Hall’s Presidency Short but Eventful

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Fourteenth in a Series Exploring the History of
Freed-Hardeman University

Although W. Claude Hall’s Tenure as Freed-Hardeman College president was relatively short, it included significant steps forward. He and C.P. Roland, academic dean, had been charged with gaining membership in the Tennessee Association of Colleges by the board of trustees. Membership in the association would make FHC an “approved teaching institution,” allowing it to compete for students with state teaching colleges, which had increased their enrollments at the expense of FHC.
To qualify for membership, Hall and Roland needed to hire enough teachers to staff at least five academic departments. Each teacher had to possess a bachelor’s degree in his or her academic area. The two administrators decided to hire faculty for eight departments: English, education, mathematics, classical languages, modern languages, history, science and home
economics. Unfortunately, this left the school nearly $4,000 in debt. Using student promissory notes as collateral, Hall and Roland secured a loan from a local bank. To help with expenses, Hall and his wife, Lelia, lived as house parents in the dormitory.
Hall and Roland’s work came to fruition just as Hall’s time as president was about to end. The Tennessee Association of Colleges accepted FHC “as a full-fledged junior college.” This
meant FHC graduates could transfer academic credit to other institutions without sitting for
examinations. In addition, FHC could train its students to be teachers and they would “receive
lifetime teacher’s certificates without examination.”
The two-year hiatus from FHU, agreed upon by A.G. Freed and N.B. Hardeman, led to Hall’s abbreviated presidency. Freed had gone to David Lipscomb College. Hardeman had gone to the Bible Lands; however, his presence was still very much felt on campus. Hall and Roland consulted him about affairs of the school. He maintained his residence in Henderson and his children attended FHC.
Furthermore, the student newspaper carried accounts of his preaching activities, keeping his name alive on campus. Hardeman’s return to the school that bore his name seems to have been inevitable.
On New Year’s Day, 1925, the board met with Ephraim Smith presiding. He endorsed the work of Hall and Roland but said it was time “to plan for bigger and better things for the school and to take advantage of some great opportunities that were before it.” Members of the board and other supporters of the school, according to Smith, wanted Hardeman back at FHC.

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 or purchase from the university this spring.