November 21, 2019

An Appreciation of Gordon College’s Heritage

Catherine Pastoor ‘21 - Editor-in-Chief

Adoniram Judson Gordon’s beginnings as a Christian and a pastor set a remarkable precedent for the founding of Gordon. “Judson” was born into a family of devout Calvinists. Even his name shared in the tradition; he was named after the famous Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, who had recently completed a Burmese translation of the Bible after years of service in Southeast Asia. 

As an adolescent, Judson had no real interest in serious study or spiritual pursuits. After a profound, all-night conversion experience at the age of 15, he experienced a rapid transformation of character. Once detached and apathetic, Judson was now enthused and single minded in beginning his preparations for Christian ministry. 

Gordon 1860 Courtesy of Gordon Archives

After attending New London Academy, he arrived at Brown University where he was ordained. Gordon demonstrated great gifts in language and composition, especially in Greek which would serve him greatly in his future teaching. He also met and initiated correspondence with his future wife, Maria Hale. 

He began pastoring at Jamaica Plains Baptist Church in Boston in 1863. During the final years of the Civil War, it was in that church that Gordon first began shamelessly preaching not only spiritual, but political righteousness. He and his family were strong abolitionists, and were very vocal in their support of the Union, while most other ministers were daunted by the issue. 

In 1869 Gordon relented to Clarendon Street Baptist Church leaders’ years of insistence that he join them as their pastor. From his platform at one of the most prominent churches in Boston, Gordon dedicated his time to myriad social causes such as temperance, women’s suffrage, and the social accessibility of the church. He and Maria Hale Gordon were deeply involved in several charities and ministries. 

Clarendon Church was conveniently positioned next to the temporary site for Dwight L. Moody’s tabernacle of revival meetings in 1877. As a result, the church acted as a sort of halfway house for new converts, an overwhelming task, as more than five thousand individuals swarming the place every night. 

In concurrence with all of these activities in the 1870s and 1880s, Gordon published two books: In Christ, The Twofold Life, The Ministry of the Spirit. He also maintained extensive letter correspondences with several friends and numerous foreign missionaries. 

In 1888 Dr. Gordon attended the international Centenary Conference on Foreign Missions in London, and became filled to the brim with passion for the cause. Baptist-oriented stations in the Belgian Congo were in jeopardy of falling apart from lack of educated missionary candidates. The demand was clear: Christian engagement with the world needed driven missionaries gifted with a well-rounded education and deep devotion to Christ.    

Founding the College

Dr. A.J. Gordon, along with his Clarendon Church deacons, opened a school to train missionaries and Christian leaders at 7 Clarendon St. In a small hallway of rented rooms, 15 men and a woman attended the first day of class at the Boston Missionary Training Institute on October 2nd, 1889. Gordon’s innovative approach was in step with the times. Steamships propelled world commerce to new heights; with the increased ease of travel, more and more Protestants were embarking on missionary service. 

Dr. A.J. Gordon was assumed to be the administrative overseer of the school from its conception. Most of the classes were taught by Reverend Frederick Leonard Chapell until his passing in 1900. All other courses were taught by Dr. Gordon and willing local Christian leaders. Eclectic in so many ways, the school was a brazen undertaking, admitting students who were too uneducated or too poor to pursue the seven-year track to ordination. There were no tuition charges, and women were as welcome to attend as men. 

The openness of the Institute was offensive to some Baptist critics who feared that Gordon was promoting the education of unfit people who would ultimately corrupt the denomination. The only requirement for admission was a recommendation from a pastor, a demonstration of Christian earnesty, and enough education to make sound judgments. 

The school’s offerings included theological training, Bible courses, and ministerial skills including hygiene and midwifery, vital knowledge for the missions field. After two years, the school moved its operations to Clarendon Street Baptist Church and was renamed the Boston Missionary Training School. The new location allowed Dr. Gordon to offer more direct supervision and leadership. They made a women’s dormitory out of a house near the church’s parsonage.

After Dr. Gordon’s unexpected passing in 1895, the school was dubbed the Gordon Bible and Missionary Training School to emphasize preparation for domestic service and missions abroad. No singular candidate took up Gordon’s mantel for the next ten years, rather it became several interim positions shared by several ministers and Bible professors. 

