A double-dedication ceremony in honor of the early pioneers of Evangel University will be held during the 2017 Homecoming Celebration on Friday, Oct. 6, at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
First will be a dedication for a new gathering place called “Pioneer Commons,” followed by the dedication of two Cleveland Pear trees in Evangel’s annual Trees of Honor ceremony.
Dr. George O. Wood is a 1962 graduate, a former Evangel employee, and the current General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, USA. He met his wife, Jewel (Waite ’64), at Evangel, and they will be honored with a plaque placed at the base of one of the trees.
The second tree will be dedicated in honor of the late Elizabeth “Betty” Chase, Evangel’s longest-serving employee.
The new “Pioneer Commons” is a brick and bench retreat area, shaded by the Chase and Wood trees, and named in honor of the early students who took classes at Evangel from 1955 to 1965.
The double-dedication site is on the north side of the Cantrell Student Union, near the center of the campus, just west of the 50th Anniversary Clock Tower.
“The commons area is a gesture of gratitude for our pioneers,” said Hector Cruz, director of alumni engagement.
Betty Chase started serving Evangel in 1953, two years before students arrived, while working as assistant to Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft at the General Council of the Assemblies of God. She was Evangel’s full-time writer, editor and media relations director from 1958 to 1987, and she then served as the University’s first archivist from 1988 to 2007.
In 2003, the Board of Administration bestowed upon her the title “Institutional Treasure.” Following her retirement, she continued to serve as a volunteer for two more years.
Betty was the only student to take classes in each decade from the 1950s to the 1990s, and she graduated in a 1994. Betty passed away in 2011 at the age of 84.
George and Jewel were contemporaries with Betty for a number of years at Evangel (then College).
“Since I felt a call to the ministry, I wanted to go to Bible College; but my Dad, who often worked bivocationally in ministry, wanted me to go to ‘the new school the Assemblies of God had opened’ so that I would have a degree and could teach in the event I failed in the ministry,” he relayed with a smile.
Wood earned his bachelor’s degree from Evangel in 1962. Then, after earning his doctorate, he returned to teach and serve as director of student life and of spiritual life at Evangel from 1965 to 1971. He has served the church in pastoral and executive leadership positions ever since.
Jewel earned her education degree from Evangel in 1964 and had a career as a music teacher. They have two adult children, Evangeline and George Paul, and four grandchildren.
Trees of Honor
The Trees of Honor project began as an idea formed by a small group of graduates from the early 1960s and took root following Springfield’s Great Ice Storm of 2007. The idea was to help replace lost trees and restore the natural beauty of the campus.
Trees have been planted on Evangel’s campus in acknowledgement of the legacy of service each of the recipients has provided to the university. An engraved bronze plaque is placed at the base of each tree as a permanent tribute to the person being honored.
Evangel University’s unique setting is traced back to World War II, when the land was used as O’Reilly General Hospital. In 1954, parts of the land were awarded to local organizations. The Assemblies of God received a major portion of this land to build its new liberal arts college.
Ninety-three students comprised the first freshman class in 1955. Those “pioneer” students in the first ten years all lived and studied in the former hospital barracks. Evangel’s first permanent building, in 1963, was the Klaude Kendrick Library, named for the school’s first president.
“Today, the Evangel campus covers approximately 100 acres of land, roughly half the area that O’Reilly Hospital once covered,” said Cruz. “At one time, 86 barracks covered our portion of the land. Now, only the original boiler house remains.”
For additional information, contact Paul K. Logsdon at 417-865-2815, ext. 7292.