is for Choice | C
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is for Christian Beliefs | C
is for Critical Thinking
Muddle in the Middle: The "C"
By William E. Tucker
question has risen more than once; often in quiet conversation, seldom
in public debate. Now, in a time when "Christian" carries myriad
connotations, some wonder: What does the "C" in TCU really mean?
We decided to ask an expert. Church historian and chancellor emeritus
William E. Tucker has a lifetime connection to TCU, including 19 years
at the helm. With some prodding, he agreed to share his perspective with
the magazine, as did a few others. We think you'll discover in these answers
what we did: You put the "C" in TCU.
of institutions as well as individuals have claimed my interest and fired
my imagination for as far back as I can remember. It is more than a fleeting
curiosity to me, therefore, that come 2002 Texas Christian University
will have served for a solid century to identify the 128-year-old TCU.
one thinks of the name, it has the decided advantage of being one-of-a-kind.
There is a Texas Christian Academy, as I recall, but no other Texas Christian
University on the face of the earth. Unique or not, some names fit and
wear well, standing the test of time, while others lose their effectiveness
and fall victim to change.
Texas Christian University. What do the three words, especially the one
in the middle, signify and how are they perceived? Does the name carry
positive or negative freight or both? Is it an adequate designation for
a thriving institution of higher education firm in its resolve to stress
inclusiveness, to grow diversity, to reflect a global vision in attitude
and programs? Good questions, every one.
any serious assessment of the name must take into full account today's
needs and tomorrow's promise, we shortchange ourselves by ignoring yesterday.
If, as I think, heritage plays a key role in shaping destiny, an attempt
to understand the past is not only appropriate but also essential.
and laudable the effort, launching schools like TCU was hardly uncommon
in the aftermath of the Civil War. The post-war era proved to be a hothouse
of industry and higher education alike. Would-be educators, motivated
by mission and touched with ambition, seized the opportunity to quench
the nation's perceived thirst for learning. Literally hundreds of so-called
colleges were planted in towns and hamlets across the land; a shocking
number of them wilted as quickly as they sprouted. With a wry grin, one
of my late colleagues observed that the shoreline of American history
is littered with the wrecks of abandoned colleges. In contrast to Plattsburg
and Rockport, TCU survived, a signal accomplishment in itself. No wonder
Joseph Lynn Clark's history of the founding family bears the title, Thank
God, We Made It!
was 1873; the place, Thorp Spring, a stagecoach stop on the cattle frontier
in Hood County, (about forty miles southwest of Fort Worth). There, on
the first Monday in September, the brothers Clark, Addison and Randolph,
with the strong assistance of their father, Joseph Addison, opened the
doors of what we know today as TCU. The founders named their school AddRan
Male and Female College in honor of Addison's firstborn, who died of diphtheria
at the age of 3. The current name would emerge close to three decades
later. Actually, Addison, president from 1873 to 1899, objected to calling
AddRan a Christian college because he did not want to "denominationalize"
(his word) the name.
more curious than the absence of Christian was the pointed reference to
women. TCU partisans nowadays take pride, and justifiably so, in the progressiveness
of the founders who, ahead of their time, welcomed both girls and boys.
No doubt a practical consideration figured in their thinking. They foresaw
challenges aplenty without attempting to build on a narrow -- i.e., male
only -- base. They needed pupils. Thirteen showed up on opening day.
of AddRan College, the preacher-teacher Clarks turned to the church, their
church, for encouragement and assistance. In response, the Christian Brotherhood
of Texas promptly "adopted and endorsed" the fledgling enterprise but
offered no specific guarantee of financial backing. Regardless of who
raised the money and paid the bills, AddRan was intended and perceived
to be a church-related college from day one.
nicknamed Campbellites in some circles, was part of that religious body
originating on the American frontier early in the 19th-century under the
leadership of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell. Over time the movement
developed an identity problem of its own. The co-founders could not agree
on a name. Mr. Campbell proposed Disciples. Mr. Stone preferred the designation
of Christian. They never resolved the issue, and folks have been confused
about the matter ever since.
