5 Anderson College 1968-1972

Elsa Johnson Bass

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Bob Dylan, Blowin in the Wind, 1962

The words of this civil rights, anti-war protest song floated over the huge crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Peter, Paul, and Mary sang Bob Dylan’s lyrical questions to more than 250,000 people waiting for answers. They wanted answers about freedom, answers about jobs, answers about justice, answers about dignity, and answers about respect. That day, the answers came from the voice of a dreamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five years later, he was murdered and a raging, howling wind blew storms of reckoning across the country, around the world, and within the Church of God. In the fall of 1968, I arrived at Anderson College against this backdrop of social and civil unrest in America. Following the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968, chants of “Say it Loud,” “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “Black Power!” flooded the nation. Gains in racial relations were strained—if not broken—in the minds of many who’d supported Dr. King’s nonviolent pursuit of racial equality. The rioting and violence that exploded in cities across the nation shattered hopes of a peaceful change in the status of African Americans in this country. It was time for a change, and change was on its way.

I witnessed and participated in many changes that took place at Anderson College from the fall of 1968 through the spring of 1972. I’ve been asked to share my reflections of that period—primarily regarding racial relations on campus. Realizing the limitations of my personal memories 50 (sometimes foggy) years later, I sought to better inform this saga by engaging in a few informal interviews. These conversations served to remind, inform, and properly focus my story during the early stages of writing. It is, however, not a definitive record of my Anderson College experience.


I am indebted to Dr. Edward L. Foggs, Rev. Kenneth Crouch, Dr. David Stevens, Carolyn Morgan Schmies, Ralph McGhee, Daphne Davis Bethel, Samme Newell Rousopoulos, Colee Stinson Bethany, Sandra Vaughn Trieb, Gary Boards, and members of the Anderson College Black Alumni for their personal reflections, shared experiences, and stories that connected the dots of the days leading up to, during, and after my time on campus.

African Americans and the Church of God Anderson, Indiana, by Dr. James Earl Massey has been critical to my research. Dr. Edward Foggs notes in the book’s cover notes that “it fills a vacuum in the literature about the role, influence, and impact of persons of color in the ongoing saga of the Church of God movement” (Massey 2005). Additionally, this essay is fueled substantially by Dr. Merle Strege’s detailed narrative The Desk As Altar: The Centennial History of Anderson University. Insightful and well documented, this is a valuable tool that informs who we were, where we’ve been, and will hopefully help lead us to where God desires us to be.


In 1964, the General Assembly of the Church of God endorsed “civil rights legislation that will guarantee justice and equality to all our citizens regardless of race, nationality or religion” (Strege 2016, 231). This and a series of other resolutions on the same general subject are found in Leaning Forward (2019) by Barry Callen.

As I prepared to write this essay, it was important to explore the frameworks of historical and modern racial relations on the campus. As the child of the Church of God Reformation Movement, Anderson College’s mission and purpose were strongly woven together with the church at large.

Historically, people of color were welcome in Anderson’s faculty, student body, and administration. Dr. James Earl Massey states that various editions of Echoes, the college yearbook first issued in 1922, show the faces and names of students of color at Anderson; some students were studying for a certificate, diploma, or degree, while others were listed as “special students.” In 1926, the first persons of color to graduate from a full program of college study were international students Shumi Dimba from Zululan and Amy Lopez from Jamaica. After earning additional degrees, Miss Lopez served as dean of women and on the faculty as professor of English and missions. Among the first African Americans who graduated from Anderson College in the 1930s and 1940s were Ida Mae Coasey, Gabriel P. Dixon, and John T. Olds, the latter of whom was the first African American to receive two baccalaureate degrees from Anderson College (Massey 2005, 106).

