Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ETBU at 100

"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.

On October 19-20-21, East Texas Baptist University experienced a noteworthy Homecoming Weekend. For three days ETBU celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding as a Baptist institution of higher learning. In 1912 the College of Marshall received a charter as a two-year college, as well as a secondary academy. Through the efforts of a few determined men, land was acquired and five buildings were erected. Classes opened in 1917, and the campus stayed busy with debating societies and varsity sports. The 1920 football team won all of their games and never allowed a score.

The Administration Building was completed in 1916 and is the oldest
building on campus. Originally the basement was a gymnasium with a
balcony running track. Classrooms and offices were on the main two floors
while an auditorium and stage filled the top floor.
 Finances always were tight, in part because most students were on some type of scholarship - one semester there were only five "full pay" students. But presidential leadership was strong, underpaid faculty members were intensely loyal, and philanthropic individuals provided generous support. In 1944 four-year status was attained as East Texas Baptist College, and 40 years later there was another elevation, to East Texas Baptist University.

This huge white tent was erected across the Scarborough Hall
parking lot for the Centennial Gala Celebration.

In 2009 I was commissioned by ETBU to put together a centennial history of the institution. I was afforded every cooperation: there were illuminating interviews from alumni who went back to the College of Marshall, veteran professors and coaches, board members and administrators. I was granted access to a wealth of archival material, and staff member Lindsay Culbertson provided invaluable assistance. Inherit the Dream: A Centennial Celebration of The College of Marshall, East Texas Baptist College, and East Texas Baptist University was published by ETBU earlier this year.

Looking across the quadrangle at the new Student Life Center

On Friday of the Centennial weekend, alums were welcomed back to the campus, and Distinguished Alumni awards were presented by ETBU President Stephen "Dub" Oliver. That night students and alumni enjoyed a pep rally and bonfire. At 11:30 Saturday morning there was a float-filled parade through the campus, and at one o'clock the ETBU Tigers took on the Yellow Jackets of Howard Payne University, one Baptist school against another. (ETBU won, 52-28.) On Friday evening a "Centennial Gala Celebration" was staged for alumni beneath an enormous tent which covered an entire parking lot. A "more student-oriented" celebration took place on the intramural field. The evening was capped off with a fireworks display. On Sunday morning at nine, a "Homecoming Worship Service" was held at the chapel.

My wife Karon and I were on campus Saturday. It was a splendid fall day and the campus - resplendent with new buildings and handsome landscaping - has never looked better. Alums were everywhere, many of them snapping photos. I signed copies of Inherit the Dream at Books and Java in the Marshall Mall. Owner-manager Linda Jones has secured exclusive rights to the book in Marshall, except for the ETBU bookstore.

Bill, holding a copy of  Inherit the Dream with Linda Jones at Books and Java.

ETBU is poised to carry the Texas tradition of denominational colleges into a second century. The first college in Texas was Rutersville College, a Methodist school in Fayette County. Over 50 private colleges, mostly denominational, operated in Texas (sometimes briefly) before the first publicly funded college (Texas A&M) opened in 1876. Two years later Sam Houston Normal for Teachers began operations, and the University of Texas opened its doors in 1883. Several more state teachers colleges were founded late in the 19th and early in the 20th century. But during this same time period other private, denominational colleges were founded, and one of them was the College of Marshall in 1912. Today, as ETBU, the school is loved by alumni and led by a youthful, dynamic president. Dr. Dub Oliver likes to point out four laurel trees that stand like sentinels in front of the 1917 Administrative Building on the ETBU hilltop. "It is a space that speaks clearly of who we are, where we have been, and where we are going."

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