The School That Vision Built: The Expansion Years 1940-Until Christ Returns
The Expansion Years: 1940-Until Christ Returns
Relative calm ruled the Nyack campus for the twenty-year period of 1919 to 1939. Nowhere was the sound of major construction heard. The hum of school life continued on a level pitch consistent with the student population that varied little from year to year.
Before anything else could happen, the question of relocation had to be settled. The existing campus was considered inadequate for expansion and the buildings were showing their age.
The Board sent a search team into New York and Pennsylvania to find a suitable college campus for sale. A property in Meyerstown, Pennsylvania, was chosen for consideration because of its large size and convenient location. But after considerable study, the Board decided that the school should remain in Nyack.
Expansion in Many Directions
The first thing that happened was a revival. The student population for the 1940-41 academic year totaled 395, the largest enrollment in twenty years. The young people had no sooner settled in for the year when revival broke out.
The president described the spiritual phenomenon in his annual report: “At the first series in September, which was preceded by a week of prayer, the Spirit of God was so manifest in our midst that upon the third evening of the services the alter began to full up at the singing of the first hymn. The song leader turned to Brother [Howard E.] Nelson and, choking back his sobs, said ‘I cannot lead the singing any longer; I must go to the alter too.’
That same year the school acquired land and property on the north side of the campus. It cost the former owners $110,500, but the school paid only $24,000. Moseley immediately capitalized on this bargain by implementing plans first conceived in 1937 for a women’s dormitory.
Dr. Moseley enlisted the faculty and students in his crusade of expansion. Reverend George D. Strohm, Professor Lee Olson and thirty-five selected members of the school chorus and orchestra left on March 9 for the first of many annual sacred concert tours that made Nyack familiar to churches along the eastern seaboard.
Without the help of these and other talented people, Dr. Moseley could not have accomplished half of what he did – and this he gladly acknowledged.
Other notable events happened that first electrifying year of the new administration. The strict, artificial division of the sexes was abolished, and a new spirit like fresh spring air breathed through the school.
The “north and south road rule” meant that the young men could exercise on the north road and the young ladies on the south road one day and then they could switch for the following day. Since the north road meant downtown Nyack, the two sexes theoretically could not even be together off campus.
Another change may have been greeted with more reserve. The revised three-year curriculum added nearly 500 more hours of classroom work. “Realizing that they get one month more schooling each year,” the president reasoned, the students “are glad to pay the extra fees.”
Curriculum and Accreditation
By 1942 student enrollment had climbed to a high of 414. Perhaps it was the growing success of the rejuvenated Institute that emboldened Dr. Moseley to fire opening salvos on two new fronts the following year.
Those were brave words, and they stirred considerable debate. But by 1945, Nyack had a four-year course of study in each of the departments of theology, missions, Christian education and music.
Dr. Moseley outlined the reasons for this basic change of curriculum: “For several years an average 40 percent of the graduating class has taken up advanced work elsewhere in either colleges or seminaries and it is estimated that 75 percent of such graduates never return as official workers of the Society.
“The express purpose of the enlarged curriculum is that Alliance students who feel led of God to continue their education may do so in the spiritual atmosphere at Nyack and thus be saved for leadership in our own Society.”
The second front opened by Dr. Moseley in 1943 in his campaign to upgrade the Institute concerned accreditation. He noted that students from a sister institution in the state could get credit for two years of university study out of their three years of Bible school, while Nyack students could get none. “It is not fair to our present student body,” he warned, “and is keeping some of the best Alliance young people from attending Nyack.”
After considerable debate, General Council and the Board of Managers agreed and gave the school permission to seek state recognition. A provisional charter was granted in 1944 by the New York State Department of Education. It was only the first step in a campaign to gain the full recognition of Nyack in the academic community.
One requirement of the New York State Regents posed a special problem for the Institute, whose students and alumni seemed to be blessed in every way but finances. The regents required a half-million dollar endowment fund before giving an institution proper recognition.
The department of education agreed to waive the requirement of an endowment fund provided the school annually secured $20,000 from outside sources for its operations. Beginning in 1946, the Living Endowment Fund became a familiar feature of Nyack, and the goal of $20,000 an annual challenge to faith and giving on the part of the Nyack Alumni Association and friends of the school.