In The Desk As Altar, Strege documents activities that took place on campus in support of civil rights during the sixties. In 1960, Dunn Hall, the first men’s residence hall, was named after Sethard P. Dunn, an African-American pastor from Chicago who was a charter member of the college’s Board of Trustees. Rosa Parks, Charles White, and other prominent African Americans were invited to campus (Strege 2016, 231). There were a few outspoken faculty and staff members who were staunch civil rights advocates and stood in solidarity with African-American students. Calls for equality and justice were heard increasingly as demonstrations and protests became more frequent. My pastor, Dr. David Stevens, attended Anderson College in the early 1960s. He recalled encounters with President Reardon as he and other student leaders made demands for the college to boycott off-campus establishments that discriminated against African Americans. President Reardon was unmoved by their threat to go to the Church of God at large to complain. Ruefully, he told them, Anderson College was one of the most integrated entities in the entire Reformation Movement, and they would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. However, a few years later, the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, pushed the college to take a stand in support of African Americans that reached beyond the campus to the City of Anderson and to the Church of God nationally.

 A Bold Step

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led more than 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were brutally attacked by state troopers with such violence it shocked the entire nation. It is to this day difficult to watch the footage of the savage beatings of unarmed demonstrators marching for freedom and equality. The violence of that day came with an eyewitness account from Anderson students and staff members who had gone to Selma. One of the students, Stoney Cooks, asked President Reardon if he would permit a march in support of civil rights activists in the South and elsewhere. Reardon agreed, and the march was scheduled for Thursday, March 16, 1965, following the chapel service. Strege describes the event:

Six to eight hundred members of the college community in company with a handful of city ministers, assembled at the corner of Eighth and College. At the head of a column three abreast, Reardon was joined by Cooks and Park Place pastor Hillery Rice. The solemn march unfolded according to Reardon’s expectations. Escorted by city police officers, upon reaching the steps of the county courthouse the assembly sang “America the Beautiful.” Jo Morris, daughter of trustee E.J.Morris, led in singing “We Shall Overcome.” Student council president Gareth Whitehurst read from the Bible, and Reverend Edward Foggs, pastor of the African American Sherman Street Church of God, concluded the brief service with prayer. (Strege 2016, 233)

To be clear, the march created divisions on campus, in the community, and in the church. Some students and professors opposed the march, and a substantial number did not participate. No more than 55% of undergraduates and seminarians joined the demonstration. There was also backlash from Southern Church of God congregations with a significant number of students on campus. Concerns were voiced that those students might be stigmatized, and many leaders felt the demonstration should have been generated by students and not by an official act of the college administration (Strege 2016, 234).

I must admit that learning about the march for the first time while working on this essay was fascinating. What an affirming moment that must have been for the African-American students on campus! The report of the displeasure of the Southern churches was no surprise. I found no documentation of the reactions from African-American congregations, but I would speculate it was a welcome gesture and a strategic boost to the Church of God and Anderson College’s commitment to improving racial relations in the movement.

Student activism continued, and African Americans comprised slightly more than 10% of Anderson College undergraduates, but their voices were becoming more and more vocal. Specifically, there was the matter of the discrimination experienced by students of color in the city of Anderson. This complaint was not new. For years, African-American students complained to their folks back home and their pastors about having to deal with the racism they often encountered in the city.

Dr. Strege records that there were local restaurants that would not serve African Americans or interracial couples. Other establishments served them meals on paper plates. The Ku Klux Klan maintained a major presence in Anderson and surrounding Madison County. There was no way the college could guarantee the safety of students beyond the confines of the campus. African Americans were not welcome in some areas, and it was crucial that they were aware of which sections to avoid. Name calling and items thrown out of cars were not uncommon when groups of African Americans walked to a commercial area near campus known as “The Bypass.”

Ralph McGhee shared that he, Paris Anderson, Rufus Thomas, John Gibson, and other outspoken students sought to address issues of racial prejudice and discrimination on and off campus. Al Simmons, a recent graduate, was instrumental in helping them plan and execute many activities designed to make the college community aware of the urgent need for action to build a better future for those coming. Gray Boards, a resident of Anderson, was recruited for the football team in the 1970s. He lived in Anderson, and he had no knowledge of the college or the African Americans in attendance. Once on campus, however, he learned about the tense racial relations and student protests that further strained the early and mid-1960s. His experience was different from ours, but he is grateful for those who stayed in the fight for equality for all students.

