News - Greenville College Celebrates 120 Years of Christian Education

Greenville College Celebrates 120 Years of Christian Education

Greenville College Celebrates 120 Years of Christian Education

On September 20, Greenville College will celebrate its 120th anniversary. Just as students, faculty, friends and neighbors gathered to celebrate the college's beginning 120 years ago; the entire Greenville community is invited to join in this celebration. Cake and punch will be served in the Sims Student Union starting at 1 p.m.

The college's first convocation service took place at the courthouse on September 20, 1892. To commemorate events from that first day, the Greenville College Panther Corps marching band will lead a processional from the Sims Student Union to the courthouse starting at 2:30 p.m. Mayor Alan Gaffner, Judge John Knight, and Greenville College Acting President Randy Bergen will participate in a brief ceremony at 2:45 p.m. on the courthouse lawn.

Much has changed in the last 120 years, but two themes remain central to Greenville College's work - Christian education and community. The college's first president, Wilson T. Hogue, used the motto "education for character" to describe the college's purpose. Its mission 120 years later - empowering students for lives of character and service - echoes that purpose. Hogue also regarded all those connected with the institution as a family seeking to bring the gospel to bear through a broad educational foundation. Today, the college's statement of identity recalls this joining of faith and fellowship: "We are a Christian Community."

Greenville College owes much to Free Methodist leaders in Greenville who imagined a place where education and faith would be interwoven into the lives of students. Greenville College still maintains close ties to the Free Methodist Church. From its beginning Greenville College preserved a commitment to non-sectarian Christian education. The college currently enrolls students from 40 different denominations.

Still Abides the Memory by Mary Tenney and A River of Streams by W. R. Stephens recount the events of 1891 and 1892 that led to the start of Greenville College:

- Summer of 1891: James T. Grice approached Free Methodist leaders to propose a $6,000 gift for a church-affiliated college. The doctrine and local leadership of the Free Methodist Church impressed Mr. and Mrs. Grice who were not Free Methodists.

- Fall of 1891: Ministers and laymen of the Central Illinois Conference of the Free Methodist Church voted in unanimous favor of starting a new college and selected nine trustees to look for a location and further financial resources.

- April 1892: For $12,200, the trustees purchased the four-story Almira College building, ten-acre campus, and school equipment. Steps were taken to incorporate under the name Greenville College.

- Spring and summer of 1892: Without a president, a faculty, or any enrolled students, members of the Greenville Free Methodist Church and the community worked determinedly to restore the former Almira College building for fall classes.

- Early-July 1892: Wilson T. Hogue was summoned to Greenville to consider the presidency of the new college. Previously, Hogue led several Free Methodist congregations and assisted with the opening of a seminary in New York.

- July 18, 1892: After careful consideration, Hogue signed a contract to become the first president of Greenville College, and he began defining the mission, appointing a faculty, enrolling a student body, and raising funds for operations.

- September 20, 1892: Greenville College opened with convocation in the circuit court room of the county courthouse. Community leaders prepared a warm reception. Distinguished resident Lieutenant Governor Northcott spoke. The mayor and Almira College graduates greeted students and faculty. Dinner was served and registration commenced. Greenville College was officially underway.

"The 120 year history has been remarkable," said Bergen. "Our students have made a worldwide impact - from serving as chief of neurosurgery at St. Louis University School of Medicine to authoring the national Wilderness Act to serving as leaders in churches, missions, and corporations. This anniversary gives us time to reflect on just how much has been accomplished on our campus in Greenville."

Greenville College is a four-year accredited Christian liberal arts school with more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students.  Founded in 1892 and affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, the college is located in Greenville, Illinois, 45 miles east of St. Louis.

*Photos courtesy of the Greenville College Archives


This story was published on September 11, 2012

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