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. Over the next two weeks, we plan on sharing stories about the old campus and our time there. Some are lighthearted and silly. Some speak to something deeper and more lasting. We hope you enjoy this stroll down memory lane and will participate by adding your memories in the comment section below.
Phill Lytle – I started college in 1995 when I was 17 years old. Everything was new to me. I had grown up overseas – in Panama – as a missionary kid. I had only been in a traditional classroom setting for a few years in my K-12 education. I was also away from home for the first time in my life. It was a lot of change coming at me all at once. Being a natural introvert didn’t make things much easier.
I lived in Ennis Hall (the smaller men’s dorm across the street from the Gym) for most of my time at FWBBC/Welch. I loved it. Being in a smaller space, surrounded by less people, made the transition much easier for me. There were drawbacks though. We had a longer walk to the Johnson Classroom Building than the other dorms. I remember one day specifically, the walk was really brutal because it was raining as hard as I can ever remember it raining in Nashville while I was in college. I had no umbrella so by the time I got to the side entrance of the classroom building, I was soaked. Completely. I was also wearing a pair of dress shoes that had soles that looked like the eraser on the end of a pencil. I did not realize that the combination of those shoes and the surface of the floor at the bottom of the stairwell in the classroom building would be the equivilant of walking on ice that has been covered in oil-soaked banana peels. I did a little dance on that floor at 7:55 in the morning. (I do not ask your forgiveness for that.) I had a few witnesses, other students I did not know well. I was trying my best to not fall down and I slipped and slid all over the place for what seemed like five minutes. I could not get my footing. I ended up basically crawling to the handrail at the bottom of the stairs and hanging on for dear life. I actually took off my shoes to make my way to the third floor because I did not want to die.
At the time, I was convinced that those unknown students would look at me and think I was an idiot. The truth of the matter is they probably haven’t thought about it since it happened. I wonder how often things that seem really embarrassing to me at the time don’t even register to those around me. Or maybe they do remember it and will post their recollections in the comment section below. Either way, it’s all good as I have come to terms with my “Dancing With the Stars” moment.
Ben Plunkett – It is common knowledge that the 90s was the golden age of FWBBC (now Welch College). I attended school during these awesome years from 1993 to 1998. During this time I was privileged to be able to live in all three men’s dorms: Goen, Blye, and Ennis. (I have no idea if that is actually how you spell Blye or Blighe or whatever so help me if you can. HELP!) Although each has a special place in my memory for various reasons, Ennis was undoubtedly the best in my mind. That old place was a monster to clean (my job was to mop the floors and clean the bathrooms), but I loved it. We all did.
There are a lot of great stories that went down in Ennis during those years. Possibly the most poignant to my memory—maybe because it was the most pungent, literally so—was the story of the dead possum. Something had been stinking up the joint for several days. Finally, someone discovered the dead possum in the rarely visited basement. As the resident “cleaner,” I was given the unpleasant task of disposing of the bloated monstrosity. So goodly Shane Davidson volunteered to come down and help me shovel it into an old potato sack. Slowly we turned, step by step, inch by inch, while we were watched at the top of the stairs by a gaggle of nervously giggling guys. It was made very difficult because its tail kept curling around a nearby bed stand. Now that think about it, I realize it was probably just its nerves. At the time, however, I thought it might be playing possum, actually be alive, and ravage us at any moment. Anyway, after many a mishap we managed to get it into the bag, run out into the rain, and heave it into the dumpster, and that, as they say, was that. Then years later the still poignant memory would inspire me to write my short story, “The Reclusive Possum.” And now you know the rest of the story.
Gowdy Cannon – Probably my favorite memory of Goen Hall is when the south side of the first floor my Senior year got together and decided to declare our independence from the rest of the dorm. The group was mostly English and History majors and types and they knew what they were doing. Brett Hudson and REO Contributor David Lytle wrote up a manifesto and we officially named ourselves after the P.O.D. song “Southtown”. There were meetings and weekly impromptu discussions about philosophy and religion and life. I always felt like the dumbest guy in the room, but as the first Floor Resident Assistant I was pushed to the fore as the leader. When I expressed my doubts about my ability to handle such a role, Charles Cook affirmed me by telling me that George Washington was a lot less bright than Adams and Jefferson and Franklin. That meant so much. We all were so proud of what we accomplished and at the end of my Senior year when I gave my Senior sermon I thanked the faculty, administration and Southtown for the wonderful opportunity to speak in chapel.
Phill Lytle – One thing that most dorm students at FWBBC/Welch experience is being part of a prayer group. For those unfamiliar with prayer groups, it’s pretty self explanatory: Each dorm student is assigned to a group to meet daily or a few times a week to pray. At it’s best, prayer group is a time to bond with one another and to grow in our walks with God. At it’s worst, it is a time to go through the motions and check something off a list. A lot of the effectiveness of prayer group is dependent on the prayer captain – the person in charge of your particular prayer group. In my time at the college, I had mostly good prayer captains.
One of the most powerful moments of worship and fellowship I have ever experienced happened in prayer group. My Sophomore year, David Mizelle was my prayer captain. David is now a pastor in Virginia. He took his role seriously and made sure that our times together were impactful and purposeful. One night, we shared the Lord’s Supper as a prayer group. We sang, we prayed, we read Scripture, we ate the “bread” and drank the “wine.” It brought new meaning and significance to an ordinance I had taken part in for years. I will forever be grateful to David for his commitment to holiness and to the college for prioritizing prayer and devotion.
Gowdy Cannon – I was at Welch from 98 to 02 and I’ll never forget most of my classes with the Youth Ministry professor at the time, James Evans. Many of them were so far out of the box I didn’t know it existed after a while. One particular class was at night and there were 6 of us. James had us leave the classroom and “walk” an A-frame from behind the Academic building to the Guy’s dorm, which I’m guessing was about 100 yards. Two of us stood on the horizontal beam of the A-frame and the other four directed the movement of it with ropes that came down from the very top of it. They spread out in four equi-distance directions. We hand no idea what we were doing at first but James let us work it out. Every step of movement required teamwork, communication and sacrifice, even from the two guys on the beam. It was amazing. We thought we were getting out of “real class” and then after we accomplished the goal of getting to the dorm, we went back and sat and talked about what we learned. We had a super long list and all of it has been helpful in the 15 years of post college pastoral ministry. I still have my notebooks and notes. I cannot believe education could be so fun, practical and timeless. I miss Welch for that. I miss James.