Frustration was growing on campus. While there were those who felt not enough was being done about demands made for more representation of African Americans among the faculty, administrative staff, and student population, conservative white students and faculty were incensed over challenges to authority. Student activists staged sit-ins in Old Main, held protests at football games, and refused to be silent. As national civil rights demands intensified, anti-war student protests against the conflict in Vietnam escalated, and the winds of discontent finally blew into a raging storm.

A Call For Action

“The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., altered the nature of national debate and put college administrators on the defensive” (Strege 2016, 235). Tensions ran high on the campus following Dr. King’s killing in April 1968, and there were demonstrations and sit-ins by both black and white students. Frustration with several issues prior to the sit-in held in Old Main resurfaced. Demands were made to the administration that called for increased African-American student enrollment, the hiring of Black faculty, and the removal of “race” on the college application. Seemingly none of those issues received much attention from the Anderson College administration, but a national call for action gained a swift response.

In May 1968, the leadership of the Church of God Reformation Movement was challenged by a group of African-American ministers who demanded a hearing and a course of action concerning the church’s resolutions regarding race. Melvyn F. Hester, Benjamin F. Reid, and Edward L. Foggs met with national church leaders at a gathering where Reverend Hester presented a paper entitled “The Church’s Opportunity in the Present Racial Crisis.” With regard to higher education, Rev. Hester declared,

The best black minds of the Movement must be recruited and funded by scholarships to use the kind of education the Church is providing at Anderson College, the Graduate School of Theology, Warner Pacific College, Gulf Coast Bible College, et al. (Hester 1968)

Dr. Benjamin Reid’s paper, entitled “Disillusionment, Apprehension–Hope!” stated,

In spite of the efforts of recent years (and there have been some sound ones), the Church of God basically reflects the dualism, the tokenism, and the racism of the rest of American Society. We yet present a lily-white picture on the executive level. We are yet talking in a time that demands positive action. Our major colleges are yet lily-white in faculty and administration. (1968)

Two years later in 1970, Dr. Edward Foggs, at the time director of Urban Ministries for the Board of Church Extension and Home Missions, wrote in a study paper entitled “The Black Community Within The Church of God” that black Christians should ask such questions as:

How effectively is my church meeting my needs? To what extent is my church involved in helping me to realize not only spiritual freedom, but freedom from oppressive economic and social bondage? . . . How does my church regard me in its total affairs? Are my contributions needed? —wanted? —welcomed? (1969)

President Reardon took swift action and accepted the challenge to recruit more African-American students to the college. He circulated the presentations submitted during the meeting to his administrative staff for immediate attention. On June 3, 1968, Reardon directed a detailed course of action focusing on six areas addressing the demands of African-American ministers. Goals included the following: (1) two Black Anderson College recruiters at work that summer in Black congregations, (2) doubling the number of Black students within two years, (3) a second course on Black history and culture taught by a Black professor, (4) the recruitment of Black faculty members, (5) increased financial aid to African-American students, and (6) a summer workshop to assist Black students admitted with scholastic deficiencies. As a result, six months after the death of Dr. King, Black student enrollment increased over the previous year by 64% (Strege 2016, 236).

 More Than A Minority

Very early in the spring of 1968, an Anderson College recruiter named Kenneth Crouch spoke at my church in Erie, Pennsylvania, during a Sunday evening service. His presentation had so inspired me that I began my application process that week. It was a decision I’ve never regretted.

Ken and I spoke recently about the tremendous impact he had on the lives of so many African-American students. A native of Anderson and a graduate of Anderson College, he was recruited by Dean Norman Beard to travel for the school. Ken agreed to do so, with the stipulation that he would recruit students from both white and Black churches when he traveled. He was aware that often recruiters would only visit white congregations. It is noteworthy that his decision was made prior to Dr. King’s death and President Reardon’s June 1968 call to action. While it was true the college wanted to add more African Americans to its student population, I did not sense Ken’s recruitment was based solely on my race. He shared the advantages of attending Anderson College during our nation’s turbulent times with hopeful sincerity, believing that our doctrine of unity made us one in Christ. During our interview, I asked if he was surprised by the racial issues that surfaced when the students he had recruited arrived on campus. He replied that because he was on the road traveling for the college, he was unaware of many of the negative things that were happening both on campus and in the city of Anderson. As a white man, he was not subjected to racism personally, but he had roomed with student activist John Gibson and was aware of the racial prejudice African Americans faced. It saddened him that in addition to the problems of race in the city of Anderson, there were racial problems on campus as well.