A decade into its existence, F.L. Chapell made a summary of the school’s accomplishments. Day students were five hundred, while evening students totaled to fifteen hundred. Of those, approximately one hundred had completed the two year program. More than fifty had embarked on overseas missions. The other hundreds were working or volunteering in church agencies and city missions. Many were pastors. 

Class of 1899 Courtesy of Gordon Archives

School Grows in Size 

Gordon school was in talks with Newton seminary for several years about Gordon joining as a part of their institution. It would give Newton the credentials to give students the entrance requirements to attend graduate level seminary. The president at the time, Nathan E. Wood, admired the school’s proclivity for nurturing spirituality and decided that this was the best option for both sides.

Starting in 1907, the school became the Gordon School of the Newton Theological Institution. President Wood began several initiatives for reorganization, creating a new beginning for the school. Newton fell ill and relinquished the presidency to Dr. W.B. Boggs, who fell ill as well and offered the presidency to Wood’s son, Nathan R Wood. Once secured in his office, the school also was blessed with the educational gifts of his wife, Isabel Warwick Wood. Wood made changes to Gordon’s operations that set it up for the eventual rechartering of its independence. Gordon’s original educational structure was now bolstered with a department dedicated to culture and literature, thanks to Isabel Wood. Her actions within the academic department instilled a firm foundation of pedagogical competence. 

The school now had an application process that screened out about half of the applicants; still, Gordon enrolled an additional 100 students annually. The taste for missionary training was strong. The appeals of the school were always shifting, from an enhanced view of scriptural interpretation switching to a Christ-centered institution under Nathan Wood’s presidency, identifying Gordon with the historic core of Christianity. “There is an organic centre of Christianity… More and more then, the school came to be… an embodiment of Christ as truly as any church could be… It was his School. The Holy Spirit worked in and through us for him. It was a School of Christ.” 

School moves to Frost Hall on Fenway

During the years of World War I, Gordon was well on its way to gaining collegiate status. Leadership had also moved the School’s operations back to Clarendon. Once the separation from Newton was finalized, the name became Gordon Bible Institute. Upon adopting an official college seal, the name once again changed to Gordon Bible College. The College now offered a four year long course of study for Bachelor’s degrees in Theology and a Bachelor of Divinity. Gordon began to raise its aspirations; the College’s influence on Christian education ensured a new standard of education for Christian ministers; it encouraged its students to pursue graduate study whenever possible. Student applicants were growing in both quantity and quality. Dormitories were purchased for both men and women near the Clarendon campus, but it quickly became evident that Gordon’s facilities were insufficient to match the growing demand. 

In 1917, the College finally procured its own home thanks to the philanthropy of Miss Martha Frost of Belmont. She had a new building constructed on 30 Evans Way in Boston’s Fenway. The $120,000 gift earned her commemoration in the name Frost Hall. The dedication ceremonies were held on April 3rd that year, one day before the United States declared war on Germany. 

The succeeding decade was full of forward momentum for Gordon Bible College. Dr. Wood was elected President by the Board of Trustees. They purchased six lots next to Frost Hall for future use. Wood pushed the college’s reputation as a full degree-granting, high quality institution, and in order to reflect the level of offered programs, changed the name to Gordon College of Theology and Missions in 1921. That same year the College launched the Hypernikon student yearbook, a name meaning “more than conquerors” and a periodical summary of campus activities called the Gordon News-Letter

This period was not, however, without its social pressures. Most American colleges and universities were founded on Christian principles, but were beginning to veer toward fashionable, more secular ideas that diverged from the standard of Christ-centered education. Prestigious universities traded their historically Christian ideals for Darwinism, rationalism, scientism, and historicism. Leaders at Gordon felt that embracing such trends would corrode the nurturing of personal Christian faith. As a measure to maintain the trust of founders and donors, in 1923 the administration adopted a brief theological statement that would set the tone for their commitment to Christ. 