name of the mainstream Protestant denomination is Christian Church (Disciples
of Christ). Although adherents refer to themselves as Dis-ciples of Christ
or simply Disciples, their local congregations are identified with rare
exceptions as Christian (University Christian in Fort Worth, for example,
and First Christian in cities and towns across the land and beyond).
the complexity, the Stone-Campbell tradition gave rise to yet another
Protestant body known as Churches of Christ. To the right of and much
larger than Disciples, they are associated with a number of institutions
of higher education including Abilene Christian University in Texas and
Pepperdine University in California.
in the vineyard of the Lord, the Clarks attracted enough interest among
congregations and families to keep their school alive. Success, however,
was marginal. Excepting several years, annual enrollment ranged between
300 and 400. The struggle to match income with expenditures never let
brothers, together with their wives -- Sally McQuigg Clark and Ella Blanche
Lee Clark -- had poured their lives and fortunes into the venture. Still,
AddRan had no endowment and faced an uncertain future. What to do? The
question weighed heavily.
answer seemed worthy of consideration to Addison and Randolph. If their
school was to survive them, they had no acceptable choice but to give
it to the church. The transfer became effective at the 1889 convention
of the Texas Christian Missionary Society, meeting in Fort Worth. The
terms of the gift, valued at $43,000, specified that a board of trustees
hold title to the property for the church. Within a few weeks, the newly
formed governing board convened and renamed the school AddRan Christian
control and ceded all assets, the brothers remained with the University,
Randolph until 1895 and Addison until 1901. They disagreed with the name
change but made no fuss about it.
in name, signaling an even stronger tie to the church, appeared to make
little difference in the fortunes of the school. Anticipated growth in
number of students and size of contributions failed to materialize, prompting
the trustees to say goodbye to Thorp Spring and relocate AddRan in Waco.
There the University languished until fire destroyed the only major building
on campus and made feasible the move to Fort Worth in 1910.
earlier the name had been revised for the second time. Henceforth the
school planted and nurtured by the Clarks would be known as Texas Christian
University. Finally, the trustees, settling on a name with staying power,
got it right. Or did they?
the treasured symbol of the Clark name did not sit well in certain quarters,
even though the board, with strong support from the influential T. E.
Shirley, approved a motion stipulating "that the Department of Arts and
Sciences be called the AddRan College of Arts and Sciences." A number
of graduates in the Thorp Spring era and several members of the founders'
families made known their disappointment and resentment. Said Dean Colby
D. Hall: "Some loyalties were lost, some later regained, some never."
not widespread, dissatisfaction with the new name persisted and came into
view little more than a decade later on the modest pages of TCU Grad.
All but forgotten, the monthly was published for a brief period by the
Dallas Chapter of the TCU Alumni Association. Writing in the January issue
of 1914, Ellsworth Faris, class of 1894, gave his article a straight-to-the-point
title: "Let Us Change Her Name for the Last Time."
exception to every part of the name. Calling TCU a university was dishonest.
To use his words: "As a matter of plain, honest fact, TCU is not and never
has been a university in any fair meaning of the word. More than that,
we are not even a first-class college." He objected to the use of Texas
on the grounds that any geographical designation was confining and therefore
misguided. And he "emphatically" voted "against putting 'Christian' into
the name at all."
As an alternative,
Faris suggested that a wealthy individual might be moved to give a fortune
in exchange for the name. If not, he concluded, "let us call it Clark
College, after him who gave all his active life to the school and who
left it just because he thought it would thus be advanced in allowing
more modern men to come into leadership."
of taking Faris to task, the letters of response (at least those the editor
chose to print) sided with him by and large. Douglas Tomlinson, class
of 1909, wanted a shorter name. So did Bonner Frizzell, class of 1909,
who said: "I have never been satisfied with the cumbersome, three-storied
name with which the school has been burdened." In the judgment of
Tom Dean, class of 1913, TCU's "other name, her true name is Clark.
