Exploring the 150 Year History of Freed-Hardeman University
As was his custom, FHC President N.B. Hardeman read chapel announcements April 1, 1948. One announcement concerned a student seeking her lost spelling book. Ollie Dodd said she needed her book for W. Claude Hall’s spelling class. As Hardeman read, he noticed and called out several misspelled words. Obviously, the student needed her spelling book.
After chapel, Hardeman decided to check out Ollie Dodd. His investigation led him to conclude that Ollie did not exist. He then decided to go along with the joke. The next day in chapel, he made a follow-up announcement, telling students that Ollie was “a very bad apple.” She “refused to study, attend classes regularly, take responsibility or put forth any effort at all to obey the rules of the school.” Then he loudly announced, “Ollie Dodd has been expelled and is probably on her way to Arkansas!” The student newspaper reported, “The tension was broken by roaring laughter…The one bad apple had been sent from our midst, but not from our memory.”
The student report was more accurate than he likely knew. Ollie appeared again and the legend grew as embellishments were added to the story. This time, Ollie enrolled as a male student in a Bible class. Other students took turns filling out his attendance cards. According to the legend, two students took mid-term and final exams in Ollie’s name—and he finished with a higher grade than the students who took the tests.
Ollie’s name vanished from the rolls of Freed-Hardeman. One version of the story says he transferred to David Lipscomb College. Who knows? However, FHC was a junior college at the time, and many students did transfer to DLC, so perhaps…
Nevertheless, Ollie gained “official” Freed-Hardeman University status when Loden-Daniel Library was built. Donors were asked to purchase a brick for the walk leading to the building. They could have their own names inscribed on the bricks or they could honor someone else. One such brick honors the immortal Ollie Dodd.
Later, when the library was renovated and the current Hope Barber Shull Academic Resource Center was constructed, the brick were moved to the gates closing University Avenue to traffic. Among the bricks honoring faculty, staff, administrators and benefactors at the east gate, a tribute to Ollie Dodd can be read today: “Ollie Dodd Gone, but not forgotten Class of ’48.”
Most information and quotations are taken from Dr. Greg Massey’s recently published “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University.” It is available for purchase for $30 plus tax in the FHU Office of Academics, which is located in Loyd 107.