The 1920s marked an expansion of the liberal arts within the College. The liberal arts core requirements included philosophy, history, rhetoric, literature and language. In 1922, French became Gordon’s first modern language offering. Though all Gordon students were majors in biblical studies, exposure to cultural and scientific inquiry became an integral part of a Gordon education. 

Men’s and women’s basketball teams emerged as Gordon’s first intercollegiate sports teams. Students enriched local church life as teachers, organists, soloists, and choral groups. Several smaller parishes employed student preachers. By 1931, Gordon’s student body had reached 300, enlivened by an interracial and international coalescence of scholarship, talent, and leadership. 

The year 1927 marks an important juncture in Gordon’s history. The Massachusetts legislature granted the institution the authority to award advanced degrees based on its courses of study. All of Gordon’s future academic development evolved from that foundation, including the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. The graduate level would offer Masters and Divinity degrees. The graduate theological course became a separate entity in 1931, known as the Divinity School of Gordon College. 

The Great Depression

Gordon was not exempt from the constraints of the Great Depression. In the early thirties, advertising was discontinued, as applications for enrollment exceeded space. The generation of founders ended with the death of Mrs. Gordon in 1921 and M.R. Deming in 1925. Professors Nathan E. Wood and Rev. A.Z. Conrad continued their work in earnest despite their ageing, but both men passed between 1935 and 1937.

The younger generation of Trustees consisted of Rev. James T Rider of Ruggles Street Baptist Church and Businessman Edgar C. Lane. Dr. Harold J. Ockenga would also join the board in 1937, beginning his long career of service to Gordon. The College pressed on even during those oppressive years, hiring part-time instructors from pools of graduate students from Boston universities to expand the number and quality of its course offerings. 

By 1937, Gordon was equipped to grant not only a Bachelor of Theology, but a Bachelor of Arts as well, effectively setting the stage for the College’s eventual emergence as a center for the liberal arts after World War II. 

Even in dire straits, students, faculty, and trustees all celebrated Gordon’s 50th anniversary in 1939. The occasion provided a chance to give thanks for all that Christ had accomplished through Gordon in the past half-century; several hundred alumni were servings in classrooms, churches, and the missions fields. Many were pastors and presidents of colleges. For a short time in the 30s, every Baptist minister in Boston was a Gordon alumnus, professor, or trustee. 

When peace returned to the Western world, Gordon was well equipped to grow under new leadership as President Wood and Dean Isabel Wood retired from their 34 years of service.  

A group of friends in front of Frost Hall on Fenway campus Courtesy of Gordon Archives

Post-War Gordon

With T. Leonard Lewis as President–inaugurated October 1944–Gordon would enjoy the same dramatic growth as its higher education peers. Dr. Lewis had earned a B.A. from Wheaton College in Illinois and a Th.D. from Northern Baptist Seminary. Admired by students for his sensitivity, sense of resolve, and depth of faith, President Lewis initiated plans to transform Gordon into a larger, more prominent College. 

1945 marked a sea change in America’s demand for higher education. The postwar era began, and G.I. Bill-financed veterans flooded campus spaces across the nation. College education was widely popular and more possible than ever. Christian students were searching for institutions to prepare them for the professional world in a setting conducive to their values. 

Gordon adopted its first tuition charges in 1945; before then, the school charged only a maintenance fee. Tuition was easily paid for by the widespread prosperity in the wake of WWII. The College’s publicity was significantly upgraded with a new, vigorous advertising program. The resulting popularity pushed the College to prioritize student housing. The Divinity School received its own separate campus with the purchase of the Wightman Estate in Brookline. Two more apartment buildings were purchased at 22 and 26 Evans Way for Gordon’s residence halls to accommodate the wave of veteren students. 

Gordon’s move to its current home in Wenham on the North Shore had an informal beginning. James Higginbotham, part-time pastor and Gordon student, would pass by the Princemere estate while walking to his post at Wenhan Neck Baptist church. 

“Week after week I passed this vast and gorgeous estate,” he wrote, “and gradually… the thought came to me that this would be a tremendous location for a college.” Higginbotham soon read in a newspaper that the estate had been passed up by both Harvard University and the newly-formed United Nations. After much prayer and consideration, he decided to approach Frederick H. Prince, owner of the estate since 1880 about offering the location to Gordon. 