It has always been. Those who have been inspired by her spirit have learned
to speak the name 'Clark' with an ease and a meaning that no other name
can inspire. I vote 'aye' for Clark College."
predict the outcome had the deep-rooted sentiment for "Clark" mushroomed?
Perhaps the University today would find itself in the unfortunate position
of sharing its treasured name with at least five other schools: Clark
University in Massachusetts, Clark College in Washington, Clarke in Iowa
plus Clark State Community College in Ohio and Clark-Atlanta in Georgia.
As it happened,
nothing came of the articles in TCU Grad. They lie little noticed
in the archives of the Mary Couts Burnett Library.
Texas Christian University, stands. Close to a century later, however,
the issue is not dead. Muffled rumblings persist. Doubts surface in selected
settings. Texas is acceptable, even desirable. University is appropriate.
But what about the "C" in TCU? That question has not gone away.
am not alone in sensing that within the university family are those who,
while respectful of the past, stumble over and are slightly embarrassed
by the name in the middle. Lacking in clarity and subject to misunderstanding,
it is actually an impediment at a time (now) when integrated marketing
has become essential to our program of university advancement. Or so the
discomfited maintain. The across-the-campus highlighting of our logo,
reflected on the covers of official university publications, signals a
reluctance to use the C-word in identifying the University.
the middle is muddled. Christians everywhere hold in common their defining
affirmation of Jesus as Christ but otherwise differ widely (and even radically,
to my mind) in thought and practice. Many believers think of faith in
terms of trust; others see faith as a set of doctrines. Many understand
the Bible to be the record of God's self-revelation culminating in the
gift of the Man from Nazareth; others insist that the biblical text is
verbally inspired -- "written in heaven and bound in Morocco" -- and therefore
must be interpreted literally. Many fall back on creationism as the only
acceptable way to account for the origin of the universe and humankind;
others are equally convinced that theories of evolution (from Charles
Darwin on) do not and cannot undermine the creation narratives in the
Book of Genesis. Need I cite other examples?
generation to the next, believers march to a variety of drummers. To complicate
the matter further, Webster's Dictionary yields to convention and accepts
"commendably decent or generous" as one of several definitions of the
I am reminded
of an undergraduate professor of mine who said: "We see things as we are
and not as they are." Indeed we do, and perception takes on the authority
should we make of the name wedged between Texas and University? To bury
a ludicrous misconception, let me say it directly. The C-word does not
imply that TCU is now or ever was a Bible college in shape or substance.
Here again we are indebted to the brothers, for they left no wiggle room
on the matter. The purpose of their college, according to the Charter,
"shall be for the support and promotion of literary and scientific education."
With a view to fulfilling the purpose, they organized the AddRan curriculum
around six academic areas: ancient languages, English language, mathematics
and physical sciences, mental and moral sciences, and social and civic
history. Instead of focusing on the Old and New Testaments, the founders
adopted an educational model based on the classics.
does the C-word send the message that TCU is now or ever was sectarian.
Almost 80 years ago this proved to be a fundamental consideration in the
mind of Mary Couts Burnett, far and away the most significant donor in
the entire sweep of TCU's history. (Allowing for inflation, it would require
a current gift of $100 million or more to match the Burnett bequest.)
Before favoring the University, she determined TCU to be, in words from
the Deed of Trust, "a nonsectarian institution, open to all alike,
to those of any faith or creed, and alike to rich and poor." An outsider,
indeed a complete stranger to everyone on campus, she nevertheless could
not have described the spirit of the place more accurately.
Mrs. Burnett did not let the school's denominational connection shake
her confidence, a connection acknowledged directly in the university name.