A few years later, Ken left recruiting and worked on campus. He helped manage the successful Tri-S program and was a trusted advocate for African-American students on campus. In a recent Zoom call, several alumni thanked him for the influence he had in their lives. He simply replied that he is proud of the many achievements of those he recruited and the impact we have made nationwide. When Ken Crouch recruited us to Anderson College, he recruited individuals; to him we were more than a minority.

This interview was enlightening because at the core of our struggle was the failure of the Anderson College community to understand our uniqueness. Some white students had never seen or interacted with African Americans until they arrived on campus. I have even wondered how aware the administration was of our diversity. We were more than poor, disadvantaged, and underprivileged students. We were more than the negative stereotypes being fueled by media, ignorance, and racism. We were more than our skin color, and we had so much to offer.

Who were we? Where did we come from? What was our church affiliation? 

Many of us came from two-parent families, and although some were disadvantaged, a middle-class and upper middle-class economic representation existed among the students. High school experiences ranged from segregated to integrated private, parochial, and public institutions.

We came from all regions of the country, north, east, south, and west, where we grew up in urban, rural, and suburban neighborhoods. Most of my classmates had some direct or indirect relationship with the Church of God, and a few did not. I might mention here that most of us came from churches that were affiliated with the National Association of the Church of God as well as Anderson.

NACOG, headquartered in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, is mistakenly believed to have been started during the 1912 Anderson camp meeting when E.E. Byrum asked the Blacks to stop coming so more white people would get saved (Massey 2005, 89). The true origin of NACOG is as revered and as storied as the origin of the Church of God Reformation Movement is to Anderson College. For more information, I would highly recommend The History of the National Association of the Church of God, narrated by Dr. James Earl Massey (“Our History,” YouTube, uploaded by NACOG TV August 1, 2020, http://www.nacog.com).

Why did we choose Anderson College? 

The strong push to recruit African Americans clearly resulted in our noticeable presence on campus, but just as other students came to Anderson, so did we. We came to further our education and prepare for our futures. And oh, yes, there were those who were hopeful of finding a spouse and were successful! A few of my classmates were legacies whose parents strongly encouraged them to attend their alma mater. Pastors and church members were also influential in their decision. Others, like me, were first-generation college students, and I understood that as a trailblazer, I was a role model for those who were counting on me to be successful. As believers in Jesus Christ, many of us hoped to strengthen both our spiritual and academic lives by attending a faith-based institution. The many gifted, well-trained vocalists, musicians, and creative artists numbered among us was a welcome addition to Anderson’s rich cultural community. There were also those who came because they were recruited for athletic teams. Our potential was unlimited. We were future scholars, athletes, poets, scientists, mathematicians, theologians, educators, doctors, lawyers, social workers, computer scientists, politicians, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs in training. We believed that Anderson College would prepare us to be the people we became. I also naively thought a Christian college would be different for African Americans.

In a 2015 study examining the experiences of African American students within the context of Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), Timothy Young observed,

While students may have experienced racial tensions in previous high school or college experiences, they did not expect to experience this dynamic at a private Christian institution. While their expectations were not explicitly communicated, students expected professors in a Christian environment to treat them differently than they would have been treated in a secular classroom. This lack of teacher advocacy further increased the feeling of working against the current and isolation from the majority. (61)

I found this study to be of great interest because forty-eight years earlier, I was surprised when reactions to my African-American classmates and me were at times no different from what I experienced in my secular education. One friend facetiously quipped after I voiced my disappointment, “So what were you expecting, four years of youth camp?”

Furthermore, I find it disheartening that after more than five decades we are still having these conversations. I am encouraged, however, that research like the Saga Project is ongoing to determine how to provide equitable education to students of color—especially at Christian institutions.