Enrollment kept growing as word spread about the exciting things happening at Nyack. The 1943-44 school year hit a new record of attendance: 454. The war, however, was taking its toll among the young men. Before 1940, the average enrollment of men at the Institute was 40 percent; for the 1942-3 academic year it dropped to 33 percent; the 1944-45 attendance was expected to be about 25 percent.
Young women kept applying for admission in such numbers that some had to be turned away. This fact made a strong case for the new women’s dormitory. Before the first spade of dirt was turned, $231,000 had been pledged or received in cash – this within weeks of a war that had threatened the very existence of the nation.
On September 9, 1945, at the ground-breaking ceremony, Dr. Moseley said he was hopeful the remaining $85,000 would be raised before Christie Hall was completed.
Then Dr. Shuman, president of the C&MA, with characteristic aplomb, removed his coat “and plunging his spade into the ground, raised it high and let the brown earth cascade down in a stream that brought rejoicing to all hearts.”
The completed residence hall was dedicated on December 7, 1946 – too late for 330 applicants who had been turned down for admission, but in good time for 196 young women to take up residence for the new year. The total school population for the academic year was a record 517.
During the same period the Institute was granted a charter by the State of New York. The school’s name appeared for the first time in the State of Education Handbook. Transfer students from Nyack could now get credit at other schools for courses taken. War veterans attending the Institute could now receive government aid for tuition and living expenses.
Even before Sky Island was renamed Shuman Hall and converted into a library and administrative center, the school moved toward an even larger acquisition of property: The Clarkstown Country Club.
The estate had a checkered history dating back to the early 1920s when Dr. Pierre Bernard bought it from a former Episcopalian nun. He turned it into something like Fantasy Island, a center where the wealthy of New York – including two Vanderbilts – could relax or exercise, practice yoga or watch the club’s small elephant herd parade.
Institute alumni, however, had other plans for the so-called “India Center.” For fifteen years they prayed that the center would become useful for the Lord. Their prayers were answered in 1956 when the sixteen-acre estate and numerous buildings were purchased by the school. The main building was renamed Moseley Hall and used at first as a dormitory for freshman men. Eventually a wing was added and all the men students from aging Simpson were transferred to Moseley Hall.
Purchase of the Clarkstown Country Club tended to overshadow other significant events in 1956. The long-standing name of the school was changed from the Missionary Training Institute to Nyack Missionary College. During the year also, a sixteen-unit hall, Dunbar Hall, was built for married students with families, in anticipation that Wilson and Bissell, wooden structures used originally for the Wilson Memorial Academy and then as married students’ quarters, would be razed.
The club property was Dr. Moseley’s last major acquisition for the college before he retired in 1958. During his eighteen years of administration the school grew from eleven to sixty-five acres with three major building additions; from a student body of under 400 to one over 500; from a training school with no official standing to a college in good standing with the New York State Board of Regents and the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges; from a one-course curriculum to four.
Building and acres are tangibles that can be measured, but Dr. Moseley’s impact on the students was incalculable. One of his favorite expressions was, “Get the fire down in your heart,” and he prayed every day for every student by name that just such an experience would be theirs.
Dr. Leslie Flynn wrote, “Probably the main reason he was selected for the presidency of Nyack was his fervency for missions. Considering himself first of all a missionary, he confesses that his only justification for coming to the Missionary Training Institute was to do more for missions by throwing his lot in with a school dedicated to the task of training missionaries.”
When several of the faculty and staff went to the mission field through his influence, the dean cautioned him, “You’d better stop preaching missions or we’ll have no staff.”
Dr. Moseley’s only comment was, “Glory!”
That was probably also his first word when he entered the immediate presence of God in December of 1959.
All Recognition Possible
“He will do a fine job. He has grown up with us,” remarked Dr. Moseley concerning his successor as president of the college. Dr. Harold W. Boon did more than grow with the school. He had had a large part in making it grow during his eighteen years of close association with Dr. Moseley.
Dr. Boon interrupted his ministry at Nyack to serve as a Navy chaplain during World War II. Returning to Nyack in 1948, he became dean of the faculty while pursuing graduate studies at New York University. In 1950 he received his doctor of philosophy degree and soon after was appointed vice-president of the college. He became acting president when Dr. Moseley retired and was elected by the Board of Managers to a regular three-year term in 1959.
Having worked in close harmony with Dr. Moseley for eighteen years, he moved smoothly into leadership of the school and carried out the projects and policies that had proven such a winning combination since 1940: better and higher education with a deep, continuing commitment to evangelical faith and biblical ministry.