Negotiations between Prince and Gordon’s leaders began and soon ended with a purchase of a mere $150,000. Prince also donated funds for a chapel to be built on the campus, named for his wife, Abigail Norman Prince. 

When the Brookline and Boston campuses were sold, the Divinity School was the first to move to the new campus, occupying the new Prince Chapel and the mansion overlooking the pond (Frost Hall). Trustee Arthur L. Winn gifted the funds for a new library and the College moved to the Wenham campus upon Winn Library’s completion. Residence Halls Wood, Byington, and Drew were constructed alongside Winn. Access to Boston from the campus was streamlined with the completion of Route 128. Trustees W.T. Sheppard, A.C. Emery, E. Joseph Evans, and J.G. Talcott personally carried mortgages to ensure Gordon’s security and occupation of the estate. 

Once settled, leadership adopted the name Gordon College for effective public use in 1948. Along with the new moniker, the curriculum and administration adopted new directions in the hopes of providing a full Liberal Arts education. In 1951 the academic catalog announced a “common core curriculum” that adhered to Harvard University President James Conant’s “General Education in a Free Society.” Gordon’s emphasis on the Western cultural heritage in the 1920s and 1930s was more precisely expressed in the 1951 core curriculum, designed to expose students to a well-rounded course of philosophy, the sciences, and the arts. 

By 1955, Gordon offered majors in history, English, German, Greek, philosophy, psychology, education, and biblical studies. Educational programs to certify primary and secondary education teachers gained their full thrust in the 50s. 

Gordon faculty founded “The Gordon Review” in 1956 as a quarterly journal designed to further develop conversations between Christian scholars. In 1958 Professor David Franz led the first Gordon European Seminar Expedition, which fostered Gordon’s connection to the global community. Upgrades to the library and construction of new facilities such as Emery Science Hall were tailored to meet the requirements for full accreditation from The New England Association of Schools and Colleges. In an unfortunate turn of events, President T. Leonard Lewis suffered a fatal heart attack two years before Gordon’s full accreditation in 1961. 

With its new campus and the nation’s postwar prosperity, cultural, social, and athletic activities at Gordon reached their full tilt. Gordon’s student newspaper, “The Gordon Herald” became the primary avenue for expressing campus opinion, reporting extracurricular events, and institutional news. 

Students help move from Fenway campus to Wenham campus – Courtesy of Gordon Archives

Throughout the decade, the number of student activities accumulated at such a pace that faculty firmly advised to student leadership that a cap should be placed on the number of meetings allowed each week, to prevent distraction from studies. Faculty also had to vote to approve every wedding between students. Freshmen were not allowed to announce engagements, and no marriages were permitted to take place during the academic year. As of 1951, the laws on marriage relaxed, and were no longer specified in the catalog. 

In 1957, under the leadership of John Nichol, the Gordon Players put on the North Shore’s first production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” at the theatre of the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers. 

The college was slower on the uptake in athletic facilities, but much of it was atoned for with an influx of student enthusiasm and class pride. Inspired by A.J. Gordon’s Scottish ancestry, new symbols for Gordon teams began to emerge, first appearing in 1956 with the cheerleaders’ new kilt skirts fashioned from Gordon clan tartan fabric from Scotland, delivered by Professor and Mrs. David Franz. The Scots theme was mandated for all teams, as voted by student government in 1958. Different epithets such as “Plaidmen” and “Highlassies” were toyed with, followed by “Flying Scots” before landing on “Fighting Scots.” The makeover was complete once “The Herald” changed its name to fit the pattern of the famous skirts that started it all: “The Tartan.”

Throughout all these changes, Gordon had faithfully maintained its devotion for service and foreign missions, as exemplified by the hosting of visiting speakers that promoted the practice. A Gordon education was still spiritually and morally pragmatic for a life of Christian service and stewardship.