Admitted, But Not Accepted

While I believe the intention of increasing African-American enrollment was sincere, the impact, however, was confusing, troubling and, at times, disheartening. Decades later, while reflecting on some of my struggles at Anderson College, I finally understood the problem. Yes, it is true we were admitted, but I was always aware that we were not completely accepted. It was manifested in a myriad of ways: subtle queries regarding my academic ability during a study session, being addressed as “you people” (as if we were aliens from another planet), the annual announcement during chapel by President Reardon citing the number of “Negroes” admitted to campus that semester. I’m certain it wasn’t intended to be offensive, but it always made me uncomfortable and aware that we were always the “outsiders.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines to admit as the process or fact of entering or being allowed to enter a place, organization, or institution. The definition of acceptance is the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable typically to be admitted into a group. Permission to attend did not necessarily indicate much more beyond, “You are here, now stay in your place.” That is far different from the anticipated, “You are welcome here. Come, take your place.” Just how do you find your place?

Carolyn Morgan Schmies arrived at Anderson two years before I did. She was the daughter of Drs. Clifton and Mary Morgan, the first African-American missionaries to India from the Church of God. President and Mrs. Reardon were friends of her family, and she was a frequent guest in their home while she was a student. Carolyn told me she tried out for cheerleading and made the team, but having an African American on the squad was not welcomed by some members. Several mean-spirited, undermining events designed to discourage her participation ultimately led to her resignation. Despite strong encouragement to remain on the squad, she decided the stress of coping with the prejudice she’d experienced wasn’t worth it. To be sure, there were many stellar moments in Carolyn’s time on campus, but she wanted it understood that even though she was a highly regarded member of the campus community, bigotry sometimes replaced acceptance.

I recalled another moment that caused me to wonder about our acceptance, not only at Anderson College but in the Church of God as well. My first year as a residential assistant (RA), I welcomed parents and students as they moved in. A prominent pastor’s wife was helping her daughter unpack when I stopped in to greet them. She was pleasant enough until she noticed my ring of keys. “Do you have keys to all these rooms?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied cheerfully. In thirty minutes, she had her daughter moved off my floor.

Thankfully, two years earlier I’d learned a valuable lesson regarding making assumptions about people based on appearance. It made me take a good look at not only how I was being treated but how I treated others. Arriving on the campus, sight unseen, shortly before orientation, was the beginning of my journey. I’d traveled to Anderson alone via a Greyhound bus because, as the oldest of nine children, my parents determined money used for the family to take me to college would be better applied to my expenses. Choosing Anderson College over a local secular school’s generous scholarship puzzled many of my counselors, teachers, and friends. I had a wonderful experience in our large, integrated high school but I looked forward to the opportunity to continue my education in a Christian environment. A taxi took me to the designated location for registration, and then I was taken to Morrison Hall, the dormitory for freshmen women.

When I had filled out my application for a roommate, I’d requested an African American, yet when I walked into my room that day, a bubbly blonde girl stood there beaming at me. She said, “Hi! I’m Sandra Kay Vaughn. I’m from Mt. Summit, Indiana, and we’re going to be roommates.” I looked her up and down and said, “I didn’t want a white roommate.” Not missing a beat, she replied, “Neither did I, that’s why I got you!” After an awkward pause, Sandy went on to tell me she was glad that it looked like we wore the same size. She had worked all summer long and had purchased a new wardrobe that we could share. In my haughtiest tone, I told her I didn’t need her clothes, I was waiting for a steamer trunk and two footlockers to be delivered shortly. Sandy remained upbeat, despite my rudeness, and showed me several outfits. She made her offer again; I declined and went to check on my trunks. After a few phone calls, I was told my trunks had been delivered to the “other” Anderson College located in Anderson, South Carolina! Fast forward, I wore Sandy’s clothes for three days until my trunks arrived. Fifty years later, we are still friends.

Upon our arrival, the historic increase in the number of African-American students on Anderson’s campus was lauded as a great success by the Church of God. Yet, beyond admission, there seemed to be no clear plan in place. Why was a special plan needed? If successful, this bold initiative had the potential to impact the church at large. For all intents and purposes, the Anderson College student population was the largest integrated “congregation” in our movement; it could very well become a model for building true unity in the Church of God.

