I love marking milestones in life. This past September I turned 60 and enjoyed a wonderful day of special activities beginning, before the sun came up, with a six-mile fun run with our faculty, staff and students. This year is also a milestone year for Southwestern Adventist University as we celebrate 125 years of providing exceptional Christian education to the residents of Johnson County and beyond.
In the lobby of the Chan Shun Centennial Library, as part of our year-long series of events in recognition of this anniversary, stands a beautiful timeline exhibit portraying the history of the school. The timeline illustrates a wonderful “then and now” comparison and highlights world events since 1893, giving a global perspective to our story. Springing up through the support system of this exhibit is a carving of the Mimosa tree native to Asia, but planted throughout Texas, serving as a symbol of the ever-blossoming international student population at our University. The annual picnic that later became the spring banquet was named Mimosa after this tree that produces unique and delightful blossoms about the time of this yearly event.
Many interesting facts are shared in this exhibit. For instance, just four years after the school began, a sanitarium was built in 1897, signifying the beginning of the nursing program. Now, in 2018, the nursing program is ranked well above the national average and makes up a quarter of the University’s enrollment. In September of this year we dedicated a new state-of-the-art nursing and administration building.
In 1904 the library housed 500 books. Today, the Chan Shun Centennial Library, built during our centennial year, has 95,000 print volumes and 35,000 e-book volumes. Its tower marks a high spot in Johnson County that can be seen at night throughout the community, symbolizing learning as a beacon of light.
In 1918 Southwestern Junior College was debt free. One hundred years later, even after Southwestern Adventist University completes the building of a $16 million structure, we can boast again, thanks to the blessings of our God and the generosity of our alumni and friends, that we are debt free.
Also in 1918 the school paper recorded that the current source of entertainment was the old “turn-style” which was used to enter the campus. The students would show their athletic prowess by doing various jumps and flips over it. This year on November 7, over 800 gymnasts from high schools and colleges across the country will come to our campus joining our acrobatic team to participate in Acrofest 2018. Here they will worship, learn new skills, and perform together.
In 1921 students participated in the first recorded Missions Week designed to create an awareness of the opportunities for mission service around the world. In just a few days on October 29 – November 3, we will hold our annual Missions Week with activities being planned daily to emphasize the great service being provided by our student missionaries, and culminating with the Missions Fair held in the gymnasium on Saturday afternoon, featuring over 25 different missions and ministry projects worldwide.
In 1938 the choir broadcasted a program live on KGKO, a radio station in Fort Worth. Today, as part of a robust music program, the University Singers perform yearly concerts at the Meyerson Symphony Center. In August of this year, the Singers accompanied the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Bass Hall. During recent years, the Singers have gone on numerous international tours, earning a world-wide reputation filling cathedrals and concert halls with inspiring and powerful music.
In 1941 a tradition began as students welcomed the new school year as they passed through the newly constructed Mizpah Gate. On August 14, 2018, the red carpet was rolled out as each new freshman marked the beginning of college life by entering campus through the Mizpah Gate to be greeted by faculty and staff lining the sidewalk.
In 1968 the student association senate voted to start an FM radio station. Today our radio station 88.3 The Journey reaches over 70,000 weekly listeners from the DFW area and has placed in the top 20 Christian radio stations in the nation.
In 1893 the streets in Keene were just winding cow paths through the woods. Since there were no dorms yet that first winter, many of the boys lived in tents down in the school pasture. Much has changed since that time, sidewalks and paved roads have replaced the cow paths and the tents have turned into multiple residence halls; but our mission of educating students in a Christ-centered environment has remained unchanged. I am proud of Southwestern Adventist University, its traditions and legacy in promoting graduates to a life of service and leadership.
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.