S.P. Dunn Memorial Hall
Backstory and Context
Sethard P. Dunn was a pastor at the Metropolitan Church of God in Chicago (later became Langley Avenue Church of God). When Anderson Bible Training School started expanding their programs, the leadership of the budding school determined they needed a Board of Trustees. Under the leadership of J.T. Wilson, Dunn was invited to serve on the board in 1925. He was the only African American among the board's twelve members. Like many area colleges, Anderson College never formerly drew the color line. The appointment of S.P. Dunn to the Board of Trustees was unique, as few colleges beyond HBCUs included African Americans in positions of leadership. Dunn’s most notable contribution during his long tenure was his motion to change the name from Anderson Bible Training School to Anderson College. In 1937, the Anderson College gave one of their first honorary doctorates of divinity to S. P. Dunn for his service at the College and the Church in Chicago.
Dunn made significant contributions to the development of the Metropolitan Church of God. In 1933, his church purchased radio broadcast time on Sunday morning from 7:30 to 8:30 and aired their service. After the success of airing his church service, Dunn continued the radio ministry into the 1950s with his show: “The Everlasting Gospel.” Because of his success with his broadcast, he earned the nickname “The Radio Shepard.” Along with another Black pastor in Chicago, Dunn was influential in establishing the radio ministry in the Great Lakes Region.
S.P. Dunn was still serving on the Board of Trustees in the late 1940s when Anderson College was accredited for the first time. Around the same time, the GI Bill went into effect; therefore, necessitating a new dorm hall for the influx of male students. In 1952, the Board took steps to establish a low-interest government loan to finance a new men’s residence hall. The loan of $550,000 was granted and construction started shortly afterward. In the fall of 1954, the construction was complete and it opened under the name “Men’s Residence Hall.”
Dunn served on the Board of Trustees until 1957, a total of thirty-two years. In 1960, the campus received a one hundred thousand dollar gift out of his estate from the Church of God in Chicago after his death. In June of 1960, the campus community gathered to name the hall in honor of S.P. Dunn. It was thought at the time to be the first major building on any campus in the Midwest to be named in honor of a black campus leader. President Robert Reardon wrote, in response to the occasion, about how the college is starting to bridge the barriers of color with the common bonds that unite us. He spoke of the dawn of a new day. That new day seemed to be drawing within the next decade when Anderson College was supporting the Civil Rights Movement.
Throughout the early 1960s, Anderson College faculty and students invited prominent African American leaders to speak on campus. A few students even traveled down to the South to participate in the civil rights movement. The culminating event of Civil Rights Movement in Anderson took place in 1965 when President Robert Reardon and the student body organized a march from Chapel (worship service held two times a week on the campus) to downtown Anderson in response to the Selma to Montgomery March.
In 1990, the school's leadership again included African American leaders as Dr. James Earl Massey was installed as the Dean of the School of Theology, Dr. Ronald Fowler was serving as chair of the Board of Trustees, and Rudy Pyle III was elected as the president of the undergraduate student body. S.P. Dunn led the way for other black leaders on the Anderson University Campus.
Dunn Hall was the first dormitory at Anderson University to be renovated in 1999. Today it still houses male students. When residents enter the main doors one of the first things they see is a picture of S.P. Dunn hanging in the entryway.
Callen, Barry. The Guide of Soul and Mind: The Story of Anderson University. Anderson, Indiana. Warner Press, Inc, 1992.
Marovich, Robert. A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music. Champaign, Illinois. University of Illinois Press, 2015.
Strege, Merle D.. The Desk as Alter: The Centennial History of Anderson University. Anderson, Indiana. Anderson University Press, 2016.
Anderson University and Church of God Archives: AC-B-DUH-0008
Anderson University and Church of God Archives People Files
Anderson University and Church of God Archives: AC-B-DUH-0005