A large increase in construction costs, combined with the economic decline and the College’s chronic cash short-fall caused the College to issue a third bond issue. This was intended to repay the two earlier bond issues of 1918 and 1926 and provide funds for current building projects.
W.W. Cary, business manager, insisted that all students be required to pay at least something toward tuition and board costs. He repeatedly demanded that Board members stop interfering with this process by asking for exemptions for friends.
In January students proposed a weekly “sacrificial meal” of bean soup, crackers and bread and butter to save money for the College and to practice “rigid economy” in their use of electricity and hot water.
The Euphemia and Wilsonia Clubs were founded, encouraged by J.B. Kenyon who felt the need for additional clubs.
On May 31 The New York Times reported that Asbury was second on a list of the ten “most national” colleges in the U.S., along with Yale and other major institutions. Asbury had “the second most ideal distribution of students,” from 38 states and eleven foreign countries.
On June 4 formal Articles of Incorporation were issued for Asbury Theological Seminary. The Seminary and College continued to share a governing board, buildings and some faculty.
Also in June, Kingswood College suspended operations.
The graduating class this year carried the Alumni Association past the 1000 mark.
The Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association was incorporated to operate Mt. Carmel High School, the Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute and a number of rural chapels and mission stations. The new board was heavy with Asbury staff and graduates.
The College business manager continued to rail against what he called a “spirit of extravagance.” As an example, he denounced the spending of $2,000 by the Alumni Association in order to purchase and restore the original frame building in which the college was born in 1890. “Unquestionably it has a sentimental interest,” he admitted, but as an experienced businessman, he could not approve: “at a time when money is owed for food, coal and instruction, it is surely improper to acquire luxuries, however desirable they may be.”
John Wesley Hughes died on Feb. 22.
In the fall the College required students to pay additional charges per month for certain electric appliances in their rooms. The monthly charge for a radio, for instance, was 50 cents, hair dryers were 15 cents and the use of a “Sun Ray Lamp” cost one dollar.
In October in response to a suggestion from Newton King, a local pastor, Louisville radio station WHAS and Asbury College agreed to present a daily devotional program from campus. The Board recognized the possibility of “good and evil in radio,” but the national crisis demanded a spiritual solution. It was Asbury’s mission to provide it. The Board laid down stringent rules for the programs, which began in November. “No Negro spirituals” were to be used, and as little classical music as possible. The music was to consist of “the old standard hymns and the modern Holiness hymns.” Sermons were to be typed in advance and reviewed by a special committee.
Morale on campus, among both students and faculty, remained high, despite the worsening national Depression. Akers reported to the Board that despite the “exceedingly trying period” in which the community was placed, there was “well nigh one hundred percent in unity and morale” among the student body and a “decided improvement in faculty morale.”
In November, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, was elected President.
Discouraged and ill, W.W. Cary resigned as business manager. In March the board elected Earl W. Savage to replace him. A respected local businessman, Savage agreed to work for free.
In late spring the national Depression reached its low point in terms of business closings and unemployment. In May the indebtedness of the College as a ratio to its assets reached its highest level. Interest payments through the year were larger than income from donations and endowment.
The first class with a name—the “Gray Wolves”—graduated.
In June Akers reported to the board that student and faculty morale continued to remain high in spite of everything.
Despite this cheerful report, Akers believed himself to be in a weak position. He was a scholar and administrator and had accomplished much in those areas, but he was not a camp-meeting speaker. Even after eight years as president he was not well known to the College constituency except in Wilmore. There were even those who believed that Akers was not a whole-hearted advocate of Wesleyan doctrine. For his part, Akers’ own health had declined under pressure. He had not only operated the College during the worst of the Great Depression, but he was responsible for major projects, notably Hughes Auditorium.
In September actually writing from a hospital bed in Cincinnati, Akers resigned and recommended that Morrison be named his successor!
The Board needed no encouragement. Most had regretted the loss of Morrison from the start. Morrison was elderly by then, aged 77, and had nearly died of bronchial asthma. Nevertheless, he became convinced that God had spared him for this special purpose, to save Asbury yet again.
