William Carey College Jubilee
November 15, 2004
OUR YEAR OF JUBILEE
Dr. J. Ralph Noonkester
President Emeritus, William Carey College
THE YEAR OF JUBILEE HAS COME! Blow the trumpets! Today we celebrate the 50 years since the naming of our College for the well-known English Baptist missionary-educator, William Carey.
Our Savior Jesus Christ read the jubilee passage from the Book of Isaiah at the synagogue of Nazareth when He preached “the acceptable year of the Lord” and said, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Yes, Jesus spoke of the year of Jubilee, described in the Book of Leviticus, as an earlier attempt to express the spiritual truth of the Kingdom of God which He came into the world to establish.
Truly, a few of us here today have lived through our College’s first JUBILEE YEAR.
What should you know about the inauguration of this significant year at our school in 1954?
President I. E. Rouse brought Mrs. Noonkester and me to this College in 1952, and I worked with him as Professor of Religion and Dean of the College two years before this significant year of Jubilee began. Mrs. Noonkester served as Registrar of Woman’s College.
Dr. Rouse, the pug-nosed athletic leader, is the one person responsible for the existence of this College today. Had he not fought successfully as the one-man army against those in the early 1950’s who were skeptical regarding the continued existence of this College, then there would be no Baptist college alive and growing across South Mississippi and in other parts of our State.
President Rouse reluctantly came to the conclusion, when re-opening the school in 1946 after a six-year closure, that Woman’s College should become coeducational. After I joined the Rouse team in mid 1952, Sarah Allman Rouse, distinguished spouse of I. E. Rouse, and I became great friends. She was not only wife of the President but also Dean of Women. She lacked a few hours, however, in completing her undergraduate degree. She enrolled in two of my Religion courses to help meet her degree requirements. I spoke at her commencement in the summer of 1956 just before Dr. Rouse retired.
Mrs. Rouse and I exhausted every effort in recruiting women students for the College in 1953. After some discussions with President Rouse, we led him to follow his own line of thinking that a shift to coeducation must be made.
The meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in mid November 1953 will always be etched in my mind. The future of Mississippi Woman’s College was the topic of impassioned discussion throughout the Wednesday session of the convention. It was President Rouse who stood firm against the host of messengers who wanted the school closed or demoted to junior college status as a move toward the elevation of Mississippi College in Clinton as our Convention’s one Baptist university.
The PROVIDENCE OF GOD is best seen in that final convention vote.
I sat in the balcony of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, throughout the Wednesday morning’s fierce debate when the three options were put to a vote.
You see on your program today that on the first ballot the vote was as follows:
------- close the College on June 30, 1954 - 132
------- reorganize the College as a coed Junior College - 336
------- reorganize the College as a coed senior College - 373
------- a total of 841 cast ballots.
During the afternoon session a heated discussion on the two options of demoting the school to junior college status or approving coed status for the four-year college continued.
By mid-afternoon almost 250 of the opponents of the College had exited. When the final vote was taken and nervously counted, of the 595 casting ballots, a majority of 13 votes (291 to 304) continued our existence as a four-year coeducational school.
My few Woman’s College colleagues and I came home to Hattiesburg rejoicing. I was rebuking myself for a lack of faith. The bells were ringing on the campus and a Hallelujah Chorus was sung with more feeling than ever before.
The next necessary move was to find an appropriate new name for Mississippi Woman’s College turned coed.
Again, Dr. Rouse gets the credit for the choice of the appropriate name, William Carey College.
Again, I joined forces with Sarah Allman Rouse in planting ideas in her husband’s head.
Dr. Rouse was often heard to say, “I, and I alone, have the power.” We knew we could quietly influence him, however.
I had a strong conviction that any local or regional designation should be avoided in the new name. In my doctoral program in Comparative Religion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I had been steeped in that Missions Department in the study of William Carey, Father of Modern Missions among Protestant churches. With Mrs. Rouse’s concurrence, I told Dr. Rouse that I strongly felt that the College’s name should reflect identification with the broad, deep, and determined mission of William Carey of Serampore.
We researched the honoring of William Carey throughout the world to see if other institutions had taken Carey’s name. We were amazed that no college or university in our world at that time had taken Carey’s name.
After all of this effort had been put forth by Mrs. Rouse and me, “we left it in the Lord’s hands.” We knew that after fervent prayer Dr. Rouse would finally make the right decision concerning the name!
It was he, and he alone, who chose the name, William Carey College and of, course, the Board of Trustees would, without dissent, approve his choice.
Dr. Rouse told us many times that it was while he was walking and praying at nighttime on the back wooded campus that he received from God, in a mystical experience, the revelation that the name must be William Carey College.
There was an ironic aftermath to such momentous decision-making. The official naming of the College took place after the newly-organized football team beat Millsaps College in their first game. The folks at Millsaps must have been as eager as we were for the name change to William Carey, for it cannot have been very inspiring to lose a football game to Mississippi Woman’s College!
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