Have you ever wondered how Andrews University came to Berrien Springs? Or, what life on campus was like during the 1950s? When did Andrews University start to become so vibrantly diverse? The answer to these questions were brought to life by Meredith Jones Gray, Chair of the Department of English, Professor of English, resident historian of Andrews University and author of the campus history book “As We Set Forth,” as she spoke at a seminar held at the Berrien History Center on Feb. 23. The purpose of the seminar was to address the rich history of Andrews University, how the university impacted the Berrien Springs in the time of Andrews University (then Battle Creek College)’s founding, and how the university continues to make a lasting impact on the community today.
This lecture at Courthouse Square was a continuation of the Berrien Historical Society’s 2017 Winter Program Series that is themed around the Wisdom Seekers Exhibit, which is now on display for public viewing. Those in attendance of the seminar were fellow Berrien Springs residents, some of whom invited interested members of other communities, and various Andrews alumni.
In 2002, Andrews University published Jones Gray’s As We Set Forth: Battle Creek College & Emmanuel Missionary College, a historic volume designed to capture the essence of the university. Detailed in the book, Andrews University was first planted as Battle Creek College in 1874. Later, in Andrews University’s present location, the institution bore the identity of Emmanuel Missionary College from 1901 to 1960—authorized under the jurisdiction of the Lake Union conference, while only having about approximately 900 students in admittance.
The first brick building was the James White Library, where the present Administration Building is located, signifying an enormous upgrade in the importance of education. During the 1950s, Johnson Gymnasium was used for Saturday night prayer and other recreational events, such as banquets and game nights. When Pioneer Memorial Church was built in the 1950s, it became the only building on campus that was solely designated for worship, and the church was dedicated once all of the debts from its construction were paid.
In October 1958, the General Conference held a conference to decide whether to close Potomac University and move its operations from Maryland to Berrien Springs, Michigan. As tensions arose about the fate of Potomac University, a vote was approved by a difference of almost 100 to move forward with the developments in Berrien.
Finally, in 1960, Andrews University’s name was chosen to honor James Nevins Andrews, the first Adventist missionary who traveled overseas in 1874. In retrospect of what it was like to witness the frenzy of the church during the placement of the new school, As We Set Forth: Battle Creek College & Emmanuel Missionary College notes that a Berrien Springs resident said, “It was kind of interesting to be reminded that nothing happens at a university without turmoil and controversy.”
When asked about the reaction from Seventh-day Adventists after hearing that Potomac University would be moved to Berrien, Jones Gray said, “There were some people who were ecstatic about the change, but not very many…all of that passed over fairly quickly, and the school integrated quite happily. The students certainly did right away.”
The new exhibit is a journey through the history of our university. From the facts to the artifacts, every piece of it tells another part of our story. Just a few blocks away from the front gates, it offers an illuminating trip down memory lane. Go visit this spring and see all the Wisdom Seekers exhibit has to offer.