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Monday, September 01, 2014

50 years at Southern Wesleyan University

50 years ago, during Labor Day weekend, I arrived at Central Wesleyan College (CWC, now Southern Wesleyan University, SWU). I thank God for how he led me, then, and now. I don't deserve it, and didn't.

I had just finished a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I had become a Wesleyan, and liked working with young people, and really couldn't see myself as a researcher, so I thought I should try to get a position with one of the Wesleyan colleges. One of them wasn't interested. Two others were. I couldn't make up my mind as to where to go. One night, at mid-week service in the Wesleyan church in Madison, founded by the late Floyd and Olive Titus, there was an invitation for prayer requests. I raised my hand, asking God to give me guidance in my choice. He did. When I returned to my residence, I was told that there was a call from Dr. Mullinax, in Central, South Carolina. I returned his call, and he asked if I had made up my mind. I told him that I just had done so, and agreed to begin work at CWC in the fall. I didn't know, but was later told, that Paul Wood and Claude Rickman had gone to Dr. Mullinax, President of CWC, during their mid-week service, and suggested that it might be a good idea to call that fellow LaBar. Mullinax apparently agreed.

CWC, now SWU, doesn't do things so casually anymore. I had never been in South Carolina until I drove to the campus to take the position, and none of the officials at CWC had ever laid eyes on me. I was not interviewed, I just applied, and, as told above, eventually we agreed for me to become part of CWC. Nowadays new faculty visit the campus, are carefully interviewed by several faculty, perhaps also by students and appropriate administrators, and are often asked to give a lecture or other presentation, before a contract is issued to prospective faculty.

It turned out that the other Wesleyan institution that was interested in my services did not last for more than a few years after I came to South Carolina, and merged with another Wesleyan college.

God helped me, during my 50 years at SWU, to find a godly wife, among the student body. (That sort of thing is frowned on, too, now, for understandable reasons.) He helped me in selecting other faculty to join me in the teaching of science of all kinds, and mathematics and computing, all within the Science Division. I recall, for example, when Academic Dean Claude Rickman and I met each other in the hall outside his office. He had received a letter of resignation from our chemistry teacher, and I had received a letter of inquiry about a position in chemistry, on the same mail, and we were going to see each other about what to do about this, with neither of us knowing about the other letter. (The applicant was hired, and taught chemistry well for a few years, then left for personal reasons. She could have continued, if she had chosen to.) My wife graduated at the head of her class, and both our children graduated from other Christian colleges.

I am thankful that many students influenced me for good, and for the wonderful experiences that I had while at CWC/SWU. These included the chapel services. I don't think I ever missed one, unless I was off campus, with one exception. A rabbit died as a result of a treatment, and a couple of students and I decided that it would be a good learning experience to do an autopsy on the animal, which lasted through chapel time. It was a good learning experience. I saw young people genuinely repent, and people receive a genuine call to some sort of ministry, many times. This was a great privilege. I saw, or heard from, students who came to SWU for all sorts of reasons, such as an athletic scholarship or because a friend had come, but who knew little or nothing of the Christian life, become Christian examples, and, sometimes, be called into some special Christian service.

SWU has grown significantly. There were about 200 students when I came, almost all of them living on campus. Now there are about ten times than many, and many of these are adults who live near our extension centers at various points in South Carolina.

I retired at the end of the 2004-5 academic year. However, I have been privileged to teach in summer school, and also to teach in the evening program, on the main campus, and in Greenville and North Charleston, South Carolina, since that time. Last week, I was asked to fill in in one course, for the woman who more than replaced me at SWU. She has a serious health problem, and was unable to function well enough to teach. It was a privilege to attempt to replace her briefly. I pray that she will be able to return to full strength, and do the service that God has called her to do, and that she has been doing, so well, at SWU for nine years.

Thanks for reading..



Roger' s thoughts said...

Great story. I'm truly happy that God sent you into our lives. You'll never know how many times I thought you and your music ministry from all corners of the world.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Roger!

FancyHorse said...

It is truly wonderful how God works to lead and guide us when we remember to ask Him! This is a great testimony. I'm sure you were and are a blessing to your students.

Martin LaBar said...

I hope so.