By August Savage was downcast by the bleak reality of college finances. His initial plan to ask the faculty and staff to take a 30% pay cut to show good faith to the creditors, who would be asked for the same sacrifice, did not bring the desired response. The employees, irregularly paid at best, had volunteered, or agreed to, several reductions already, and declined this last sacrifice. The Board nevertheless persuaded Savage to stay at his post.
The incoming freshman class was the first to adopt a class hymn—“Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?”
On Dec. 5 the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was repealed, ending national prohibition.
On Dec. 16 the executive secretary of the Southern Association of Colleges wrote to the college dean to state that Asbury had been retained another year as a “non-member institution” of the Association, but noted that there was little comfort in this. If it had not been for the Depression, the Association would have dropped this type of classification already. Even so it could “hardly be justified” in retaining Asbury unless the College showed some evidence of being able to meet Association standards for full membership within a reasonable time. Among the College’s serious problems were its use of student fees, inadequate faculty training and salary, too many academic programs and above all the crushing debt, which was the largest of any institution on the non-member list.
Hugh Byron Sims, Sr., became mayor of Wilmore on Jan. 1.
Business Manager Savage proposed that the College creditors take a practical view of the situation. If they accepted part of what they were owed as full payment, they would get more than if they allowed the College to collapse, in which case they would get nothing. If they took his offer they would help keep a good customer alive for future business. A committee of the most important creditors was formed to deal with Savage, whom they knew and respected, and to form a common policy with regard to Asbury College. This committee accepted Savage’s proposal that the debts be discounted for cash and spread over the next three years.
Two more debate clubs were formed. These were the Alathia Club—named for the Greek word for “truth”—and the Lincoln Debate Club. The latter was soon reorganized as the Liberal Arts Club.
The Pentecostal Herald maintained its unrelenting campaign to urge its large readership to support Asbury College.
But if the Herald was a constant presence, Morrison was not. During the winter months, and during much of the rest of the year as well, Morrison was away from campus, either recovering physical strength in Florida or preaching at revivals and camp meetings. In March at his urging the board elected Dr. Zachary Taylor Johnson, pastor of the Wilmore Methodist Church, to serve as executive vice president. Johnson was given executive authority for campus affairs during periods when Morrison was absent. Johnson’s contract included a provision that he would become president if Morrison should resign during the term of the contract.
Johnson had been in academic administration, and he was an effective camp-meeting speaker. But above all other things, he was practical-minded. He had found many ways to reduce expenses and clear the debt of the local Methodist church during his brief pastorate, which was part of the reason Morrison was drawn to him for the new position.
In the spring the first “Gym Jamboree” was held. (This event was called the “Phizz Ed Circus” for two years.)
As one of many cost-cutting changes, the Collegian was suspended two months before school ended.
In May Professor Wilder R. Reynolds of the History Department convinced the College to buy machinery that converted old tires into rubber floor mats. Making and selling these would provide badly-needed gainful employment for poor students.
The College business manager, Earl Savage, after repeated heroic and successful efforts to stave off disaster, resigned. Johnson was appointed business manager as well as vice president.
Academic departments were organized into larger academic divisions starting in the fall.
The first Asbury Student Handbook was issued. It included social rules, a description of the campus and a list of student clubs and activities.
On Oct. 11 the first Chapel Committee was appointed.
Morrison and Johnson called for a special “Thanksgiving Offering” to pay the College debt. After fasting and praying, over 400 students, faculty and staff donated to this effort. A spirit of revival broke out. The sum of $43,498 was raised, a huge amount considering the times. This cleared $75,000 in debt because creditors, often in dire straits themselves, gladly gave a discount for cash in hand. This collection alone lowered the College debt to the lowest level since 1924.
In the fall the first Student Body Constitution was proclaimed. In the preamble the new student government said its object was to better execute duties and privileges, to promote the general happiness and welfare of the students “and for the advancement of Christian ideals maintained by the college.” It called for a Student Body president, who had to be a junior and win 2/3 of all votes cast, and a Student Faculty Committee made up of four faculty named by the president, and eleven students. These were the freshman class sponsors, the student president and two members from each class. Two representatives were elected by each class from a group of six nominated by a committee of faculty and the student president.
