to serve as dean of both the college and seminary, but this proved to be too much. Professor Frank Morris (Theology) finished the year for Larabee as Asbury dean. The new theology building was opened. The first two floors were classrooms, the third and fourth were dorm rooms. Brass plates naming donors were placed upon the doors of these rooms. In November the Board named the new theology building for Morrison.


On April 21 a fire began in a wastepaper basket in the basement of a girls’ residence hall, Mary Crawford Hall. Flames soon engulfed that building and spread to nearby Glide Hall. Fire equipment from Lexington and Nicholasville responded but arrived after the fire had gained strength. High winds and lack of water pressure hampered efforts by fire fighters and student volunteers. In the end the fire consumed the two residence halls, a new power plant, half the new dining hall and eleven private residences.

Morrison suffered from a weakened heart by this time and was away from campus. At the time of the fire he was returning by train from a speaking engagement in Texas. Students feared that the first sight of this catastrophe would be too much for the old man to bear. The Spirit of God, however, moved upon him as the train passed from Louisville to Lexington, giving Morrison a sense of peace, come what may. The students were quite surprised to find him so cheerful when he surveyed the damage.

To house 300 women, the male students vacated Fletcher and Wesley Halls. Many men moved into the gymnasium where cots loaned to Asbury by the Kentucky National Guard were set up. Others found housing in town.

Wilmore, whose new official city government was alarmed at the frequency with which major portions of the town went up in flames, organized the first volunteer fire department. A 1917 model American-LaFrance fire engine was purchased and several companies of fire fighters were formed, including two squads of men students from Fletcher and Morrison Halls.

Using insurance money and donations to begin work, construction began at once on replacement residence hall space. Students worked to clear away wreckage. Some of the men were war veterans with helpful experience with demolition and explosives.

However cheerful Morrison had been as he wandered among the smoking rubble, by June 2 he told the Board that his health would not permit him to carry on alone as leader. He asked—insisted—that Dr. Lewis R. Akers be made vice president and financial officer to assist him. Akers, a serious academic, began his new term as vice-president by enrolling at the University of Kentucky for a master’s degree in administration.

At commencement Morrison addressed Lela McConnell as “the General of the Kentucky Mountains” when he handed her diploma to her. When she went to the Eastern hills to open her mission ten faculty and students went to help her get started.

In the fall Professor W. Brandt Hughes, formerly leader of the Land Sales Band and Asbury orchestra, became dean of the College. Larabee continued as dean of the new seminary.

Fires and administrative changes apparently had little effect on recruitment. In the fall there were students from forty states and nine foreign countries. An official publication noted that the “cultural value of such a cosmopolitan group of picked students is quite unusual and tends much toward giving those who enroll an international viewpoint which is in keeping with the age.”

A “Master Degree” program, consisting of 30 hours plus a thesis, was installed for the graduates of “any reputable college.”

The new building to replace the lost girls’ residence halls was ready for occupancy by Fall, although the plaster was still wet and there were no doorknobs. The new building was in the form of two major wings, named for Glide and Crawford, connected by a wing named Putnam Hall for two sisters who were also contributors. There was a girls’ gymnasium in the basement.

In November, Calvin Coolidge, Republican, was elected President.

During the school year 1924-1925, the Student Volunteer Missionary Band on campus was the largest sponsored by the national organization in the United States.


On Jan. 26 the first women’s basketball program was started.

The New Era, student newspaper, was renamed after a contest among students and alumni. The winning name, Collegian, was submitted by E. Stanley Jones, who won $25. The first editor of the new paper was Zachary T. Johnson.

On March 28 the senior class formally dedicated their class gift, a new elevated metal water tank behind Wesley Hall, to the College,. The entire class, in cap and gown, led by the faculty and the college band, led the student body from chapel to the site, where an impressive ceremony was held with speeches and hymns.

The band was on duty again when, at last, Asbury was connected by a special overland line to the Kentucky Utilities Company power plant at the Dix River Dam. The era of kerosene lamps, gas lighting and the free-standing one-horse generator was over. The campus celebrated with band music, singing and much cheering. “It was like a revival meeting. There was light.”

State clubs were created for students from different states. These were intended to give the students “a world view that is a certain antidote to provincialism.”

At another chapel service a collection was taken for “Baby Asbury,” a new missionary high school that Lela McConnell and her Asbury helpers were building in Breathitt County, Kentucky.

In June the new college seal and motto first appeared on the College Catalog 1925-1926. The familiar circle was retained, but new symbols appeared—the torch, cross and Bible—and a new motto: “Eruditio et Religio.” This was the work of Vice President Akers.

