Welch College is finishing up the process of relocating to their new campus in Gallatin, Tennessee. Classes have started on the new campus, while final touches are still being applied. From its inception in 1942, Welch College, previously known as Free Will Baptist Bible College, made its home on West End Avenue, right near downtown Nashville. It would spend the next 74 years at that location. For this edition, we tried our best to get stories from a variety of eras for Welch College. (If you missed the first set of stories, you can read them here.) We hope you enjoy another stroll down memory lane and will participate by adding your memories in the comment section below.
Steve Lytle – Memories from West End Avenue…I have a couple of million of them, or at least I did when I was younger. I can’t necessarily trust my memory totally today!
One goes back to when Judy and I were dating. We started in the fall of 1970, and were married after we graduated in 1972. Somewhere around 1971, fall or spring, Judy and I were leaving the dining hall (where later the student center and the coffee shop were), and out front between the auditorium and Davidson, where the sidewalk makes a “T,” there was a tree. It was known as the parting tree, because at that point the guy said goodbye to the girl and turned left toward Goen Hall. The girl went right toward Richland (where the gym is now) or Ennis. At any rate, we stood there for a moment, me with my arm on the tree, and Judy looking up at me. They had asked us to pose, because the tree was going to be removed. What made it funny was the fact that my pants were short, old, plaid and tight. The picture ended up in the Lumen. You can look it up.
Lloyd Plunkett – As a die-hard Oklahoma University football with its winning tradition, I went first to O.U. for college. However, the teaching of evolution as a settled fact in a Biology class was upsetting enough to this new Christian that I didn’t continue to attend after that year. That is when I decided God wanted me to attend Free Will Baptist Bible College instead. So I enrolled in the school the next year with the expectation of going back to O.U. the following year. But although I did go to FWBBC, it was not just for one year. I went for a total of four and never went back to O.U. After graduation in 1960, the Oklahoma draft board snatched me up as soon as I got home because they wanted to teach me field communication (how to put a telephone in a Fox Hole and carry it on my back). I left the army in 1962 and returned to FWBBC that same year as an employee. For the next two years, I work as the Physical Education teacher, Christian Service director, and Men’s Dorm Supervisor. It was also during these years that I met my future wife while she was attending the college. That first school year that I worked for the college I determined to date every single one of the Junior girls. My first and last date was with a girl from Bristow, Oklahoma named Betty Halliburton. Over a game of chess I decided she was the girl for me. After she graduated and I left the school in 1965, we married. We left to start a church and a family in Washington state, but the college had had a lasting impact on both of our lives.
Jenny Hawkins – There are several memories from my time at FWBBC (Welch) that will always stick with me. Whether they were from chapel services that challenged me spiritually, classes that awoke in me a desire to learn more, or campus life that stretched me to be more social and involved than I ever was in high school.
But there is one moment that will ALWAYS stand out. Probably because it was embarrassing.
My senior year of college, I had no roommate. Plus my suite mate (we shared a bathroom) was also roommate-less. It was glorious to be alone! Except for this one morning in early November.
A break-in had occurred about a mile away from the school and so everyone was on high vigilance against intruders. I mean, so high that even Mad-Eye Moody would’ve felt safe. The RA’s walked the halls that night and locked everyone’s doors in the dorm. Now, you’ve got to know, I NEVER locked my door. Ever. Never.
The next morning was chilly. I didn’t have a first hour so I took my sweet time getting ready. I needed a little breakfast before they closed for the morning, so I threw on some sandals, pulled my hair back in a pony tail, and headed down to the cafeteria in pajama pants and a sweatshirt.
After grabbing some toast to take back upstairs to eat, I got to my dorm room and turned the knob. I was locked out! No problem, I can go through my suite mate’s door. Her door was locked! It’s okay, I can have the RA unlock it. She was already on her way to class across the street. Last resort – go back downstairs and ask the Resident Director to use the master key and unlock my door. No answer!
So, toast finished, still in jammies, I needed a way to get in my room.
My suite mate worked in the library in the mornings. So I called the library from the lobby phone. It rang and rang. No answer. I checked the time. It was 7:52 am. Technically, they don’t open until 8 am so no one was going to answer. Crap. I guess I have to walk to the library.
Heading out in the crisp November air, I trudged down the street, minutes before class starting, to beg for my suite mate’s key. Y’all, the men’s dorm was RIGHT BY THE LIBRARY. All those guys headed to their first hour class passed me. This was before cell phones so no one was looking down. Everyone saw me. Everyone. Me, in my pajamas, no shower, no teeth brushed yet, shivering from the cold in my sandals. I might as well have been an extra on The Walking Dead. The looks I got. They are etched in my brain.
In terms of social status, this was the end of the world. You don’t show your worst side to the whole campus (and neighbors walking their dogs) when image was everything those days. Yes, I realize I was shallow. Give me a break. I was like, 20.
But probably the worst was the look on my friend’s face when I walked through the library doors. She swept her eyes up and down my dazzling fashion choice for the day in a look that said, “Did you come out of your room like that?”
Yes. Yes I did. And it haunts to me this day.
Steve Lytle – One of the greatest memories was the fall revival in 1969. We had some great services during those 2-3 days, but the real excitement was afterwards. The Spirit of God moved on the campus unlike anything I have ever seen. Kids were praying, individually and in small groups, seeking the Lord, repenting of sin, reconciling with each other, and singing praises to God, and THIS WENT ON ALL NIGHT LONG, ALL THE NEXT DAY, AND FOR ALMOST ANOTHER NIGHT! The power of God was all over the campus. The Lord met with me in a special way in giving me assurance of salvation. None of us will ever forget that time.
Josh Chapman – As I study in the library within the newly constructed Coffman building, I can’t help but reminisce on my last three years at Welch college. Oh how things have changed. I remember moving into school onto a rather unattractive campus in the middle of Nashville, Tennessee. As unappealing as the former West End campus was, I knew it was filled with both history and memories for the numerous individuals who had graced its sidewalks. It will forever hold it’s mark in time as a place that watched many lives be changed forever, mine included.
When I was asked to submit a few memories concerning the former campus and the transition to the new from the perspective of a current student, I could not place my finger on any one particular moment. I began to write about the time we snuck out of the dorm after midnight, ran all over campus, and then spent hours playing ping pong (whoever lost the tournament faced major consequences). Then I thought about the summer I spent on campus during Truth & Peace where God laid out the path for me that I am still on to this day. I also thought about the countless friendships I had made, the all nighters drawing up timelines for Mr. Carter and studying for various tests, the impactful chapels and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s finest men and women. See, there was not just one moment I could come to grasp as my favorite, but all of these and more were just the pieces that made up the whole. The memories that happened on 3606 West End Avenue will impact me forever.
Now here I am on what some like to jokingly call, “The New Jerusalem.” The transition was definitely a test of patience, but it was worth every bit of the wait; it’s wonderful. I leave my hotel-esque dorm to head to class and I can’t help but be in awe of what God has blessed us with. We have finally entered a new level where the potential growth for our college is beyond the imagination of its founders just 75 years ago. So as I reminisce about the old campus, I also look ahead to this new chapter and all that it will entail. As the buildings go down on West End, the good times will remain with me forever, but the memories yet to be made on Bison Trail will be both exciting and innumerable. It’s amazing to be a part of what God is doing with our school.
So as Moses wrote (and Dr. Pinson often quotes to Welch College), “May the Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”