Nathan Willowby

On June 24, 2020, then-Provost Marie Morris emailed then-Dean MaryAnn Hawkins about a new grant opportunity—Reframing the Institutional Saga—from the Council of Independent Colleges. She invited several of us to consider how the School of Theology and Christian Ministry (SOTCM) might speak into upcoming visioning and action plans by engaging this project. Dean Hawkins encouraged me in the pursuit of a grant proposal that would fit the criteria and add to the living history of AU. Since that time, both Dr. Morris and Dr. Hawkins have retired, and I find myself in a new role at the SOTCM. The grant was accepted, and this collection of essays is one piece of the project. There is also a documentary presently under production, being led by Cinema and Media Arts faculty member Jack Lugar.

The story of Anderson University is the story of an institution, but that story includes the fact that this institution has occupied the same physical place since its inception. It is also a particular school of higher education created by and remaining in an endorsed agency standing within a group of Christian believers known as the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). More importantly, AU is an institution comprised of people—students, faculty, and staff—past, present, and future.

In the essays that follow, invested people of this community reframe AU’s institutional saga. This work comes on the back of significant written treatment in the past by Merle Strege, Barry Callen, and Robert Reardon, but it seeks to tell the story somewhat differently. There is no attempt at a single unifying hand. We present here snapshots on respective topics that are written from six different perspectives.

These essays bring together a significant part of the fabric that makes AU the unique university that it is. As you read these essays, you may notice that, at times, authors do not quite present previous figures in complete agreement. You will see that Anderson has had ideals it has not always obtained. You will also observe a tension that has always been a part of our existence—church, academy, training, and liberal arts. In both design and editorial processing, we have intended for these different perspectives to stand on their own. Neither editor David Murphy nor I have tried to smooth over tensions. And beyond a simple topic for investigation, the authors chose their approach. The tones will be different, but the truth about this special place is presented in a rich way.

I’m thankful for the nudge to pursue this project back in 2020. In preparation for these essays, I arranged listening sessions and surveys. I spoke with a number of interested people and revised the slate of authors at least three times. The resulting project came together with the help of many hands. I’m thankful to these six authors and the project editor for their work to bring anew this work that helps those of us who care deeply about this place (and even those students who get assigned these essays some day) to look at the history and formative narratives of Anderson in light of the question that I drew from a phrase in Merle Strege’s centennial history, The Desk as Altar: How can we understand AU’s peculiar ethos? I trust readers will learn something new or at least see the saga of AU in a new light as you engage these essays.

Finally, many thanks are in order for Cara Miller from AU Press and Scott Borders, who served as copy editor of the final manuscripts.


Rev. Nathan Willowby, PhD
Anderson University BA, 2005
Dean, School of Theology and Christian Ministry

Homecoming, 2022


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Preface by Nathan Willowby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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