He’s back! Hardeman returns to FHC presidency

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

When the board of Freed-Hardeman College decided it wanted N.B. Hardeman to return as president of the school, little time was wasted in making it happen. Asked to speak, Hardeman said he was willing to sacrifice “freedom, money and other things” and “return to the school if the brethren thought it was best for the cause we love.”
Hardeman did, however, have a surprise up his sleeve. He had recently met with Hall Calhoun, professor of Bible at Bethany College, the institution founded by Alexander Campbell. Calhoun was especially well qualified. He had earned an A. B. from Transylvania University, a B. D. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. The most prominent scholar among the Disciples of Christ, Calhoun had changed his views on instrumental music in worship and on missionary societies and he desired to work with churches of Christ. “I am resolved to associate myself with those who are standing for those things only for which we can give a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord,’” Calhoun had written.
Hardeman proposed he and Calhoun come together to run FHC. Smith then asked Hall and Roland for their views. “Whereupon both of them,” wrote L.L. Brigance, “with wonderful unselfishness and magnanimity, declared their approval of it and their willingness to occupy any position which the board thought best for the school, whether in it or out of it.” Everyone supported the proposed transition. In an executive session, trustees agreed to hire Hardeman and Calhoun as co-presidents “with the understanding” that Hall and Roland continue to serve on the faculty.
Roland did, in fact, stay at FHC for the remainder of his career. Hall, however, chose to serve elsewhere. He became president of Oklahoma Christian College. In addition, for the third time, Brigance returned to FHC’s faculty. The college now had a leadership dream team.
An ad in the Gospel Advocate proclaimed, “Just think of the men at the head of Freed- Hardeman College—Hardeman and Calhoun! Where will you go to find their superiors? Among the great teachers and preachers, who will surpass them? Among all the brethren, where is there a greater scholar than Calhoun?” The writer claimed for FHC the title of best Bible school among churches of Christ.
The “dream team” did not work out quite as well as everyone had hoped. Calhoun did not appear comfortable teaching first-year students, he was not accustomed to the financial struggles FHC frequently faced, and he appeared to defer to Hardeman on administrative decisions.
Calhoun seems to have led in at least one matter. In January 1926, the school offered special one-month Bible courses, apparently conceived and implemented by Calhoun. Designed for preachers who wanted to further their education but could not spend an entire session in school, these courses offered a survey of the Old and New Testaments.
Despite their success, the courses were discontinued. Hardeman, however, did not forget. More than a decade later, he revived the January special courses, which eventually became the school’s annual Bible Lectureship.
Information and quoted material are drawn from Dr. Greg Massey’s book, “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University,” which will be published and available for purchase from the university this spring.