1960s

Gordon welcomed Dr. James Forrester as President in September 1960 and changes continued to sweep the campus. Forrester initiated new administrative changes, facility planning, and educational experimentation. As far as buildings, all the college had were some small buildings and the Princemere mansion. In 1961 The College received full regional accreditation, and the seminary qualified for The American Association of Theological Schools. Both Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School were perfectly positioned to advance in their respective missions, which would eventually allow them to incorporate separately.

A new campus plan was approved by the Board of Trustees, with four new dorms and a student center taking foremost priority. A modern structure with sweeping expanses of glass windows, the building was named after Trustee Edgar C. Lane. Both Lane Student center and the new dormitories were financed with loans from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The dormitories were named for the late President Lewis and Trustees William T. Sheppard, E. Joseph Evans, and Albert C Wilson. 

Campus entrance 1966 Courtesy of Gordon Archives

One of the changes included switching to a trimester format for education to both increase revenues by keeping the school open for more months of the year, as well as to accelerate graduation. The dean of academics at the time, Dr. Brooks F. Sanders was a specialist in television pedagogy aimed to increase faculty productivity using closed circuit television instruction, independent study, and team teaching. The college continued to use this system until after Dr. Sanders resigned, but time would, of course, expose its problematic aspects. 

The Emery Science Hall was equipped and staffed. Biologist H. Omar Olney implemented programs for majors in biology, chemistry, and physics. Even then, the interplay between Christianity and science was frequently discussed, with staff giving multiple perspectives on the issue. Through the generosity of Trustee Kenneth H. Olson, the Digital Equipment Corporation provided Gordon with its first computer in 1965; mathematician Robert Morgan offered computer courses starting in 1969. The education and psychology separated as disciplines, signaling their respective growth, through the impetus of Dr. Mark Gedney. 

During this period, Gordon’s student body was generally white, first-generation collegiate, and heavily interested in the arts. Writers and poets on campus found an outlet through The Idiom, a new literary journal. Musical participation was considered an integral part of campus life. The Gordon Players put on productions of Oedipus Rex (1963) and My Fair Lady (1967). 

The athletics scene also saw growth. The College teams participated in the Seaboard Athletic Conference, the Colonial Intercollegiate Soccer Conference, and the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association, as they would for the following 25 years. Since it was rare for students to own automobiles, they would support sports events held at home with marked enthusiasm. In 1965. Gordon opened an outdoor skating rink in collaboration with the North Shore Skating Association, giving the hockey team a significant boost. Attendance in physical education programs increased with the opening of a gymnasium in 1971, named after Trustee Edgar L. Rhodes. 

The ideological movements and shifts of the 1960s did not rock Gordon’s campus as it did many other colleges. Students were less critical of the systems that shaped their education, and professors were still active and vocal in their faith. Any restlessness manifested itself in a growing concern with how the Christian worldview interacted with current social, political, and cultural issues. Office positions for the Gordon College Student Association and editorial positions for The Tartan were hotly contested. The “Tartan” became livelier than ever, featuring letters and columns that addressed current events both nationally and internationally. New left-wing sentiments were not particularly popular, but students were far less passive than in the past, many writing columns and letters in The Tartan that would endorse the Christ-centeredness of their institution, along with criticizing some of its aspects, such as a lack of variety in the curriculum. Students disliked the television teaching. Some required courses were deemed disappointing. 

Even after much administrative cooperation, the trimester system began to demonstrate more problems than solutions, and the accelerated calendar on top of the televised instruction and independent learning program proved to be too much change in too short a time. Fewer than 15% of students in the three year program were able to complete their degree in the projected time. As for professors, the time intensiveness and impersonal nature of televised instruction proved enervating. Forrester’s seemingly arbitrary and difficult style of leadership slowly chipped away at campus morale. 

The decade was a time of transition and rapid turnover. Many key faculty members found positions elsewhere. Richard F. Gross assumed a position as dean of the College and Thomas H. Englund as dean of students for the fall of 1967. President Forrester would leave Gordon that same year, leaving leadership duties to the executive committee of the Board of Trustees and deans Gross and Englund. 

The executive board, alongside Dean Gross forged a set of policy priorities to set a strong foundation for the future. The administration understood that Gordon’s potential could be realized under the direction of the right president. Gross ensured the adoption of a new administrative and faculty governance structure and that faculty status and committee responsibilities would be carefully delineated. This enforced structure led to efficient cooperation among administrative and faculty members. 