The Asbury Collegian, suspended in Spring 1935, was revived.
In November Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, was re-elected President.
Also in November the “Dine-a-Mite,” a privately-owned snack shop, opened across the street from campus, next door to Hughes Auditorium.
Morrison, the nominal president, was gone for increasingly long periods to speak at revivals and camp meetings and to recover his strength during restful interludes in Florida. When he visited campus he exuded good cheer. After a five day visit in November, he informed the Board that he had “never found a finer spirit among the students and faculty.” He traveled south “in a happy frame of mind and full of hope for the future.”
In December, at Johnson’s suggestion, the Board adopted the quarter-term calendar for the following academic year. This was entirely for financial reasons. It would make tuition payments easier to make since the same sum would be due in three payments instead of two, and it would allow students to drop out for a quarter to find work and keep up with their education program by taking courses in the summer quarter term.
In January the American Association of Theological Schools accepted Asbury Seminary as a full member. This imposed certain standards on the seminary if it wished to retain this membership, which conveyed a valuable accreditation. Among these standards was that the Seminary and College must have separate curriculums.
At commencement the “”Victory Crusade” was opened. Its purpose was to clear the College’s debt completely.
In September Asbury began on the quarter-term calendar. It was the only college in Kentucky to do so.
Also in 1937 the estate of Mrs. Rebecca Talbott came to the College, in the form of real estate and securities. The value of the estate was $137,000. It proved a Godsend.
Accreditation, which the seminary gained the year before, had become almost indispensable to the College as well. For years Morrison had neglected the issue, believing in fact that regional accrediting authorities were hostile to spiritual motives in higher education. This fear was shared by several on the Board. In the end Morrison and his allies were forced to abandon their opposition because of an issue that was dear to their hearts—Asbury’s ability to provide committed pastors to the Methodist Church. News that a conference in Ohio had refused to accept Asbury men for ordination because they lacked degrees from an accredited college was enough to convince Morrison to take up the cause without further delay.
On Jan. 19 he wrote to Johnson, urging that Asbury seek accreditation within the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. On Jan. 26 Dr. J.C. McPheeters, a prominent board member, urged the executive committee to do “everything possible” to secure accreditation.
Also in January the Winter Revival speaker made the doctrine of holiness so easy for young people to grasp that after one morning meeting a revival swept the dining hall at lunch. An altar for prayer and consecration had to be hastily improvised.
May 11, with money from the Rebecca Talbott estate, the College redeemed and burned its remaining outstanding bonds, thereby reducing the College debt by the face value of the bonds. Funds from the same estate were used to build a new hotel, named for Talbott, on North Lexington Avenue across the street from the campus. The hotel, which also included a restaurant, was intended to generate revenue for the College.
With the elimination of bonded debt, nothing remained to repay but a sum taken from the Talbott Endowment funds for campus building projects. In chapel on Oct. 6, Z.T. Johnson presented a check for $18,000 to H.C. Morrison, who chaired a board that administered the Talbott Endowment. This payment represented the end of Asbury’s long indebtedness. It was regarded, even by students, as a dramatic and important event. There was cheering and applause. A week later Johnson reported officially to the Board that this payment represented the “full and final payment on the indebtedness of the College.”
In the spring officials of the Southern Association of Colleges explained to College officials that they must accomplish two things before membership was assured. The College endowment must be raised to $500,000, and the College must no longer operate the high school or the seminary within the same institutional organization.
In April the Board decided to build a 125 foot smoke stack on the college boiler plant. The word “ASBURY” in white glazed brick appeared down one side. The Epworth League of the Wilmore Methodist Church paid for two ten-foot neon crosses which were placed on the east and west side of the new smokestack.
On Sept. 1 Germany invaded Poland, marking the beginning of World War II. The U.S. remained neutral.
Once it became fully independent Asbury Seminary might have moved to another location. To insure that this did not happen and to discharge the remaining financial obligation that the College had incurred when it invested in its own buildings money intended for seminary purposes alone, the College donated the new Talbott Hotel to the Seminary.