“To See The Sky”: In Praise of the Faculty of Hardin-Simmons University

Susan Pigott

In his Introduction (“An English Estimate”) to Inez Woodward Sandefer’s biography Jefferson Davis Sandefer: Christian Educator (Broadman Press: 1940), the Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilkinson Riddle wrote of Dr. J. D. Sandefer, President of Hardin-Simmons University: “Like Oliver Goldsmith, Prexy has touched nothing he has not adorned. The university is his abiding monument. Of him we may say what is said of Christopher Wren who planned St. Paul’s Cathedral: ‘If you are seeking his monument, look around you'” (p. x). Dr. Riddle continues: “I am not thinking of bricks and mortar, however; I am not confining my thought to endowments and academic status; I am thinking of that very gallant band of men and women he has gathered round him, for if a bird is known by its song, a college president is known by his faculty” (p. x).

Formal J. D. Sandefer
President J. D. Sandefer

The faculty of Hardin-Simmons University, since its founding in 1891, a liberal arts university, has sought to enable its students to be leaders, to think for themselves. Dr. Riddle insists that “in business as well as in the professions there is a persistent demand for men and women who have been trained for responsible positions involving directive ability. [John] Ruskin said that the chief end of education was to teach men [and women] to see the sky. I should be quite content to let the sentence end with the word ‘see,’ for it cannot be doubted that a liberal education opens doors and windows which hitherto had been locked, bolted, and barred” (pp. xii-xiii).

Inez Sandefer asserts: “Back of the building of every great institution, every community, and every life ‘there is a reason.’ True greatness, in whatever sphere one finds it, is always attained at great cost. Institutions and communities, like men [and women], have ‘souls,’ identities, personalities, and these are the heritage of the men [and women] who build them” (p. 83).

Susan Pigott hardin-simmons clock tower HDRed
Susan Pigott

During the Great Depression, Hardin-Simmons “was forced to fall back on her own resources to tide her over. The faculty cut their salaries to the very lowest minimum. All the money the school had to live on was the money that came in from students’ fees, interest on endowment funds invested at a low rate of interest, and the few gifts that the president could secure and people donated, of their own accord, from time to time” (Inez Sandefer, p. 236).

Writing of President Sandefer’s pride in the HSU faculty, Inez Sandefer declares: “President Sandefer speaks tenderly of them, ‘In a general and impersonal way I pay tribute to all of them gladly; and cheerfully admit that much of the seeming progress that has characterized the institution’s growth and development is due to them’ ” (p. 305).

HSU Gazebo and Reflecting Pond, 6 August 2006

Inez Sandefer continues her praise of President Sandefer and his faculty:

“No president ever had in his administrative career a more loyal faculty. During the depression, the faculty agreed with the president to take from a twenty to forty per cent reduction in their salaries and even then, they agreed to take such additional cuts as were necessary to prevent any further increase in the school’s indebtedness.

“One year the president and each of the teachers contributed five monthly salaries. Another year they contributed four monthly salaries, another three, another one.

“These supplementary contributions on the part of the faculty, the bursar’s office shows, exceeded during these years eighty thousand dollars. There was probably no other school in the Southern Association of Colleges where similar sacrifices were made for the school and where they were accompanied with a greater unanimity of Christian spirit and loyalty” (pp. 305-06).

Bell Tower
Susan Pigott

I have known and admired the Hardin-Simmons faculty since 1977, forty-two years of which I served with them educating young men and women–Hardin-Simmons’ colleges, schools, and disciplines working together pursuing its “noble cause.”

Bridge Over Pond
Susan Pigott

I am confident that, apprised of a financial crisis of the University and encouraged to participate in shared governance as has been the case for most of Hardin-Simmons’ history, the faculty, in the tradition of Dr. Sandefer’s faculty, would make whatever sacrifice was needed to maintain the integrity of Hardin-Simmons, the preservation of its heritage, revered since 1891.

“a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower”

John 1: 5 (The Jerusalem Bible)

Three-bulb light standard and Christmas wreath
Susan Pigott