Copyright © Philadelphia Church of God
The reader will remember that a few of the Church members at Eugene opposed the founding of the college. When I signed the lease-and-option contract to purchase the first 2¼-acre block of our college campus, they screamed, “Armstrong extravagance!”
And yet, we were actually being paid $100 per month for the privilege of becoming owner of this $100,000 estate!
Here is how it worked out. Our office staff had finally enlarged at Eugene to a payroll of 15 people. The office space had expanded until we were paying $350 per month rent. Also I was having to spend money for the broadcast line between my office and Portland—and also for the frequent trips then necessary to Hollywood for recording. But, most of all, the fees for recording were running up to several hundred dollars per month.
When the new college was opened I went, for a few months at first, from Pasadena to Hollywood to record the program. But within a very short time we had remodeled the northwest corner of the second floor of our library-classroom building into our own radio studio. We purchased two secondhand recording lathes. My son Dick became our first radio studio operator. We began making our own recordings. The only cost, now, was the slight amount of electric power, and the cost of the blank acetate discs.
The savings—actual reductions in necessary expenditures for the operation of the broadcast work—amounted to $1,100 per month! That figure I do remember—definitely!
Out of that saving we paid the $1,000 per month payments on the property, and came out $100 per month to the good!
It was one or two years after we began doing our own broadcast recording in our own studio that tape recording came along. The more cumbersome electrical transcription method was made obsolete. We purchased two good-quality tape recorders at the start. Later we installed the large top-quality Ampex recorders—the same equipment used in large network headquarters. Gradually, as the number of stations increased, more and more of these had to be added.
The radio studio served also as a classroom for students.
During 1952, you will remember, for the first time in the history of this Work, we had been able to publish a 16-page magazine every month. Ten of those were the Good News, which had been introduced as a temporary stopgap, written and edited by students as well as myself.
The radio log published in the January 1953 issue shows that we were by then on 11 radio stations. We had gone back on two more of the superpower border stations—xelo and xerb, besides xeg. The number of stations was growing gradually. Every phase of the Work was growing.
During the year 1953 we were able to publish a 16-page magazine every month except December. The first five issues were all of the Good News. However, by this time Herman L. Hoeh, my son Dick, Roderick C. Meredith and others had graduated, and had sufficient experience writing articles that I felt there was no need to continue the Good News as a college magazine for co-workers, substituting for the Plain Truth, any longer.
Beginning with the June number, 1953, I began once again to offer the Plain Truth, over the air, to all listeners. I now had the editorial help of a handful of college graduates and advanced students. So, it might be said that the present subscription list of the Plain Truth actually began with the issue of June 1953.
But some very tremendous leaps of progress were taken with the broadcasting program during 1953.
Beginning the first Thursday in that year, which was January 1, The World Tomorrow leaped to Europe. The door of the most powerful radio station on Earth swung open. The same gospel Jesus Christ taught His disciples went to Europe with power for the first time in 18½ centuries!
That gospel was first preached by the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, a.d. 31. Nineteen years later, a.d. 50, “a door” was opened to the Apostle Paul to preach that gospel in Europe for the first time.
Just as a door was opened for the gospel to go to Europe, in the first century, after 19 years, so a door was opened for the same gospel to go to Europe in our time, after 19 years!
For the past few years, as I now write in January 1964, I have been assuming we started on Radio Luxembourg on the first Monday in 1953. Looking into the radio log of the Good News for February 1953, I am reminded that we did not get to start on the medium-wave band, known as 208, on Radio Luxembourg at that time. That came later. We started on a long-wave band, and the time was 4:15 to 4:45 p.m., Thursdays.
The lead front-page article in that February number was captioned: “Now on the Air—Over All Europe!”
Another article reported that on the preceding December 20 (1952), five young ministers had been fully ordained.
Then it was reported in the next paragraph, that two more of our young ministers “will be fully ordained following their graduation from the college January 30, 1953.”
When it was written only five had been ordained. But, before the magazine was printed and reached its readers, the other two also had been ordained.
Was I crazy to start a liberal arts coeducational college? There was no fund of several million dollars for such a project. There was no fund of even several hundred dollars. For this purpose, there was no fund—period! At all!
There was no endowment. There was no sponsoring philanthropist.
There was opposition. There were obstacles. They piled up mountain high. There were problems, seemingly unsolvable.
But there was something else. There was vision. There was clear and definite realization of the imperative need. And there was faith and determination; a sense of mission, a fired-up zeal and energy that refused to be defeated or to quit.
I think most anyone would say that a man would be either crazy or a fool to attempt to found a college under those circumstances. It costs money to operate a college. No college can finance its operations by income from tuitions and fees. These pay for only a part—and often a small part—of the costs of conducting a college.
State colleges and universities are financed by the taxes of the people. Privately owned colleges are financed by large endowments, and contributions from successful and prosperous alumni, by foundations, and commercial or industrial corporations who have an interest in what such colleges can do for them.
