From Boarding School to Dormitories

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Tenth in a Series Exploring the History of Freed-Hardeman University
The 1920s brought more change to Freed-Hardeman College. The 1921 session began with a significant advance; the college moved from a boarding school toward a college with dormitories. Freed and Hardeman had promised a building designed to accommodate 100 girls, supervised by a Christian family. It was to have the “modern conveniences” of steam heat, electricity and running water. The four-story Oakland Hall (now called Hall-Roland Hall) for female students opened that fall. Like the administration building, it was constructed of locally made bricks and complemented the style of the earlier structure.
“So soon as the Ladies’ Home is ready, the ‘Home for Boys’ will be rushed to completion,” Freed and Hardeman wrote in the 1919-20 College Bulletin. “The boys will have the same kind of a home and accommodations as the girls. In the meantime we have the best Christian homes in Henderson to care for the boys.” The dormitory for boys came near the end of the decade. Paul Gray Hall, named for a Detroit businessman who contributed funds for the project, was built in 1928. Like the girls dorm, it had four floors and was constructed of matching brick and followed the style of the other two buildings.
Although the curriculum and student housing changed, the administration’s attitude toward extracurricular activities did not. “Freed-Hardeman College is not a society school,” the school’s administrators announced. “We are not spending our lives in the schoolroom to teach young people how to dance, play forty-four, nor serve frappé.” The school continued its disdain of intercollegiate athletics, believing competitive athletics led to rowdy behavior and gambling.
The school might be seeking accreditation and conforming to prescribed academic standards, but Freed and Hardeman insisted that their school remain distinctive. Its distinctiveness was its reason for being. Since they believed spiritual and moral development were most important, “We teach the Bible—the only textbook in morals the world has—just the pure, unadulterated Bible; not what men say about it, but the book itself,” they wrote.
Information and quoted material are drawn from Dr. Greg Massey’s forthcoming book, “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University,” which will be published and available for purchase from the university in Spring 2020.