One major misstep in the process, however, was the absence of African-American faculty or staff. This is not to suggest that only African-American educators should work with African-American students. Nor does it imply that an all-white faculty and staff were incapable of addressing the needs of students of color. Simply, we needed African-American role models on campus when we arrived. It would have made a great difference in those early days. In less than three months the implementation of the June 3, 1968, action plan was in place. The goal of bringing more students of color to campus was met, but who were these students, and how would they fare in a predominantly white environment?

Dr. Massey notes that the 1960s and 1970s saw a large influx of students from minority backgrounds at predominantly white schools, and the pressure of not knowing how to navigate in a campus setting produced culture shock. Furthermore, Dr. Massey explains,

Minority students can experience severe stress from loneliness and isolation that results when social frictions occur because their customs and interests clash with those of the majority, and discriminatory actions from those who do not make them feel welcome only compound that stress. Resentment or active retaliation can mar the minority student’s behavior or the decision to withdraw from the campus because of apathy, depression, or feelings of hopelessness could result. (2005, 112)

Some days were harder than others. Adjusting to college life so far away from home amid mounting tensions across the country began to take its toll. Mind you, there were many well-intentioned administrators, faculty, and staff trying to understand how to best accommodate us, but they were ill prepared to address our social, emotional, and cultural needs.

Some of Anderson’s social clubs held traditions that, when passed down, may have seemed harmless to the majority population, but in 1968-69 a fundraiser known as a “slave sale” created a good deal of anger for African-American students and supportive whites. It was incomprehensible anyone would think a slave auction was an acceptable “fun” activity. The practice was discontinued the following year.

It seemed we were under constant scrutiny. As the only African American in some of my classes, if the discussion turned to race, I felt like I was expected to be the spokesperson for all African Americans. Daphne Davis Bethel told me about reacting to a hostile statement a student made blaming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for America’s racial problems. She said she found herself standing in the class, with tears in her eyes trying to explain to a room full of white people the conditions that necessitated the dawning of the modern civil rights era. It is important to note here that Daphne is the granddaughter of McKinley Burnett, a man who played a pivotal role in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregation case. He was the NAACP President who convinced thirteen families to participate in the court action (Wikipedia 2022). Her mother attended Anderson in the 1940s, and it was ironic that decades later, on the same campus, her daughter had to defend the rights of African Americans seeking justice and equality. Why was it so difficult to understand?

My admittance into the Speech and Drama Department created another challenge to my acceptance. As the only African-American female, roles for me were limited, and even those were restricted. I was cast in the controversial 1969 Homecoming play A Hatful of Rain, by Michael V. Gazzo. It was a student production directed by Jack Samuels, a former staffer who stepped in because Dr. Malcolm Gressman, professor of speech, had died suddenly the previous spring. The cast was predominantly male, and my character, a prostitute, was not permitted to kiss a white actor as listed in the stage directions for fear the audience would protest an interracial relationship. The following fall, Robert Smith replaced Dr. Gressman as the head of the Speech Department.

Professor Smith was a former high school speech and theater teacher from Ohio. His arrival on campus was (in my mind) designed to shift the Speech Department closer to the values of Anderson College and the Church of God after A Hatful of Rain. Our first year was productive because he was a knowledgeable, solid teacher, and I was eager to learn. Tensions grew as the selection of mainstage plays provided few opportunities for actors of color to have leading roles. I remember one long, emotional conversation with Professor Smith that left us both in tears. We marked that as the turning point in our relationship. Our clash of ideologies created a concerted effort to find ways to make our department more inclusive. I was given permission to direct culturally relevant student productions that informed the dominant society of our journey and affirmed our worth to the minority.

I had the opportunity of seeing Professor Smith when I returned to speak for a chapel service years later. When I graduated, we were on good terms, so we were happy to see one another. Older and wiser, I thanked him for the lessons he taught me, and he replied that he had learned just as much from me. Our earlier struggles developed a lasting, mutual respect that I value to this day.