Morrison continued to be burdened by health problems and by an intense conviction that he ought to concentrate his remaining strength on the cause of theological training. In his mind, much depended upon the success of the new seminary. Too many Asbury College graduates entered other seminaries where their confidence in Wesleyan doctrines—sometimes even their confidence in the inspiration of the Bible itself—was shaken. He pressed Akers upon the Board as his successor. The Board accepted the loss of Morrison as president with great reluctance, and in truth Morrison did not take his hand very far from the tiller. He was made vice president of the college, president of the seminary and president of the board of trustees.

The commencement speaker was E. Stanley Jones. Morrison’s resignation was announced and Lewis R. Akers was formally installed as the new president.

Also at commencement the water tower, the senior class gift, was formally dedicated. This tank represented a major improvement in the town’s only water system, and provided sufficient water pressure for the first fire hydrants in town—all of which were on campus.

During his period of study at the University of Kentucky, Akers made important contacts which were helpful to the College. Lacking regional accreditation, it was important for Asbury to maintain its official standing as a “standard college” given to it by the University of Kentucky. Asbury had only a “B” grade rating, which meant that Asbury graduates had to take an additional one semester of university work before starting on master’s programs, although this was often waived for promising candidates. On July 1 Asbury was elevated to “A” grade, the highest given under the system. Akers had been in office too little time to take much credit for the accomplishment, which reflected developments during Morrison’s long tenure.

Interestingly, Akers seems to have been the first president of the College to receive a regular contractual monthly salary throughout his term.

Mt. Carmel High School in Vancleve, Breathitt County, Kentucky, was opened. The name was suggested by F.H. Larabee.

In the fall enrollment in the collegiate department was 565, having more than doubled during Morrison’s tenure. Eight majors were offered. The faculty advisor system was started.

Asbury was the third largest college in Kentucky.

Dancing was now included among “questionable indulgences” like card playing, the use of tobacco and “unseemly language” that were prohibited.

Revenue for operating expenses depended entirely upon tuition income. Z.T. Johnson was hired in the fall to teach shorthand and typing in the high school and serve as College athletic director. He received one month’s salary on Oct. 1, and was not paid again until registration in January.


The second College bond issue was offered to the public.

On May 31 the College Board of Trustees created Asbury Theological Seminary as a separate legal entity.

On the same date the Board adopted its first set of official by-laws.

The college business manager told the Board that the new water tower, hydrants and city fire brigade had a wonderfully depressing effect on college insurance rates, which were now half what they had been two years before.

David Shipley, a senior, became the first freshman class sponsor.

Lela McConnell and a musical group from Mt. Carmel High School visited Asbury Chapel, beginning an annual tradition.

In June the Executive Committee of the Board noted the importance of maintaining good relations with major camp meetings in various parts of the country.

The entering freshman class was the first to adopt class colors—green and white.

The Class of 1926 gave the “White Way,” a set of electric light standards for campus sidewalks.


Bernard Chapel, named for Dr. John A. and Mrs. Rose Moore Bernard, was dedicated in Morrison Hall. Mrs. Bernard was the “Little Mother” of Asbury, who promised to pray daily for the students who used the chapel.


For a single academic year a second college newspaper, The Asbury Announcer, rivaled the Collegian on campus.

The class gift was a set of chimes and a tower for the main campus building. At a cost of $10,000—of which the Class pledged $6,000—this was the most costly class gift to date.

Although there was widespread support for a proper memorial to John Wesley Hughes, the initiative for a new campus auditorium in honor of the founder was taken by President Akers. He chose the site on the semi-circle next to Morrison Hall. This made it necessary to move the high school across Jewell Street. Construction began on the Hughes Memorial Auditorium late in the year. Hughes himself visited the work site almost daily.

Raising money for the Hughes Auditorium project was an extensive and time-consuming project. The Pentecostal Herald was heavily involved. Individual seats were sold for $50 each, to be named by the donor. Small brass commemorative plates were affixed to these.

To complement the new girls’ residence hall, Morrison Hall and Hughes Auditorium, Mrs. Macklem donated funds for a new concrete drive and sidewalks around the campus semi-circle.

In November Herbert C. Hoover, Republican, was elected President of the U.S.


The Asbury Student Foundation (ASF) was founded. Its purpose was to raise money among the students to provide temporary loans to enable needy classmates to remain in school. This was the college’s only student loan fund.

The class gift was the stained glass windows in the new Hughes Auditorium.

The entering freshman class was the first to adopt a class name—the “Gray Wolves.”

In October the first Alumni vs. Asbury College basketball game was played. Later in the same month the New York Stock Market collapsed. The long-term effects were not apparent for months.