History: 1940-1949 – Asbury University
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History: 1940-1949


On April 12 Asbury was fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

During the same month, Morrison’s long official connection with the college came to an end. Uncertainty at the impending loss of Morrison’s prestige and spiritual leadership and debate about the future status of the vice-presidency made the May Board meeting a “stormy” one. Although Morrison was re-elected, at Johnson’s nomination, for another term as president, he resigned almost at once. This caused Johnson to become president automatically under the terms of his contract.

In June radio station WHAS in Louisville released the “Radio Devotional League”—the daily devotional program—to complete College control. Newton King became publicity director for the program, and Johnson appointed J. Byron Crouse as director. The programs were broadcast from Hughes Auditorium. King and others prepared messages; student quartets, trios, choirs, etc, provided music.

During commencement of the “Golden Jubilee Class” of 1940, much was made of the successful completion of the 50th year of College operation. The new smokestack, with its neon crosses, was completed in time for this event. These crosses supplied a theme for the historic Golden Jubilee Asburian—“the light of the Cross” which commemorated over fifty years of Asbury College.

The fall was particularly active. The College curriculum was divided into six programs, each a numbered “Curriculum:” I. General or Cultural, II. Preparation for Ministry, III. Preparation for the Mission Field, IV. Preparation for Teaching, V. Medicine and VI. Law.

In September Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1940, the first peacetime military draft in American history. Of 247 males enrolled at Asbury in the fall, 117 fell within the initial legal draft age of 21 through 35 years.

In November Asbury underwent what was termed a “social revolution,”—in fact not one but two revolutions in rapid succession. The first case involved relaxing two social rules. Men and women were allowed to date to the Epworth League and Sunday evening services at the local Methodist Church, but only if they went to both. Women were placed on the “honor system” to be in their rooms and in a quiet state at 10:30 each night, rather than being ordered to do so by the matron on duty. The second “revolution” took place a week after the first, and was much more important in its consequences. The Student Body voted two to one to abolish the system of social clubs (born as debate societies) that had dominated campus social life for almost fifty years.

In November Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, was re-elected to a third term as President of the U.S.


In the fall the faculty voted to end Saturday afternoon classes by January. Monday was left free, because many faculty and students served churches. The end of Saturday classes was received by the students as joyful news.

On Dec. 7 Japanese sea and air forces attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, causing a state of war to exist between the two countries. The next day Germany declared war on the U.S. as well, so that the U.S. became a belligerent on both fronts in World War II.

Johnson predicted to students that the College would feel little impact from the war before next fall. He was certain that by then the draft would become more inclusive, others would enlist and still others would leave college for lucrative war work, planning to finish their education later. To the board Johnson was more direct, admitting to being in “a state of perplexity about the future.” He predicted that about fifty students would not return in the fall.


On Jan. 1 Saturday afternoon classes ended. In his report to the board in February, Johnson was more pessimistic about how the war would impact Asbury. He now regarded it as an “emergency”—at least 100 students would not return. There were only three ways to compensate: increase endowment, curtail expenses or reduce personnel.

Henry Clay Morrison died on Mar. 24.

Although the wartime toll upon male enrollment was not as severe as the College had feared, it was dramatic enough. In the fall total enrollment was 498—225 men and 273 women. The College participated in a wide range of federal officer training and recruitment programs and supplied information on deferments for those studying for the ministry. The war was a constant topic of conversation among students and faculty, and in student publications.

The cafeteria system replaced the traditional dining hall for student meals. When the Board first considered changing, members found that students preferred the dining hall, which gave them comfortable fellowship with a known group, provided a place for central announcements (since all students ate at the same time) and well-balanced meals planned by someone else. Now, however, student opinion favored the cafeteria, which provided more flexibility in time and seating, and a much wider variety of food choice. They did not seem to mind that it was also slightly more expensive than the old plan.

Prayer meetings and recruiters were organized in each residence hall to encourage attendance at the fall revival, conducted by Dwight Ferguson. It was by all accounts a huge success. After one chapel service the students held another revival in the cafeteria, and yet another soon after on the steps of the Administration Building, which drew Johnson and Ferguson out. A student, Dennis Kinlaw, admonished his fellows that all this must lead to a life of serious Christian work, just like the original Pentecost.

In October The Collegian pointed out hopefully that “contrary to propaganda,” there were still some men students left at Asbury.


By the mid-point in the war, Asbury had supplied a large number of active service personnel. In July the Registrar compiled a list of 298 Asbury students on active duty. This included those who had graduated and those who had left school for military duty. Of these names, 55 (or 56—one name was marked “uncertain”) were chaplains, and 12 were women (those marked WACS or WAVES).

In October the demerit system was clarified. If a student accumulated 25, he or she could not hold student office. If 50 were accumulated, the student could be suspended or expelled.

Fletcher and Morrison Halls were converted from men’s to women’s residence halls.

Women were forbidden to wear pants.


The senior class gift was an “Armed forces Service Roll Plaque” for the administration building.

In the fall male enrollment reached its lowest level in the twentieth century and its lowest ever compared to female enrollment: 154 men and 429 women.

In November Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, was re-elected for a fourth term as President of the U.S.

