Judson College memories: Former professor reflects on tenure

Photo by Cynthia Watts

Judson College memories: Former professor reflects on tenure

By Jerry Henry
Former chair of the religion department, Judson College

Memories stir our emotions. Good memories stay with us and arouse feelings that make the past situation a delight to remember. On the other hand, bad memories are like a jack-in-the-box that keeps reminding us of painful regrets.

My memories of being chairman of the religion department at Judson College are such wonderful memories. The likelihood of the college being closed is such a painful one.

I was blessed with a grandmother who was strong in her faith. She was a Judson graduate with a major in chemistry and physics. She met my granddaddy at the train station in Marion. He was a railroad engineer with an eighth grade education, and he saw in that Judson girl someone to share life together. Whenever I pass that old station, I remember.

My position at Judson began in President John McCrummen’s office. As a man of deep faith, he offered me an opportunity to teach young women God’s word. When I said yes, we knelt in his office, and he prayed a prayer over me that only a devout soldier of Christ could pray. It was a heaven-come-down-and-glory-fill-the-soul moment.

My prayer was that I could inspire students to grasp the academic side of the Bible and personally follow the spiritual pull of discipleship. The opportunity was beyond my resources, but God answered both prayers in surprising ways that still bring joy to my heart.

Student interactions

One summer session, I was teaching the missionary journeys of Paul. After lunch was a difficult time to keep the girls’ attention. I could tell that my lecture notes were receiving blank stares. (Every professor has experienced those moments).

To lighten the atmosphere, I asked a question: “In some cultures, men have several wives, and women have several husbands. Could you handle several husbands?” One student’s answer was classic: “The question is, could they handle me?” That moment brings a smile to my heart.

The classroom was a place of instruction and my office was a place of Christian counseling. One afternoon, there was a knock on my door.  Philia, a Nigerian exchange student, was there. She was overwhelmed with the demands of her studies as well as missing her family in a far away land. In fact, she was on the verge of giving up and going home.

My office became a prayer meeting as we put gender, race and class differences aside and prayed for God’s strength to endure. Her graduation was a special moment for me as she headed back to her homeland to teach children the knowledge she had gained at Judson.

It was also in my office that I met with a young lady who had brought her boyfriend. His name was Andre, and he had come from France to attend Marion Military Institute.

He shared how he had seen Christ in her life and wanted Christ in his. A young man was born into the kingdom of God because of the witness of a Judson student. What a special memory!

So many memories with such a short space. These include filled classrooms, the searching questions asked about God’s word and the graduates as young women going out to influence a culture. Some became professionals in their field of giftedness, some became wives and mothers and some were both. I was given the opportunity to make God’s word an exciting part of their lives.

Those initial prayers in President McCrummen’s office were answered. What great memories!

Finding new hope

It is sad that Judson’s influence upon the coming generation of young women seems to be coming to an end. An environment that has impacted so many Judson graduates will be unavailable to many who need a gender environment that Judson could provide.

Perhaps some will need to be inspired to contribute to a revival.

Jeremiah 29:11 was given to a nation that seemed to have lost hope of a future. However, in God’s hands what was a bad memory developed into a good memory. He can do the same with Judson College.

EDITOR’S NOTE — View a gallery of photos from May 22’s Judson College alumnae event at tabonline.org/judson-goodbye.