Enrollment reached 700 undergraduates with 160 at the Divinity School. Gordon began directing its financial resources toward its people, lessening its focus on property acquisition. Administration began to strategically limit the program offerings, promising that no majors would be added unless they could be offered at a quality level. Hiring a strong cohort of professors was of utmost importance to the assurance of quality. To earn tenure, a Ph.D. or other terminal degree was required. Professors were required to express their perspective on how their Christian worldview engaged with their discipline. As of 1968, television teaching and the trimester system were dropped. 

Behavior guidelines were made for faculty and students, including a statement of standards and responsibilities about on and off campus life that was directly derived from biblical principles. Gordon’s rush to clarify its priorities was typical of most small colleges in the 60s and 70s, when public education was expanding, student demographics were dwindling, all while the costs of education were increasing. Many schools like Gordon coped by slipping into vocationalism, downplaying the importance of the liberal arts. It was also common to ease up on the responsibility of nurturing the moral and spiritual lives of its student body. Gordon had no intention of diluting its Christian commitment or dedication to academic rigor. 

1970s

Trustee Harold John Ockenga was named president in 1969. Ockenga’s history as an internationally recognized church leader, founder and first president of the National Association of Evangelicals and Fuller Theological Seminary, and holder of thirteen earned and honorary degrees made him a popular candidate for the position. One of Ockenga’s first orders of business was the separation of Gordon College and the Gordon Divinity School. At the suggestion of J. Howard Pew and Billy Graham, Gordon began negotiations on merging the Divinity School with the Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia. The new institution was chartered by 1970, and relocated to South Hamilton. With Frost Hall now vacated, it could now be used for faculty offices. 

The following year, a new cabinet post, the Dean of Christian Life, was created to further spiritual nurturing on campus, plan chapel events, and develop service opportunities off campus. Reverend Edward Schroder, an British-educated New Zealander, was appointed to the position. Two chapel services and one convocation per week became important for campus community as well as reinforcing ideals. By 1975, Gordon’s enrollment had exceeded one thousand students. 

Ockenga retired from his presidential position in 1976, leaving the presidency to Gross, making him Gordon’s sixth president. President Gross hit the ground running, purchasing property for residential housing and adding new majors in education, business administration, and physical education. He also secured a grant from the W.K. Kellogg foundation for faculty development allowing members to pursue self-defined goals. 

Gordon College became a chartered member of the Christian College Consortium in 1971. President Gross was appointed to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of School and Colleges, eventually serving as its chairman for two terms. 

In keeping with the school’s tradition, Gordon students volunteered their time and skills to local service projects and ministries. Teams of students, staff, and faculty made trips to the Dominican Republic to build churches and schools. Service opportunities increased when Reverend Harold L. Bussell became Dean of Christian Life in 1976. Dr. R. Judson Carlberg also joined that year as Dean of Faculty. 

1980s

Like most college students in the 80s, Gordon students were interested in individualism and diversity. Gordon’s Christian earnest dedication to its Christian posture was appealing to students from an array of different backgrounds. Clubs and campus activities multiplied while all-school functions that accompanied the older notions of class identity slowly disappeared. Automobile ownership was more commonplace, and allowed for more off-campus pursuits. The performing arts flourished; the Gordon Players put on several productions a year. 

Athletics continued to garner enthusiasm on campus as more students began competing in intramural and varsity teams, going with the grain of America’s obsession with fitness. 

Students outside Ferrin Hall 1980s Courtesy of Gordon Archives

During a review for Gordon’s accreditation by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, through a self-study committee, concluded that Gordon’s success was banked on the clarity of its mission, unified educational doctrine, and its steadfast, tireless leadership. The Exxon Education Foundation funded a study of leaders of higher education. President Gross was placed among the top one hundred “most effective chief executive officers in American higher education.” As of the late 1980s, Gordon had much development to look forward to as it prepared for its merger with Barrington College. 