We had to pay taxes, not receive them. That is, until the college was established, incorporated, and recognized by the state a few years later. Then we were granted tax exemption on properties used exclusively for college educational purposes. We had no endowment or hope of any. We had no alumni, wealthy or otherwise. No large business corporations had any interest in supporting our kind of college.
We had a radio broadcast—but that cost money. We had nothing to sell, made no appeal for contributions. Rather we constantly offered absolutely free literature. We published a monthly magazine—whenever funds permitted, only it was not coming out monthly then, because funds did not permit! There was no subscription price—no advertising revenue.
Here we had no visible source of income. No one owed us anything. We had no accounts receivable. We were on the giving end, with no assurance except faith there would be anything to give.
You might try this experiment. Go interview 100 college or university presidents. Briefly state the circumstances given above. Ask each what he would think of any man who would attempt to found a new college—especially a man who was devoid of any experience whatsoever as an educator—under those conditions. I’m quite sure every appraisal—if each college president did not call you a fool for even asking such a question—would be that such a man would be either an idiot, a fool or insane.
But, of course, there is one other factor. One I’m equally certain none of these college presidents would grasp.
This is the Work of God
That statement, too, would, of course, be foolishness to such men. I knew there had to be the college or God’s Work could not grow. Therefore I knew it was God’s will. And since it was His will, I had the power of the limitless universe back of it! I had the assurance of faith!
During our first college year, early in 1948, I attended a convention of the college and university presidents of the nation, in Chicago. Besides general plenary sessions, there were morning and afternoon special group meetings most days, during the convention. I attended the meetings of the group devoted to study and discussion of college financing—attended mostly by presidents, with a few controllers or business managers, of privately owned institutions.
I already knew that most privately owned colleges faced extreme financial difficulties. These sessions put loud emphasis on that knowledge. Many of these college heads were desperate. All or nearly all wanted federal government aid, and devoted most of the discussions to ideas and methods for obtaining it. For several sessions I remained silent and listened. In the end, however, I think I convinced them they didn’t really want government help after all. It would mean, inevitably, government supervision, regulation and interference as well. When government, big business or foundations put large chunks of money in a college, they first assure themselves that they are buying policymaking prerogatives. The institution is no longer free.
Ambassador College never has, and never will, sell out to such influences. Ambassador College is not a Bible school. The campuses are not “religious colleges.” They are straight educational liberal arts institutions. But they are guided by God’s principles as those principles apply to general cultural education. And they rely solely on God Almighty, in living faith, as their sole source of financial support! Of course, we are well aware that, if God sponsors and finances us, He is going to insist upon directing our policies—just as human government, corporations or foundations see to it that they pretty largely direct the policies of institutions they finance. We know well that if Ambassador College departs from God’s ways and policies, God’s financial sponsorship will stop forthwith.
But that’s precisely the way we want it! And that is the real reason for the miraculous, almost incredible success of these institutions! God Almighty will back financially—to an extent almost beyond human belief—any person or institution that will place himself or itself unreservedly and vigorously under His direction!
Now, of course, there have been problems—obstacles—oppositions—persecutions—setbacks. It hasn’t been easy! God doesn’t make it easy to go His way. Jesus Christ taught us to count the cost! We have to learn that God does most things with us, and through us as His instruments. He only does for us what we are utterly unable to do ourselves.
We have had to fight the way through! We have had to think, to apply ourselves energetically, to drive ourselves on to the limit of our capacity. In this sense, God has let us do it—He merely directed us! But He also empowered us where necessary, and He brought about circumstances.
God has never rained money down from heaven. While He financed us, He has always done it through human instruments willingly yielded, even at great personal sacrifice, to serving Him—and voluntarily—with their tithes and offerings. Yet God financed us! He did it through those He could use!
That is the secret of our success. It’s the way to success for anybody and everybody—whether individual, or group or organization! And it has developed not only these campuses, it has developed those of us—and in constantly increasing numbers—who are dedicated to this great Work of God!
I have already covered student participation in producing the Plain Truth and the Good News, which became its temporary substitute, from April 1951 through May 1953. This was the real firstfruits of the college in the growing Work of God.
The growth of the gospel Work has directly paralleled the development of Ambassador College! Without the college, the Work of thundering Christ’s gospel around the whole world could not have been possible. It could never have gone around the world.
It was the development of the college in Pasadena that made possible the growth of the whole gospel Work!
The college in Pasadena started, remember, in October 1947 with just four pioneer students. There were eight professors and instructors. The second college year, 1948–49, there were seven students. That was the half-time year. It was operate half-time or give up and quit. Never would we do the latter.
The third school year, 1949–50, there were 12 students—11 men and one girl. We felt we were now large enough to organize, for the first time, a student council. This was our first student organization.
For the year 1950–51, there were 22 students. The fifth college year, 1951–52, there were 32 students. The college was growing!
At the close of the 1950–51 year, the students produced their first annual, or yearbook, the Envoy. It contained 36 pages—counting the cover. Of course it was pretty thin compared to the annuals of larger, older, established colleges. But it was a beginning. Today, the Envoy is one of the finest published by any college-grade institution anywhere—a fine book with heavy stiff covers, and printed in full color.
