Our History & Heritage
The Taylor Greats
Since its establishment as Fort Wayne Female College by the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1846, Taylor University has proudly stood for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and hosted countless people who have impacted the world with those same values.
One of the most influential people at Taylor was a young black man with no money in his pockets, just a heart to serve the Lord. God still uses the story and soul of Sammy Morris to bring many to Taylor seeking the same blessing, purpose, and call.
And let’s not forget our missionary namesake, Bishop William Taylor; Thaddeus Reade, who led Taylor through financial difficulty and the move to Upland; and Harold Ockenga, who mentored Billy Graham and whose impact led to launch both Fuller and Gordon-Conwell Seminaries.
The list goes on—from Milo Rediger, who served as a mentor to many during his tenure at Taylor, to Don Odle, whose life-changing encounter with Jesus at Taylor led to the launch of Venture for Victory—one of the first, if not the first, sports evangelism outreach efforts.
Additionally, many Taylor women—such as Alice Hamilton and Olive May Draper—have gone on to do wonderful things for God and His kingdom.
Over nearly two centuries, Taylor’s mission has been passed from generation to generation of students, professors, presidents, and other influential members of our family. We would love to give you a closer look at some of these incredible, God-fearing individuals.
Bishop William Taylor (1821-1902)
With a zeal for preaching, a heart for the lost, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Bishop William Taylor from Rockbridge County, Virginia, was an evangelist, author, and missionary who wholeheartedly believed in following God’s call—no matter the cost.
His journey began in 1843 when he was admitted to the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Church. More than 50 years of missions work and evangelism were soon to follow. He started small, ministering in California to the gold miners and frontiersmen, but by middle-age, Taylor was traveling the world.
He preached in every inhabited continent; pioneered independent missions to Australia, India, Latin America, and Africa; and was the first American missionary bishop to Africa, a position for which he refused the accompanying $3,000 stipend.
Taylor died in Palo Alto, California in 1902 after a lifetime of the Lord’s work. His grave overlooks the San Francisco Bay, and his influence still echoes throughout the halls of Taylor University.
Read more about Bishop William Taylor in Lessons of Infinite Advantage: William Taylor’s California Experiences by Robert F. Lay.
Thaddeus Reade (1846-1902)
In 1891, Taylor University—then located in Fort Wayne—depended on University President Thaddeus Reade to stay open. He played a vital role in maintaining the financial stability of the school by personally funding all operations of the University and moving the school to Upland in 1893.
In 1896 he published Samuel Morris (Prince Kaboo), a detailed biography of Sammy Morris’ incredible tale, from which all profits not only provided Taylor the financial means to stay open, but also aided several hundred international students in attending and gaining an education at Taylor in the following years.
Reade—a loving and humorous, yet firm, man—died in 1902 at his sister’s home, located where Swallow Robin Hall stands today. His grave stands on Taylor’s campus as a monument to the man who kept Taylor alive.
Dr. Milo A. Rediger (1913-1988)
Dr. Milo A. Rediger was the quintessential Taylor man. He graduated from Taylor in 1939 and, after obtaining both Master’s and Doctorate degrees, returned as the Dean of the University and, eventually, president. As scholar, teacher, mentor and administrator, he advanced the growth and welfare of the University through more than four decades of devoted service.
He served as an excellent role model for the Taylor community by dedicating himself to his family, Grant County, and, most importantly, to Jesus Christ. He was constantly striving for mature faith through study and preaching, and his strong belief in personal salvation was clear.
In 1988, Rediger was laid to rest in Jefferson Cemetery near Upland. One look at his legacy and it’s clear he embodied the Taylor mission and gave his life completely to the Lord.
Samuel Morris (1873-1893)
Samuel “Kaboo” Morris, a student from Liberia who attended Taylor University in the late 19th century, continues to touch lives as one of the institution’s most significant individuals.
Samuel’s story is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit. Because he felt the call to attend Taylor, he helped save our university from bankruptcy and extinction. Through this testimony, people from all over the world come to tell how Thaddeus Reade’s Samuel Morris and Jorge Masa’s Angel in Ebony changed their lives.
From Them to You
There are many more instrumental people who have shaped the vision and mission of Taylor University throughout the last 170-plus years. But three things bind all these Taylor heroes together—their heart for God, their urgent pursuit to proclaim the word of God in an atmosphere of faith and learning, and their humble approach to serving those whom God placed in their path.
But our history doesn’t end with these heroes. Today our university holds many stories about current alumni, students, staff, and faculty who are serving each other and the global community. Through war, depression, recession, and tragedy, Taylor University has continued to serve God, our community, and our world.
The point is, it’s the people who make Taylor, Taylor. Our history is their history, and we want you to be a part of this story. If you are a prospective student, and these heroes resonate with you, contact the Admissions Office today to see how you can follow in their footsteps by serving the Lord through your Taylor education and beyond.
If you were at Taylor as a student, faculty member, or staff member, tell us how those at Taylor influenced you and your story. Your stories are our legacy, and our stories will continue to connect us throughout time and space as those with a heart for God and a heart for Taylor.