Discussions of the union were not new; T. Leonard Lewis was the first to discuss the possibility with Howard W. Ferrin in the 1950s. Similar histories, values, student demographics, and financial struggles were all appealing draws to merge. By 1984, future development was looking fragile for both institutions, which rekindled the discussion of joining. Once the board voted, the steps to complete the merger were brisk. That same year, the Barrington administration announced the merger to its student body on Homecoming weekend. 

Gordon prepared its campus to receive 150 new students, 7 faculty and personnel, and 12 or so new trustees. Also added were the biology, social work, accounting, and youth ministries majors. Ferrin Residence Hall (named for Chancellor Howard W. Ferrin) was quickly built to accommodate the addition to the student body. The college now 1,255 students. Lane Student Center was enlarged, with several of its room names honoring the benefactors of Barrington. 

In 1986, Gordon College launched an ambitious, sixteen million dollar fundraiser called the Cornerstone Campaign. After a two year period of hosting regional dinners with alumni and friends, gifts and pledges to Gordon totaled over twelve million dollars. Five residence halls were refurbished, Emery Hall received a third floor addition, and the James L. and Evelyn M. Jenks Learning Resource Center, integrated with Winn Library. Plans were drawn for the construction of a new chapel for student fellowship. 

The core academic curriculum was revamped, updated to better emphasize cultural and international awareness. Overseas experiences were considered an integral part of a Gordon education. 

1990s to Present Day

Though blessed by a sudden apex of expansion, Gordon began to face trials common to institutions of higher education. As of 1990, tuition had increased 8.3% from the previous year; Gordon’s tuition rates were also higher than any other college in the Christian Coalition. The outdoor ice rink, the only campus-wide recreational facility, closed because of limited funding. Gordon’s endowment was also far smaller in comparison to other Coalition schools, such as Wheaton, often by factors of ten. 

Gordon was geared towards the development of dedicated servants in Christ, and though it had many disciplinary offerings, it did not have swaths of now-wealthy entrepreneurs for alumni. The Cornerstone Campaign money was firmly separated from the possibility of use for anything besides the new chapel, along with a new pipe organ, which had 3.5 million dollars promised to it. Pledges for buildings were far easier to garner than pledges for endowment. However, though not the sole rationale for its existence, the A.J. Gordon Chapel was expected to attract larger conference groups, as well as the money that accompanied them. 

At the completion of the spring semester in 1992, President Gross retired from the presidency. Dr. Carlberg had been serving as the senior vice president for development, and was inaugurated as Gordon’s seventh president. According to board member and Raytheon CEO Tom Phillips, President Carlberg was “the architect of a full-campus transformation.” During Carlberg’s nearly 20 year career as president, The Bennett Athletic and Recreation Center, Barrington Center for the Arts, Phillips Music Center, and the Ken Olsen Science Center were added to the campus. The A.J. Memorial Chapel also reached completion. 

The Gordon Players perform My Fair Lady in 1967 Courtesy of Gordon Archives

In 2011, Dr. Carlberg retired from his position. That same year, Dr. D. Michael Lindsay was inaugurated as Gordon College’s eighth president. Dr. Linsay holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Speech from Baylor University as well as a Ph.D in sociology from Princeton University. Upon his inauguration, President Lindsay, age 39, was the second youngest college president of any collegiate institution ranked in the US News & World Report. 

Today, Gordon College’s students, faculty, and administration hold fast to the aspirations of the Boston Missionary Training School: nurturing spirituality and the desire to live lives of service and Christian stewardship. The mission of the Gordon community continues to be timeless, as alumni serve Christ in numerous and diverse capacities in hundreds of countries and hundreds of disciplines. Given its history of adaptability and steadfast faithfulness in its ideals, Gordon College is set to blaze new trails for Christian education in the liberal arts for the foreseeable future. 

Many thanks to Ms. Sarah Larlee in the Archives office for her assistance in enriching the content of this article. Much of the content is derived from significant consolidations of Gordon College’s history, particularly “A Faithful Past and an Expectant Future” by College historians Thomas A. and Jean M. Askew as well as Nathan R. Wood’s warm-hearted account of the College’s origins, “A School of Christ.”

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