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Trees of Honor celebration at Evangel University, Oct. 4

Published on Sep 18, 2019 by Paul K. Logsdon


Honoring “Dorm Mothers” from the pioneer years


SPRINGFIELD, MO — The early students, faculty and staff at Evangel University — those who studied and worked there between 1955 and 1965 — are affectionately known as “The Pioneers.”

The teachers and administrators came from other colleges and universities to help make the dream of an Assemblies of God liberal arts college come to fruition. The students came seeking a quality education, built on the integration of faith, learning and life, with faith that someday their degrees would be accredited.

During a special Homecoming ’19 celebration on Friday, October 4, the Evangel University family will celebrate the service of 10 special pioneer women, the “Dorm Mothers” during those first 10 years.

A special Trees of Honor ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. for these beloved ladies, in the lobby of the Riggs Hall Administration Building.

The event is free and open to the public. Riggs Hall faces 1111 N. Glenstone Ave., by the flagpole.


Trees of Honor

The Trees of Honor project began as an idea formed by a small group of students from 1955 to 1965 known as “The Pioneers,” and it took root following Springfield’s great ice storm of 2007. Their idea was to help replace lost trees and restore the natural beauty of the campus.

“With this unique ceremony, there will be 45 people who have been honored this way,” said Hector Cruz, director of alumni engagement. “An engraved bronze plaque is placed at the base of each tree as a permanent tribute to the person or persons being honored.”





The Dorm Mothers

This was the year of the dorm mothers, and the Trees of Honor nomination process brought warm memories from numerous members of the early classes of Evangel College.

• “I nominate Mom Spence because she was my Dorm Mom when I arrived at Evangel in 1956,” said retired Navy Captain Paul Canady of Yuma, Arizona. “She was a wonderful, caring, dedicated lady who truly cared for and took an active interest in all of us, whether homesick, ill, confused about life — even finances to pay for our education, Mom Spence was there for us, day or night! I focus on Mom Spence because she was the one I knew best and interacted with the most. That being said, I think all Pioneer Dorm Moms should be included in the Trees of Honor project.”

• Retired professor Dr. V. Wayne Klemin, class of 1964, wrote from Eugene, Oregon. “They gave students spiritual guidance, personal counseling, discipline and friendship. My dorm mom, Inez Spence, helped me make the transition from military life to university life. And on a personal note, Mom Spence introduced me to my wife!”

Marie (Hubbell) Roberts of St. Charles, Missouri, and a member of the class of ’63, said, “They were our lifeline to our new world. For many of us, this was our first time to be on our own and away from our parents and homes. They were our go-to persons for just about everything outside the academic realm.”

Hubert Morris is a retired pastor and former vice president of Evangel University. “When I entered Evangel in 1961, I had driven 1,100 miles from home in North Carolina. I had never been that far from home before. Mom Mullen made me feel welcomed and helped me not look back,” he said. “She gave me confidence that I had made the right decision to come to Evangel and that God would make Evangel a stepping stone for His will in my life. Mom Mullen was a godly woman and gracious in the way she handled us students. I will NEVER forget her.

Dr. George Wood grew up as a missionary kid in China and recently retired as the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God. He fondly remembers the impact of those ladies. “I was in the 4th graduating class — 1962. Dorm mothers like Mom McClellan, Mom Mullins, Mom Stinchcomb, Mom Spence and others made a monumental contribution to all our lives.”

Dr. Cody Pelham of Front Royal, Virginia, is a member of the class of ’63. “They were not administrators or academics, but were loving caregivers who eased our transition into college life, gave comfort in times of distress, extended counsel and encouragement and fulfilled for many the role of surrogate mothers and mentors. Louise Mullen was the dorm mother who became a beloved figure in my life and who contributed as much as any other person to my growth as a student and as a person.”


The honorees for this fall

Inez Spence: 1957-1965

Margaret Stinchcomb: 1957-1965

Grace Walther: 1957-1958 (She also served on faculty)

Mrs. Robert Harris: 1959

Francis Johnson: 1959-1960

Beatrice McClellan: 1959-1960

Louise Mullen: 1960-1965

Edna Garvin: 1960-1965

Edna Perry: 1960-1965

Hester Downey: 1964


Who are The Pioneers?

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 10 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. At one time, 86 barracks covered our portion of the land.

Now, only the original boiler house remains, and thanks to men and women like these pioneers, the current students have excellent, modern academic and performance facilities in which to build for their futures.

Evangel University, which includes the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel serves more than 2,100 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 65 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.