Dr. Boon maintained the policy of his predecessor to win for Nyack the accreditation necessary for the college and its graduates to be accepted in the academic community. Dr. Moseley, in fact, leaned heavily upon him to secure that first and critical recognition by the New York State Board of Regents.
For Dr. Boon, that was only the first step. He knew that regional accreditation was equally as important if Nyack transfer students and graduates were to be given a fair and full consideration by schools outside of New York.
That recognition could only come from the Middle States Accrediting Association. An evaluating committee had already visited the campus in 1955. Schools were rarely accepted after the first examination, and the Nyack faculty was prepared for this.
That “later date” came in 1958, and the school hoped that the accreditation would be an accolade on the long tenure of Dr. Moseley. The eight-member team of Middle States examiners came in January, met with the entire faculty, then with individual members. Next they met with the Board of Trustees and, lastly, with some of the students.
Dr. Moseley expressed the hope the school would win recognition this time, “but if we do not meet our goal this time,” he said with his precise English-accented determination, “we will continue to make progress until we do.”
Dr. Boon had to make good on that promise because his predecessor did not live to see it fulfilled. And as Dr. Moseley had looked to him to “carry the ball” for accreditation, now President Boon leaned on Dean Thomas Bailey to achieve the highest accreditation for the college.
It took four more years of raising the level of the school before Dr. Boon could report, “we give praise to God that on July 2, 1962, Nyack Missionary College was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges with no change in its emphasis or basic objectives.”
Alumni of the college will forever be grateful to these men for their spiritual and academic leadership.
Still Dr. Boon persisted in securing the kind of accreditation that would give Nyack students the best advantages in pursuing their education elsewhere. On June 24, 1963, the American Council of Education elected Nyack College as a member of their association.
Then Dr. Boon was finally able to say, “In 1941 when the college authorities went to Albany for a charter, the Board of Regents scarcely knew the school existed. Today we have all the accreditation we could possibly get.”
Problems of Growth
The increased credibility of Nyack as an educational institution drew students to the hillside in growing numbers. When Dr. Boon assumed the presidency in 1957, enrollment was over 500. By 1965, it had climbed to 650. Ten years later, the combined student population of the college and graduate school reached 758.
Complicating these major needs was a traditional policy that major construction projects were given attention one at a time. Each project had to be paid for before another could be started.
So, first came the addition to Moseley Hall to bring out all the students from Simpson hall, on the verge of being condemned by the fire marshal. No sooner was the addition paid for in 1967 when plans were drawn for a student center.
A gymnasium-field house edged out the student center in priority listing because an anonymous “seed money” gift was given to get it started. The gym, however, was completed only months ahead of the new student center in 1969.
Within a five-year period Nyack had spent $750,000 – three-quarters of a million dollars – on construction and renovation. The projects, however, were carefully studied and carried out.
Dr. Boon pointed out that “with the exception of the gymnasium, all major improvements have been replacements for buildings constructed during Dr. Simpson’s days, which have been condemned by local authorities as being unsafe. The college has had no alternative but to step out in faith and believe God for the replacing of these condemned buildings.”
Friends of Nyack respected this kind of careful management and responded handsomely. A Journal News article in August of 1968 noted that the school had more than doubled in size since 1940, but was debt free. The reporter wrote, “A sample of the kind of Boon administration at Nyack Missionary College is the paying off in 4-1/2 years of a 15-year, $400,000 loan taken out in 1962 for the college’s new dormitory wing. A total of $750,000 in capital notes has been paid off in six years.”
An audit evaluation of the campus in 1969 put the total value of its buildings and grounds at $4,683,138.00.
The steady flow of financial support coming to the school originated mostly in churches and from individuals who could afford only small donations. An anonymous gift of $300,000 in 1969 was remarkable not only for its size but also for the fact that it so rarely happened.
The one seeming setback to the sustained development of the buildings and grounds came in 1971, when a fire caused extensive damage to Pardington Hall. Even that was only a temporary inconvenience because gifts and insurance covered the repair bill of $80,000 – and the restored area was the best looking part of the building.
Academic and Spiritual Balance
Dr. Simpson’s insistent plea in the early 1900s for a graduate-level training school for Christian workers finally bore fruit in September, 1960. The Jaffray School of Missions was only a one-year, post-baccalaureate course to prepare students for ministry overseas. But it was a start in the right direction.
