A Heart For Service
From the early years of Keene Industrial Academy, when President Cassius B. Hughes dug through Texas briars to build the first school room, to the current construction of a new nursing building where students, staff, faculty and alumni signed the final steel beams, caring people have been at the heart of Southwestern Adventist University. This year, Southwestern is celebrating 125 years of service. The many people who make Southwestern unique are also to be celebrated.
Southwestern was founded in 1893. The school opened with 56 pupils arriving from all over Texas. As President Hughes welcomed students, he not only put them to work in class and industry, but also welcomed them into his home for Bible study. Hughes made students feel at home in the Texas wilderness and also baptised several students. “He was a true representative of what God requires of His servants, a Christian gentleman,” writes C. N. Woodard in the book Lest We Forget.
Over time, technology improved, the campus grew and an important change needed to take place. The year was 1966 and Southwestern was transitioning from a junior college to a senior college. Academics required a deeper focus and guidelines needed to be set. Yet in all this, President Ed C. Wines believed that one of the most important qualifications of a good teacher was a willingness to help students, both in and out of the classroom.
Southwestern continues to be full of well-qualified faculty and staff. Small classroom sizes give professors and students ample opportunity to get to know each other. Andrew Woolley, Ph.D., became a professor of English at Southwestern in 1978. He retired in 2017. In nearly 40 years of service, Woolley found that this dynamic truly made a difference in teaching higher education. “I certainly knew my students well because my class sizes were small,” says Woolley. “It enabled me to keep up with students and their families. You know students’ names and lives, what they’re taking and what they’re doing, and are able to help them in ways you may not otherwise have been able to.”
Bonds created in the classroom are part of the reason why Woolley remained as a professor for many years. Then, when children of his students began to appear in the classroom, generational connections formed. “There’s that continuity that creates a family atmosphere and so forth,” says Woolley.
Bonds created on campus are often as influential to students as classroom studies. They help students feel at home and also help prepare them for the future in a practical sense. Vice President for Student Services James The is still affectionately known as “Dean The” to students. He started working at Southwestern as the Dean of Men in 2001.
“Dean The’s intuition and care for students is beyond real,” says Buster Swoopes, class of 2006. “It was a good learning opportunity to serve under him.”
Swoopes worked as a Resident Assistant under The while studying theology. During that time, Swoopes learned from The to understand people, and look for signs that people needed help or intervention. That experience helped Swoopes develop as a pastor. This fall, Swoopes will begin his first semester as a Professor of Religion at Southwestern.
Swoopes will take part in the 125 year tradition of genuine care that faculty and staff of Southwestern exhibit. As the University evolves and changes, the sincere service of individuals will continue to beat at the heart of Southwestern.
By Makala James, Writer and Class of 2015 Southwestern Adventist University Graduate