A Home Away From Home

An important part of our spiritual growth and off-campus emotional support came the day we received an invitation to visit Sherman Street Church of God, where Dr. Edward Foggs was the pastor. Walking into Sherman Street that first Sunday was like coming home. After days of being in the minority everywhere on campus, it was such a relief to be among so many people with whom we could identify. Their warm welcome was not limited to African Americans but was extended to everyone. Sherman Street’s hospitality exceeded our expectations. We were invited to Sunday dinners, and members supported us at many of our on-campus events. This loving, nurturing fellowship became our oasis, and I forged strong friendships that have lasted for decades.

Dr. Foggs’s influence was important to us because he was held in high regard in both the city of Anderson and on campus. He became Anderson College’s first African-American history instructor in 1969. His assignment made him an important voice in building greater understanding between the races on campus. He vividly remembers teaching the racially mixed elective class. He told me there were some white students whom he wouldn’t call racist or malicious, but they had never seen or interacted with African Americans. The text for the class was Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. This book had a strong impact on his students as they explored the life of African Americans, seen through the eyes of a white man who passed for black in the South. Dr. Foggs believed the class was instrumental in transforming the hearts and minds of many students. The guidance, wisdom, and support we received from Dr. and Mrs. Joyce Foggs and their congregation will always be one of my greatest treasures.

Finding Our Place

African American students on campus had no formal organization, so most encounters took place during mealtimes or in the student center after classes. Student activists, led by John Gibson, hoped to gain the administration’s approval for a black student union in 1968-69. The request was denied on the grounds it fostered separation rather than the Church of God doctrine of Christian unity. President Reardon consulted several influential African-American ministers who also opposed the proposed union (Strege 2016, 238). Gibson and others reworked the constitution to state clearly that membership was open to all students regardless of race and met other conditions laid out by Reardon. Reardon tentatively approved the Onyx Society but then rescinded his approval, which led to angry reactions and harsh criticism. In an act of protest, a small group of students walked out of the Senior Chapel, which the president viewed as an insult to such an honorable occasion (Strege 2016, 239).

Most African-American students believed the Onyx Society did not discriminate any more than the overwhelmingly white social clubs did. Responding to this criticism, the administration launched an all-out effort for social clubs to recruit and accept African-American pledges. The response was not impressive, but Daphne Davis Bethel and I decided to pledge Camarada. We were accepted, but other African-American students remained skeptical. Camarada was a highly regarded women’s club, and although our membership may have come because of pressure from the administration, I found most of the women were interested in creating a bond of sistership and service both on and off campus.

One of my friends in Camarada was Samme Newell Rousopoulos. We’ve reconnected on Facebook, and I mentioned this writing assignment to her. I wanted to know what her thoughts were about the racial situation on Anderson’s campus while we were there. Samme said her upbringing was different from many of our classmates. She’d attended integrated schools and was raised to believe all people were equal. This was not an empty mantra for Samme, who was a genuine friend from the start. She said seeing African Americans in positions of authority was not unusual for her based on her upbringing.

In 1971, I was elected the first African-American president of a women’s social club in Anderson College history. As president of Camarada, I had to interact with more conservative members of the campus community. My views on social justice, racial equality, and the Church of God’s responsibility to live its doctrine of unity did not change, but as a campus leader, I realized the importance of wise counsel. I benefited greatly from the wisdom shared with me by Dr. Cleda Anderson and Dr. James Earl Massey at important stages of my campus life.

Dr. Anderson was appointed dean of women in 1968, and she was also a much-needed ally for African-American students on campus. The epitome of grace under fire, she taught me the value of civility to those with whom you disagree. She was instrumental in arranging group sessions for RA’s handling issues sometimes caused by cultural differences in the dormitories. It was the “I’m OK—You’re OK” era of transactional analysis that often led to intense conversations about how African Americans were viewed and treated on campus. She listened more than she spoke, and I appreciated her honest, candid advice when she did speak. Dean Anderson was a genuinely kind human being who saw the worth and value of every person.