Some changes were even an improvement on the way things “used to be.” The Friday night missionary service was moved up to a Friday morning extended chapel time so that students working nights or leaving for weekend assignments would not miss out on the inspiration of the meetings.
In the best of years, World Missions in Review (the 1980s version of Congress of Bands) drew upwards of four thousand people to Lincoln Center in New York. But by taking the service on the road to key cities, WMIR conveyed its message to twice as many people.
In April of 1978, for example, the WMIR program was presented first at Nyack before 1,750 people. Then the students took their message to Harrisburg, Akron and Pittsburgh, to thousands of young people and adults that would not otherwise have been so challenged.
The man largely responsible for many of these changes relinquished the post of president in 1975. Dr. Harold W. Boon had amply fulfilled the commendation of his predecessor: “He has the qualifications and the vision to carry out the program.”
Nyack College had greatly changed during the Boon administration. And yet it remained reassuringly the same.
Assuring Continued Growth
After graduating from the Missionary Training Institute in 1939, he pastored two churches and then returned to school to earn a B.A. degree with honors at Taylor University.
Dr. Bailey’s next move was to the United States Army, where he served overseas as a chaplain in both World War II and during the Korean conflict. Discharged from active duty after the Korean war, he continued in the Army Reserves and retired in 1978 with the rank of Colonel.
After earning an M.A. degree from Columbia he joined the faculty at Nyack in 1947. He later earned an M. Phil. Degree from Columbia University and received an LL.D. from his alma mater, Taylor. He was appointed to the academic deanship when Dr. Boon moved to the president’s office.
Faced with a chronic shortage of housing as student quarters reached 120 percent of capacity, the Board proposed that a residence hall be built that would provide adequate space for the school year and facilities for a continuing education program.
The engineers discovered an unexpected asset of the building: the massive timbers and basic structure, seasoned over many years, were stronger than when the building was first constructed.
The Board reasoned that renovating Simpson Hall made sense from several angles. It was saving money, since the basic structure was already in place. The stately building, one of the largest and oldest Victorian-style structures along the Hudson River, was an architectural centerpiece that would be an asset to the campus. And, not incidentally, the renovated building would alleviate the space shortage by housing over 170 students and providing needed classrooms and study areas.
The next step was to take the project to the alumni and friends of Nyack. The response was gratifying. A large volume of checks and donations converged on the school. Although many of the gifts were small, and the total response fell short of the need, the obvious grassroots support for the project gave promise of more financial backing in days to come to finish the project.
Vision Fully Realized
There was one more academic advance to be made, and in 1977 Dr. Bailey negotiated with the New York State Education Department for the launching of the full three-year seminary program leading to the master of divinity degree. The name of the graduate division was then changed to Alliance Theological Seminary.
Dr. Wendell Price was named director of the graduate division under the president. Having recently received his doctorate in ministries from the San Francisco Theological Seminary, and having pastored several thriving Alliance churches, Dr. Price brought new assets to an already strong school.
The change at the seminary necessitated another visit by a team of examiners from the Middle States Accrediting Association. Unlike an earlier era when such a visit caused grave concern, approval of the changes by the accrediting association was awaited as a matter of course.
Despite the changes in curriculum – or, more likely, because of them – Nyack continued to rank first among Alliance schools producing missionaries, pastors, and Christian educators of the C&MA. From 1970 to 1978, the college and seminary prepared 134 young people for work overseas and 156 for ministry in North America, over 100 more accredited candidates than the next highest total among the sister schools of the Alliance.
These figures say something about the school, and about Dr. A. B. Simpson, the founder whose vision and values continue long years after his death to shape its character.
“But no statistical exhibit can fully represent the results of the past decades,” he once wrote. “Figures and even words cannot express the fruitage of these years. The transformed lives of the students themselves, the conversion of sinners and the edification and healing of believers under their ministry, the dissemination of the glorious truths of the Fourfold Gospel, the quickening in a measure of the church at home, and the dispelling in some degree of the darkness of heathenism – these are some of the incalculable blessings to which the school has both directly and indirectly contributed.”
That was the vision Dr. Simpson lived to see fulfilled. That is Nyack College today. And with God’s help, that is the way Nyack will always be.
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© 1982 & 2007 Nyack College. Text by Robert L. Niklaus '55.