The Taylor University Heritage
From its inception almost 160 years ago, Taylor University has been a Christian institution with a global outreach. Its namesake, Bishop William Taylor, was a nineteenth century Methodist
Up to his time, perhaps no other evangelists except the Apostle Paul and John Wesley exceeded the 250,000 miles of travel which Taylor accomplished as he preached the gospel on six continents.
Among the earliest students was Samuel Morris, a young African prince and liberated slave. Prior to his untimely death in 1893, Morris inspired his classmates with a desire to go to Africa to share the gospel.
By the 1880’s, a significant number of Taylor’s alumni were becoming missionaries, many choosing to take up the Morris challenge and go to Africa.
The missionary zeal carried over into the twentieth century when a chapter of the Student Volunteer Movement was founded at Taylor and served as the inspirational launching point for many young missionaries who served as evangelists, administrators, teachers, and medical workers. Among these early Taylor educated missionaries were Susan and John Wengatz whose work in Angola and Liberia resulted in the founding of over 30 churches, 44 schools, and some 44,000 converts.
Another distinctive form of global outreach was in Taylor University’s pioneering role in athletics as a form of evangelism. In 1952, basketball coach Don Odle formed his first Venture for Victory team which toured Taiwan to play basketball and share the gospel.
Other schools joined the effort in the years ahead and ultimately formed the basis for Overseas Crusade Mission. Wandering Wheels, begun in 1964 by Bob Davenport, was also a Taylor inspired athletic outreach that took bicyclists across the nation and around the world.
As the number of students participating in global outreach expanded, the need to coordinate efforts led to the founding of Taylor World Outreach in 1968. Today, TWO sponsors as many as 400 students, faculty and staff per year in outreaches in the U.S. and abroad during spring break and summer. In 1969, Taylor adopted a January Interterm which afforded enough time for students to participate in J-Term programs under the auspices of Lighthouse, a significant part of TWO. Most recently (January of 2007) some 97 students and 13 sponsors went on mission trips to Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Northern Ireland, SE Asia and Trinidad.
In addition, up to 150 Taylor students per year participate in study abroad programs sponsored by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities or the Christian College Coalition. In Spring semester of 2007, Taylor students could be found in such diverse places as Australia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Tanzania.
In late 2005, Taylor University was the recipient of a generous gift from Taylor alumnus Mrs. Cindy Spencer Marrelli. The gift was specifically designated for the creation of a program at the university which would continue TU’s long heritage of impacting the world. In keeping with university President Eugene Habecker’s Vision 2016 which includes the desire to establish ten centers at the Upland campus, it was decided by the Board of Trustees to endow the Spencer Centre for Global Engagement. An additional gift from the Lilly Foundation plus matching funds have provided a solid financial foundation for the SCGE.
As of June 1, 2007, the SCGE is being directed by the inspiring leadership of Dr. Chris Bennett, Dean of International Programs and Director of the Spencer Centre for Global Engagement. Dr. Bennett brings to the position a wealth of experience in business, academic and global affairs.
Thus, the creation of the Spencer Centre for Global Engagement is a natural step in a long continuum of global activities that is so much a part of Taylor University’s heritage. The SCGE will launch the University into a new phase of world impact in a century of globalization. In so doing, Taylor University will fulfill its rich heritage as a premier, globally engaged Christian institution of higher learning.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Taylor University: The First 150 Years by William C. Ringenberg. Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996.
- God’s Ordinary People: No Ordinary Heritage by Jessica L. Rousselow and Alan H. Winquist. Taylor University Press, Upland, Indiana, 1996.
- Coach Odle’s Full Court Press: Taylor University and Sports Evangelism by Jessica Rousselow-Winquist and Alan Winquist. Taylor University Press, Upland, Indiana, 2001.