“Mount Vernon Nazarene College … is a new holiness college moved by the conviction that ‘To Seek to Learn is to Seek to Serve’ … and endeavoring to bring each student to his highest potential of service to God and his fellowman.” — Dr. Stephen W. Nease, 1968
I was 14 … that time of my life when the world revolved around teen activities and social events. General Assembly was an opportunity to be with other teenagers from our denomination. I was definitely looking forward to the event that summer of 1964, with no inkling of the fact that it would radically change our family’s future direction.
I remember my father talking about the action of the Assembly to establish two new Nazarene colleges — one in Ohio and the other in Kansas. His chief worry, as I recall, was the financial impact that the rezoning would have on the college he currently served, Eastern Nazarene College (ENC). I don’t think he ever considered that the impact would be much more deeply personal. He was the Director of Development for ENC, chiefly charged with raising funds to support the college. Father to four children, aged 4 to 14, he was constantly on the road preaching and raising money for the college, as his father had done before him, and Ohio was one of the strongest zones for ENC college support. It was indeed a concern.
And then came the phone call from Dr. Harvey Hendershot, newly-elected Chair of the fledgling “Zone A Nazarene College” Board of Trustees. Dad suddenly came home from his ENC office (a spot 20 feet from where I am typing this) to talk to Mom — visibly shaken. I know they spent time in prayer and deep searching for God’s will in this uncharted territory. As the decision was made, no one could ever have guessed the blessing, nor the cost, of their move to Ohio.
So we went — to Columbus for the first year as the location was being determined. Then to Mount Vernon where we lived in the Lakeholm Mansion prior to the building of the president’s home behind the campus. We waited for the school bus at the hedges and gate — both gone now — that were in front of the mansion. The four of us — aged 6 to 16 — worked at adapting to this new reality as Dad traveled continuously, working to piece together this fledgling institution — raising money, planning buildings, hiring staff, administration and faculty, designing curriculum for accreditation, and establishing the Mount Vernon Nazarene College family who began the adventure in faith together. Precious people, precious days.
There were victories and heartaches, not the least of which was the loss my little brother (age 9), their youngest child, David, who fell through thin ice and drowned in the pond behind the house. Our family loves water and enjoyed that pond and misses it even now, but the loss was deep for all of us. Through it all, God sustained and grew the seeds that were planted. It was not easy, but it was God-ordained and we remain thankful for the memories of those treasured beginning days.