"If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest."
— Corrie Ten Boom
It is during times of stress and adversity that we see the true value of a strong foundation. Whether as an individual or an organization, the way you view the world, and subsequently the source of your hope, is the foundation by which strength can be visible in times of chaos. There will almost always be trials and adversity that find their way into the path of a goal, and the foundation many times determines how the person or organization will fare in the situation.
It is interesting to note that solid foundations are not laid to withstand only one particular type of issue. They are poured, with conviction, to withstand the broad possibility of varied threats. In an institution such as Anderson University, having a strong foundation gives our leaders the confidence they need to react, decide or move in a new direction as needed while being anchored to our core values.
2020 was certainly a year that brought this reality to light. If you look to the beginning of 2020, as COVID-19 was introduced to the world, it brought about a time that was very uncertain for higher education. What would this mean for enrollment, charitable giving, daily operations, or faculty/ staff employment among other things? Instead of looking to these fear-laden questions, I would like to look first to our mission statement:
Anderson University is an academic community affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. It provides a competitive education in the liberal arts, professional, and graduate disciplines, and a co-curricular focus on the development of character, servant leadership, and cultural engagement. This is a diverse community that is intentionally Christ-centered, people-focused, student- oriented, quality-driven, and future-directed.
Thankfully, our statement is not just merely hung on a wall or posted on a website. This statement, and the foundation of our faith upon which it was built, is lived out within the people of the institution every day. It allows us to make confident decisions and pivot when necessary. And because of that, Anderson University was tremendously blessed over the past year. We saw records in enrollment as well as dollars raised and number of donors on A Day. Operations were enhanced because of forethought by leadership, and Anderson University did not lose a single full-time employee.
However, this past year is not the only time in our rich history that Anderson has weathered the crisis of the day because of a strong reliance upon Jesus Christ.
There are many events that happened prior to our charter in 1911, but let’s begin at this landmark date. Anderson was chartered in 1911, with the help of local businessmen and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. As a newly formed institution, many hurdles present themselves. There were quite a few challenging events ahead for Anderson and the world.
The beginning of World War I came within the first five years of operation. There were three presidents, who served in part-time capacities, between classes beginning in 1912 and 1916. Dr. John E. White was brought to Anderson, S.C., in 1915 to pastor First Baptist Church. In 1916, he became the fourth president in the school’s young history, at a time when there were financial difficulties and the institution almost closed. He obtained a loan from a friend in the banking business to keep that from happening.
The next president for Anderson began with a similar narrative. Financial difficulties were again threatening to close the doors, when Dr. Annie Dove Denmark was inaugurated on February 14, 1929. She inherited $60,000 in debt and was soon to see Black Tuesday hit Wall Street on October 29 of that same year. Dr. Denmark pivoted and allowed Anderson to serve both male (day) and female (boarding) students as a two-year academic institution. Keeping the doors open would have satisfied most as a massive victory. Dr. Denmark’s discipline and planning allowed the debt to be fully paid within the framework years of The Great Depression, while also strategically moving Anderson forward.
There are many times between those early years and our current day that show God’s grace on this institution. The names of those involved may change, but the core values and foundation remain the same and sustain us through the difficult times. While situations can sometimes bring uncertainty, our hope can rest in Christ alone, upon whom Anderson University has been built.
As we look back on our past—the most recent and the far distant—it should make us extremely excited for the future. Having our foundation in Christ will uphold our beloved institution for generations to come. Long Live Anderson!
P.S. As always, you can support the work built upon our foundation by giving of your time and resources: pray for Anderson, refer students to our Office of Admission, and contribute to the Kingdom work that occurs here every day.