However ambiguous, the "C" in TCU is meant to convey the simple message
that Texas Christian University is related historically and intentionally
to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
with Addison Clark and continuing for a long time, I hasten to add, the
institution bore all the traditional marks of a Christian college (as
opposed to Bible college). Edward McShane Waits, president from 1916 to
1941, left no doubt about it. Early in his administration, as TCU alumna
Kathryn Graham pointed out in her recent honor's thesis, Prexy Waits wrote:
"Texas Christian University has as its aim Christian character, Christian
scholarship and Christian culture." Warming to his topic, he added: "TCU's
supreme task is to furnish Christian leadership, and to inculcate Christian
idealism based upon... the kingship and lordship of Jesus Christ."
about four decades, McGruder Ellis Sadler -- successor to Waits -- was nearing
retirement. In a valedictory-like address on TCU to the Newcomen Society,
he said there was "no place" for narrow religion in the academy. "But,"
he added, "we are equally convinced that creative, constructive, and wholesome
religion is ... not just a part but a condition of all sound learning."
Note the decided shift in emphasis from "Christian scholarship" to "constructive
and wholesome religion." The contrast between Waits and Sadler is striking.
How do we account for it?
the small college led by both men changed rapidly after World War II.
Programs expanded at baccalaureate and graduate levels. New buildings
enhanced the campus. Fueled by the G.I. Bill, enrollment soared. Over
time TCU became a university in more than name, a church-related university.
And so it is today.
One of TCU's
many assets, the church tie has played a key role in shaping the tone
of the institution. Among other direct benefits, two are incontestable.
(1) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) provides a built-in constituency
of students and advocates in good times and bad. (2) Although monetary
support from the denomination is modest and mostly symbolic, becoming
less consequential as the University grows in size and strength, gifts
from individual Disciples are quite significant. I dare to mention a single
example: the late Theodore P. Beasley, Dallas philanthropist and onetime
chair of TCU's Board of Trustees.
considerations aside, the thought and practice of Disciples serve TCU
well. Emphasizing the reasonableness of faith, Disciples believe in God
with the top of their minds as well as with the bottom of their hearts.
Inclusive in spirit, they are best known for their defining interest in
the cause of Christian unity. As for governance, they have a bottom-up
structure. The denomination by design lacks power to control local congregations
much less colleges and universities and must rely on persuasion rather
than coercion. All in all, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
is a good partner for TCU.
the nature of Disciples, the church connection could be nebulous and mean
very little. To clarify the relationship, the denomination and its colleges
and universities proceeded to enter into a covenantal agreement. The agreement,
in effect since the late 1970s, focuses on mutual responsibilities of
the parties in covenant and has not been revised in intervening years.
Neither onerous nor picky, it is a model of discretion.
turn to a covenant caused no stir at TCU. The University already took
seriously its tie to Disciples. And still does.
changing, of course, and no doubt always will. Good! Institutions wrapped
in the status quo and bent solely on preservation are prime candidates
for decline. Vitality rarely if ever springs from the soil of nostalgia.
That said, I judge the expressions of church relationship on campus today
to be entirely consistent with and supportive of the University's stated
mission to "educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and
responsible citizens in a global society."
between Disciples and TCU, in my view, is natural and expansive instead
of awkward and limiting.
in the background is the question: Has the University outgrown the church?
Bear in mind that many of the topflight centers of higher learning in
America began under religious auspices. William A. Clebsch said it well:
"American higher education suckled at the breast of the religious mother
who gave it birth and under her protection grew strong. After the Civil
War it became a man and put away childish things, including its mother."
(From Sacred to Profane America, p. 136.)
no disrespect to Harvard and Yale, Princeton and Vanderbilt, I ask: Does
my alma mater always have to follow in their train? Maybe not. Is there
a less traveled road to eminence in century twenty-one? I hope so.
the muddle, I like the name, Texas Christian University. And the initials
too, including the one in the middle.