On campus the shortage of male students made it impossible to obtain workers for traditional male jobs on the college farm, boiler room and kitchen. It was of course not possible to obtain non-student local male labor for this type of work.

Also this year the College installed the first retirement plan for faculty. Teachers who served at least ten years received $15 per year for each year of service, with mandatory retirement at age 70. Faculty could be retired at 65 if the president obtained board approval in each case. Dean W.B. Hughes, who retired this year, was the first to do so under the plan. He received $510 per year.


On Feb. 15 the Student Faculty Committee presented, via Z.T. Johnson, a recommendation to the executive committee of the board that attendance at motion pictures no longer be classified with smoking, drinking and dancing as expulsion offenses. To this the board agreed.

On April 12 President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of cerebral hemorrhage and was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

In May World War II ended in Europe.

Seniors were sharply disappointed to learn that government wartime restrictions on non-essential civilian travel forced the College to curtail commencement. The traditional multi-day celebration, lasting almost a week, had been a major feature of campus life, but the Office of Defense Transportation was unmoved. Only a few official guests could be invited—the speakers and members of the governing board, and the event could only last for two days. Seniors had hoped for much more, but were quick to point out that considering how many of their friends had been in battle, they had little to complain about.

SS AsburyOn June 16 the SS Asbury Victory was launched in Richmond, California, one of a series of mass-produced military freighters named for prominent American colleges. The name was proposed to the U.S. Maritime Commission by an Asbury alumnus.

In August two atomic weapons were dropped on Japan, which surrendered unconditionally within a few days. This ended World War II.

Barracks from World War IIThe end of the war brought large numbers of college-aged persons back into the domestic economy. These were enriched with the benefits of the G.I. Bill of Rights and years of enforced war-time savings, which created an enormous demand for college education. This included Asbury, but at first College authorities did not realize this. In the first few months after the war, Asbury contemplated the need for finding ways to attract new students. One of these was a short-lived course in aviator instruction. A trainer aircraft was purchased and a runway built on the college farm. Johnson, who was an amateur pilot, was particularly keen on this idea.

Fall enrollment reached the highest level so far: 658 for the academic year. The student body was still about two-thirds female.

A great influx of new males, however, was now confidently predicted. The College added the low cost factor to its appeal to its own constituency and the steep rise in public demand for college education among service personnel. A study authorized in December showed that Asbury was among the 25% least expensive colleges in the U.S. The College began a new men’s residence hall, which the board named for Johnson despite his modest demurral. At the groundbreaking in November, the whole student body assembled from chapel and sang the “Asbury College March.”


In June Asbury Theological Seminary was fully accredited, after a delay until endowment requirements were met.

At commencement J.B. Kenyon received the first Asbury Alumni Association “A” Award.

By late summer the College had accepted 700 students for fall and turned down 500 “for lack of room.”

Enrollment for the academic year included 186 Veterans. There were 210 men in the freshman class alone, out of a total enrollment of 950 students.


The dramatic increase in student demand encouraged Johnson, the board and many among the faculty and staff to think in optimistic terms about the future of the institution. They envisioned a greatly expanded program. Johnson particularly had an abiding interest in every aspect of the construction process—financing, planning and engineering details. He required no great encouragement to forge ahead. In January he reported with glee to the Board that the War Assets Administration had opened an office in Frankfort at which institutions could obtain all kinds of useful equipment and supplies for practically nothing. Asbury applied for $70,000 worth of this material, which included “office furniture, glass-front bookcases, wastebaskets, hat racks, filing cabinets, cafeteria equipment, a variety of office supplies, bedding, chairs, etc. and an entire portable water works.”

At commencement Lela G. McConnell was awarded an honorary doctorate, the first woman to be honored in this way.

When the new Johnson Hall was opened in September, it was necessary to put three men in rooms designed for two. Enrollment passed 1,000 for the first time.

During the academic year 1947-1948, 30% of the entire student body were veterans.


Jay B. Kenyon, dean of men, became academic dean. Y.D. Westerfield became dean of men.

By the end of the fiscal year the College endowment passed $1,000,000 for the first time.

In July Charles Metcalf became mayor of Wilmore, replacing H.B. Sims, Sr.

Asbury enrolled more than 1,000 students for the second year in a row. Johnson declared that the College was “desperately short” of faculty for such a large student body and that residential students had been put into every available facility on campus and in the community.

In the fall Dr. O.B. Dabney and J.W. Devore joined the faculty to strengthen the teacher education program. They began a formal program of student teaching at Wilmore High School and a chapter of Future Teachers of America. Curriculum IV [1940] was changed to “Preparation for Teaching, Secondary Education.”

On Sept. 19 the College began to operate a new water system that drew upon the Kentucky River instead of wells and cisterns. Both the City of Wilmore and a group of private investors had made similar attempts in the past.

In November Harry S. Truman, Democrat, was elected President.


The first performance of “The More Abundant Life” premiered on Saturday night and Easter Sunday morning. This large-scale pageant directed by Lavetta Serrott required more than 100 players.

In the fall the weekly schedule of classes and chapel was changed. Instead of having chapel on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8:00 AM, the new schedule provided for Chapel on the same days but at staggered hours: 10:00, 9:00 and 8:00 AM.