Where there is life and spirit and constant growth, small beginnings mean only a start. It was the same with The Envoy as with every other phase of this dynamic, fast-growing Work!
The 1952 Envoy did not grow in pages, but improved in quality. Just as the Plain Truth had its struggle through the early years, so did the student publication, the Envoy. The 1953 book was a big improvement, but we had to skip 1954 altogether.
However, the 1953 edition came out with a thick, heavy cover for the first time. It was all black and white—that is, black ink only. But it contained 60 pages besides the cover, and was a much improved production. The 1955 edition went to 68 pages, and improved contents, especially the photography and artwork. The 1956 Envoy continued the improvement, with 76 pages, but still black and white. By 1961 it reached 200 pages, a much finer cover, much improved photography and design, and we were getting into color pages.
By the 1951–52 college year, extracurricular activities were getting organized. That year three foreign-language dinner clubs were organized. These are dinner clubs at which no English is spoken—only the language of each specific club. There was the French Club, the German Club and the Spanish Club.
They were initiated at Ambassador College in order to give the students of each language the experience of speaking and hearing that language outside of class—in actual continuous conversation—to help them learn to express themselves fluently in that tongue.
We in God’s Work are commissioned to proclaim Christ’s original gospel to all nations. We knew, then, that this would require much printed literature in various languages, as well as called and trained ministers experienced in speaking and broadcasting fluently, and without broken accent, in the various languages. This training began the very first college year—but the language dinner clubs began in 1951.
Other languages were later added to the curriculum at Ambassador College.
In February 1953, Mr. Jack R. Elliott, then dean of students, asked me if I would go with him as a guest to visit a businessman’s “Toastmasters’ Club.” These clubs are, I believe, worldwide. They are evening dinner speech clubs. First, several men are called on without advance notice to stand and discuss, in one or two minutes, some topic assigned by the “tabletopics chairman.” Later there are a number of prepared speeches, usually limited to about six minutes.
Mr. Elliott wanted to introduce speech clubs into Ambassador College activities, patterned after these clubs, but with a few variations adapted to our needs. We saw at once the value of such an activity at Ambassador.
In February 1953, the first of these clubs was organized and under way. Our adaptation was called the Ambassador Club. Soon there were two such clubs on the Pasadena campus, then three, then four. In 1954, there were seven at the Pasadena campus.
These clubs have done more to develop public-speaking ability than any other activity. They are a most effective addition to our regular courses in public speaking. They teach men to think on their feet, develop personality and familiarity with world events and many important topics.
Soon the first women’s club was formed. These, too, have continued to expand. I’m quite sure they are different, at Ambassador, from any other women’s clubs. They have a very definite effect in the cultural development of our young women.
About November 1951, the students started the first campus paper. It is called the Portfolio. It contains college news, personal items about students, news of the progress of the Work, and a certain sprinkling of campus fun. It gives students training in writing.
The Portfolio started crude and small—mimeographed. In due time it became a real printed campus paper of quality.
In the college year 1951–52 we had 32 students. In the spring of that year, Mr. Leon Ettinger, director of the voice department in the school of music, decided to organize the students into a singing group, train them secretly at his home, and then spring the whole thing on me as a surprise!
How they all kept the secret through many weeks of rehearsals I’ll never know. But they did.
At the annual spring concert of the music department—consisting of piano and vocal solo numbers by students—the whole group stood together, and to my amazement, sang the Fred Waring arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” like veterans. Actually there was not a trained singer among them—but they had put their whole hearts and energies into it through many weeks.
As Mr. Ettinger later wrote about it: “At that time we scraped the bottom of the barrel to find talent. If you could put two notes together on an instrument or sing a little song in tune, you were on the program. When we gathered together all our resources, we had 12 singers for our little chorus.
“We practiced faithfully for several months, always at Ettingers to keep it quiet, and at last the great day arrived. At the end of the evening Mr. Ettinger announced that a new musical organization had been formed, called the Ambassador Chorale; and that, with Mrs. Ettinger at the piano, they would sing ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ and that they were dedicating this first performance anywhere to Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. The years have smoothed away any slight imperfections, and we only remember that it was an absolute smash.”
Actually, I remember, I was overcome with surprise, rather choked with emotion, and unable to speak.
That was the beginning of one of our outstanding activities at Ambassador College—the Ambassador Chorale. From that small beginning it has grown into a musical organization that I feel would do credit to any college or university 10 to 20 times our size.
In autumn 1953, a new door was opened—a national radio network. For 19 years the vision of broadcasting coast to coast over a great national network had been a dream—and a hope. At last it was realized!
The November 1953 Plain Truth carried this big-type, full-page announcement:
“And Now …
Of course, this network broadcasting was Sunday only! We had learned by experience that it was the daily broadcasting that was really effective. Of course, that was impossible over a network. But the network was a tremendous step forward.Continue Reading: Chapter 61: Our First Experience With Television