At Last, Accreditation!

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Exploring the 150 Year of
Freed-Hardeman University History

Exploring the 150 Year of
Freed-Hardeman University History

H.A. Dixon’s presidency of Freed-Hardeman College brought increased attention to the business of recruiting students. First, the administration continued the emphasis on recruiting young men who wanted to preach. By 1956, they constituted 32 percent of total enrollment, fewer than 1951’s 41 percent, but still a significant factor in sustaining the school. FHC’s sound reputation for producing polished speakers with knowledge of Scripture was definitely a factor in the success of the Bible program. However, that success was also spurred by preacher scholarships that helped defray the cost of tuition.
In addition, the school more systematically recruited students who sought other career goals. Advertisements pointed out that National Teachers Normal and Business College, forerunner of FHC, had, by its very name, stressed the importance of producing teachers and businessmen. The school, which had been offering scholarships to valedictorians, extended those scholarships to honors students. To expand FHC’s geographic reach, FHC offered students from states not represented in the student body a year’s free tuition.
All of this attention to recruitment was a part of a renewed effort to obtain Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation. In the early 1950s Tennessee announced new standards for licensing teachers, including increasing library holdings and endowment. These matters were also important factors in obtaining SACS accreditation, so the college began an all-out effort to obtain regional accreditation.
The matter of a library was handled by purchasing the former home and doctor’s clinic of Dr. and Mrs. Jim Stevens. Thanks to a gift from Jack and Nena Lawhorn, Texas friends of Thomas and LaVonne Scott, the house was renovated. It opened in 1956 as Lawhorn-Stevens Library. Within the next four years, the Lawhorns made a second donation, doubling the library’s size.
Next, the endowment had to be addressed. Fortunately, the college had the $200,000 bequest from R.W. Comer on which to build. The college launched a fundraising campaign to double that amount. Dixon brought on additional help. Thomas Scott used his Christmas break and summers to raise funds, I.A. Douthitt, a field representative from the 1920s, was enlisted, and G.K. Wallace, influential preacher and long-time supporter of the school, became executive assistant to the president.
Registrar Gardner became Dean-Registrar Gardner and the leader in the accreditation drive. Wearing multiple hats, he directed a review of the school’s general education requirements and its teacher education program, while also preparing the SACS application. “It is an invigorating experience to have a part in working toward accreditation,” he said.
Such applications usually include a statement about a college’s purpose. During this time period, FHC also began using a motto that aptly stated the school’s reason to be. Bible teacher Frank Van Dyke used the phrase, “Teaching how to live and how to make a living” in a chapel speech. It began appearing on the school’s catalogs in 1955.
Efforts toward accreditation were rewarded in 1955-56. In November 1955, the State Board of Education approved FHC’s teacher education program. The next year in December, Dixon and Gardner went to Dallas for the annual SACS meeting. On Dec. 6, 1956, Dixon called C.P.Roland to say, “We have been approved and we are thrilled.”
Celebration in Henderson began immediately. The bell tolled, calling the FHC and Henderson communities to Chapel Hall. When the crowd had gathered, Roland announced, “We’re in!” The announcement was followed by loud applause, victory yells and a parade of 84 decorated cars down Main Street.
The best was yet to come, however. That night, FHC was playing the University of Tennessee at Martin in the Chester County High School gym. Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Dixon and Gardner, “wearing 10-gallon Texas hats,” entered the gym to be greeted by excited fans. Topping off the evening, FHC won the game, 75-71, and Dixon got the loudest applause of all when he announced the next day, a Friday, would be a holiday.
Freed-Hardeman was now “a fully accredited junior college.”
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.