Dr. James Earl Massey was without equal as an academician and theologian. His arrival as campus minister in 1969 was key to the survival, retention, and success of many students regardless of race. He and Mrs. Gwendolyn Massey became an integral part of the Anderson College community, and African-American students welcomed them enthusiastically. The Masseys were strong supporters of campus cultural events and hosted student gatherings in their home. Dr. Massey’s door was always open to students, and he taught us the importance of being responsible for our own success. We had the ability to achieve our goals with hard work, discipline, and above all, growing and living our faith in Jesus Christ. Dr. Massey’s impact during those challenging years can never be underestimated. His roles as professor and campus minister allowed him to build bridges spiritually, academically, and racially. He was a wise, trusted leader who wanted the Church of God and its people to live our doctrine of holiness and unity without compromise.

A few years prior to his death, I spoke with Dr. Massey at West Middlesex during our NACOG camp meeting. He was gracious as always when I thanked him once again for putting up with me at Anderson. He smiled at me and said, “Elsa, you made them respect you.” He taught us, he corrected us, he loved us, and that made all the difference.

The improvement in racial relations at Anderson College from 1970-1972 was remarkable. Dr. Massey noted several factors that contributed to the changes:

The administration had planned with great forwardness and insight. The college leaders were conscious of biblical values, and they were aware of what the times were demanding, and they were courageous enough to deal aptly with those demands. Students were granted greater involvement in planning for campus life, and their cooperation gained them more respect and trust. (Massey 2005, 115)

By no means did racial issues disappear. But for those African-American students who stayed the course, better tools and strategies for coping in a white majority were developed. White students, faculty, and administrators willing to have courageous conversations and do the work necessary for change were also key to the growth in better racial relationships. When Eunice Holloway was crowned Homecoming Queen in 1971, it sent a message throughout the Church of God that times were indeed changing for African Americans at Anderson College.

An enrollment of 102 African-American students in 1971 required additional support, which came with the hiring of Rev. Thomas J. Sawyer in an administrative position as a full-time counselor to African-American students. He also taught in the religious studies department and was named an associate dean of students in 1974. Rev. Sawyer’s presence solidified the college’s commitment to the success of students of color. The Onyx Society was finally given approval with Rev. Sawyer as its sponsor. This was welcome news for students who fought for years to establish an organization where African Americans could unite on campus and create a platform to address issues that impacted them locally and nationally

The Onyx Society produced a publication entitled Pamoja, which is a Swahili word for “together.” Rev. James Marshall, an African American who joined the faculty in the early 1970s, allowed us to use his office as our staff room. The first issue was dedicated to Malcom X, and student articles that were considered by some to be rather provocative passed Rev. Sawyer’s scrutiny. I was the editor of the first issue, dated May 1, 1971. My dear friend Colee Stinson Bethany witnessed firsthand the impact our class had when she and her husband lived in Anderson in the late 1970’s. There were more African Americans in key positions on staff and a greater tolerance was evident on campus. She believes our journey made a tremendous difference for those who followed us, just as we stood on the shoulders of African Americans who came before us.


Like the rushing of a mighty wind
Come and fill our hearts again
Just like the rushing of a mighty wind
Let it overflow. Let it overflow. Let it overflow

Let the people come from miles around
As You send Your Spirit down
To revive the church again
Come like the rushing of a mighty wind.

Andrae Crouch, Mighty Wind

The changes that took place on Anderson College’s campus from the fall of 1968 to the spring of 1972 may have started with an action plan and come about because of better racial understanding and acceptance. But the changes that took place in the hearts of faculty, students, and members of the Anderson community, I believe, were orchestrated by God.

In February 1970, a revival took place at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, that spread to Anderson College, where it continued for more than a month. Dr. Massey viewed the “Anderson Revival,” as it was called, not as mere emotional fervor but as a “phenomenon of integrity.” His article in Vital Christianity in April 1970 highlighted how the revival had influenced moral choices and human relations: “The Revival has enabled many to establish worthy convictions and higher loyalties. The Revival has allowed us all to sense community as God willed it” (Massey 2005, 116). The change in our lives was genuine. It felt like a huge wind had blown across campus and shaken us to our core. Difficult conversations became civil and productive, apologies were made and accepted, and you could feel the change in the classrooms and dormitories.

My prayer for the Church of God Reformation Movement, Anderson, Indiana, is that God would send a mighty wind so we can become the Church this broken world is waiting for.


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Anderson College 1968-1972 by Elsa Johnson Bass is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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