Dr. Clifton W. Potter, UofL History Professor~
Last week as Hurricane Michael approached Central Virginia representatives from the City of Lynchburg echoed their strident remarks about College Lake—a local landmark that vanished during the night of August 2, 2018. The powers that be in City Hall have ignored the problems associated with College Lake that have been accumulating for years like the silt and Escherichia coli which now fill the site. When the long-neglected dam—which the city owns—seemed on the verge of collapsing, the order was given that that lake be drained, and thus was removed part of the legacy of our fourth president, Dr. John T.T. Hundley, who was elected to that office on June 7, 1915. He would alter the very character of the college during his twenty-one tenure.
One of the first things that Dr. Hundley did was change the name of Virginia Christian College to Lynchburg College, a move finally approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission on July 23, 1919. The colleges and universities sponsored and supported by the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, had essentially divided the map of the United States among them, and the territories allotted to our college were Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. [Delaware and Florida would later be assigned to Lynchburg College.] Dr. Hundley felt that including “Virginia” in the college’s name was misleading. The change was criticized by some of the supporters of the college because they were convinced–incorrectly, as time would prove–that Christian education had been abandoned by the new administration.
In April 1917, America entered the war against the Central Powers, and as they have always done, Lynchburg College students answered the call of their country. To maintain a male presence on campus, Dr. Hundley worked with the army to organize a Student Army Training Program. It was disbanded soon after the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. The civilians on campus devoted a great deal of time and space to planting and harvesting what a later generation would call “Victory Gardens.” In 1919, the first edition of The Hornet appeared, and the nickname “Hornets” was applied to our victorious football team. Dr. Hopwood had not approved of America’s favorite autumn pastime, but Dr. Hundley encouraged the organization of a team in 1916. Lynchburg College would continue to field a football team until 1932, when shrinking revenues due to the Great Depression led to its termination.
When Dr. Hundley assumed the presidency, the student body numbered sixty-eight, a year later it had increased to one hundred and five, but the college had a total indebtedness of $46,000. This translates to approximately $5,000,000 in 2018 dollars! To eradicate this debt the college joined the Men and Millions Movement, a program sponsored by the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. By the end of the 1917 academic year Dr. Hundley and the Board of Trustees were able to ceremoniously burn the symbols of the debts which dated from the last years of Dr. Hopwood’s administration. With the beginning of the 1920s a “Golden Age” began for Lynchburg College.
Unfortunately, Dr. Hundley the would retire in the midst of the Great Depression, but he was determined to create College Lake before his tenure ended. Thus in 1934, as the water from Blackwater Creek began to fill the shallow valley that sheltered Union soldiers from the murderous Confederate battery during the Battle of Lynchburg in June 1864, the landscape of our campus was forever changed, and Dr. Hundley’s legacy was complete—until August 2, 2018.