Taylor University in Grant County Draft

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Taylor University has been a big part of Grant County since 1893, though it was not founded there. The university was started in Fort Wayne under the name of Fort Wayne College. After the move to Upland in Grant County, one of the main focuses of the school was to advance administration and finance of the school. Another large part of the first fifty years in Upland was spent on recreating the school along with setting the learning facility as a religious institution. Taylor University is a fine learning institution that has struggled through many financial hardships, promoted spirituality in Grant County, and helped many of its students find great jobs and experiences.

Early Years in Fort Wayne

In the beginning of its days, Taylor University was known as Fort Wayne College and was located in Fort Wayne. When it began in 1846 the college was actually a female’s only college and was called Fort Wayne Female College. Though in 1855, the college started to accept men and was called Fort Wayne College. During the colleges time in Fort Wayne there was a struggle to keep the college financed and running. The college was owned by the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were many Methodist churches in Indiana at the time and free-will offerings to help the college were taken, but these offering were taken up at random times and were of little help in aiding the schools growing financial crisis. Another wrench in the works was that most proceeds from the offerings were shared with DePauw University in Greencastle. This also was the problem sought gifts from wealthy Methodists because DePauw was always more readily praised than the small college in Fort Wayne. Due to this fact, the responsibility to keep the school financial sound fell almost completely into the hands of the trustees and administrators of the college. Two options were then available for the college leaders. In the first option, students would have to pay the full cost of their education. The students who would be able to pay a full tuition and had the desire to be taught at Fort Wayne College were so few that the college would have no reason of existing. For this reason the college leaders went with the other alternative which was to receive donations from contributors who the college leaders were not sure would actually contribute. This extra money, if received, would make up the difference of a reduced tuition charge for students. When the contributions from benefactors, who were hard to find in the first place, did not add up to the adequate amount, officials were forced to lower the faculty’s salary to make up the difference. The struggle for the schools existence was shown three major times in documentation. Two of these reports were of times when the college leaders put the school up for sale, while the other was when the college was shut down for an entire school year. Fort Wayne College operated on the brink of total bankruptcy for mainly all of its existence. When the college got to a point where it was about to be shut down, the National Association of Local Preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the facility and in so doing renamed the school Taylor University in honor of Bishop William Taylor. The financial crisis reached a peak when school officials had to sell some of the campus property and were forced to hold classes in a small rented building off campus in Fort Wayne. This caused the school president, Thaddeus Reade, to look for a new location for the college. While guest-preaching at when administrators from Fort Wayne College Upland Methodist Church, college in Fort Wayne, White started pushing for the school to be relocated in Upland. Reade got the chance to meet Rev. John C. White. Once hearing the condition of the The reverend set up a deal with the Upland Land Company in which the company would provide ten acres of land and $10,000 to have the college move to Upland.

Once Taylor University was up and running in Upland, there was a major effort over the first fifty years in its new location to build an excellent administration and to correct financial problems that had plagued the Fort Wayne campus. During the first half-century in Upland, there were four men who mainly looked over the school from the office of president: these men where Thaddeus Reade, Monroe Vayhinger, John H. Paul, and Robert L. Stuart. President Reade was the man who guided the school through the move to Upland and also helped to restore the religious spirit of the school. President Reade was in a curious position while serving. The trustees of the university put Reade in charge of dealing with funds and paying off debts. This meant the trustees could not be held at fault if financial trouble began to arouse. The next man to take over the presidency of Taylor was Monroe Vayhinger. Vanhinger served from 1908 to 1921 during which time two major buildings were added to the campus. The first of these buildings was the Helena Memorial Music Hall. The hall got its name from the gracious Mrs. Helena Gehman from Urbana, Ohio. Her gift of $7000 paid for most of the cost of the building. The second structure built was the Swallow-Robin dormitory. This new place of residence for students meant that the university could enroll more young minds to teach them not just of their learned skill but also of the wonders of spirituality. By the time John H. Paul took over the presidency, all of the building projects had compiled a debt that was beyond safe operating measures for the school. To correct this problem, President Paul formed The Legal Hundred. This organization owned and operated the university from 1924 until 1933 as to prevent the school from going into bankruptcy. The Legal Hundred lasted two years longer than did Paul in running the school. When President Paul left, Robert L Stuart stepped in to help guide the university through a time when many other colleges had to shut down due to lack of funds. Stuart is most credited for having saved the school from financial ruin with his knowledge of business law. Stuart’s efforts to save to school from a receivership worked for two years. This, however, ended when the Grand County Superior court chose Marshall Williams, a Marion attorney, as the intended receiver of the school. President Stuart was able to get in contact with long time benefactor of the university, Ella Magee. After hearing what Stuart had to say, Magee was convinced to donate the remainder of the estate note she had already given to the university which totaled about $32,600. This money was used by the William Taylor Foundation, which had been formed to repossess the school, to purchase the school. There was not much change once the William Taylor Foundation was in charge of the university, but the leaders of the foundation did make sure that the school would not have to go through another receivership set by the county or state government.

In the midst of all the financial instability the Taylor administrators made sure to keep the schools religious values alive. The Taylor community followed the Prohibition movement in which it was a common belief that teachers, preachers, and missionaries should be picked out from the common man and taught so that they would be able to lead the remainder of society in the right path. During this time Taylor put an emphasis on teaching young minds to become ministers, preachers, and missionaries. Many of the student body took well to the missionary lifestyle. The majority of missionaries that graduated from Taylor during the years before 1927 went to serve in both Asia and Africa. Taylor kept in good contact with one of its most respected graduated missionaries, John C. Wengatz. His work was done in Africa was so influential that school officials showed his work as a reason for why new students should place themselves in the field of ministry. Wengatz work was one of the great inspirations for another Taylor graduate named Ralph E. Dodge. Dodge also did his missionary work in Africa and after time became the Bishop of the Methodist Church of Central and Southern Africa. Though training teachers and leaders in religion was important enough to Taylor to get the general public to think that the school only trained missionaries, as much of the student body went into the professions of school teaching and business management as did those who went into the field of missions. Even though these students were not studying to be preachers, they were taught at the college to lead examples of a holy life through their own professions.


Taylor University has shown Grant County that with good leadership and a sense of spirituality, a determined institution can survive to help many others. From its beginnings in Fort Wayne to its operations in Upland, Taylor has overcome many obstacles and financial crises. Through the changes in ownership and location, Taylor had a great administration to balance the finances of the school. But most importantly, they allowed Taylor to stop worrying about money and to focus instead on teaching students--those going into ministry and those who were not--how to live holy and respectable lives.


This article was written by Stephen Wolcott and submitted to Mr. Munn's ACP US History class on May 18, 2009.