Fifty years ago, I was a young country boy from Middle Tennessee when I came to Freed-Hardeman, still College at the time. I had not traveled very far from home as a teenager, but I knew I would go to school there after my high school days, because that was just where my brother Pittman, my sister Kenda and I would go to school. That point was not debatable.
I came to major in something, although I knew not what, become a teacher and coach basketball somewhere. I found a friend and mentor in Coach Hoyt Kirk.
Campus was so small everybody knew everybody. With 650 students on campus, you were on a first name basis even with all your teachers. I met some of most amazing people when I arrived. In my Bible classes I was surrounded such great people as Billy Smith, Ralph Gilmore, Dewayne Spivey, Lindsey Warren, Gary Gage, Danny Lamb and Gary Ealy (and I could name 50 that impacted my life) and great ladies like Dwina Whittle, Kay Henry, Mary Croft, Carolyn Sessions, and Colette Branch (and I could name 50 more).
My roommates Tony Kirk, Sonny Sessions, Roy McNew and Gary Ealy had a great influence on me. Those and other good men I met in those classes changed my life and the direction of my future. Sitting at the feet of Tom Holland, Thomas Warren, President H. A. Dixon, and a dozen more, I learned how to study the Bible. Those teachers also taught me how to think.
Being able to stay for a third year of Bible classes was a tremendous opportunity. The day Brother Warren was teaching about going to heaven from the text and he stopped teaching, took off his glasses and just started talking to us boys is a memory that I will not forget. His love for the Texas Longhorns and hearing him say on the first day back from Christmas break one year, “I’ve just got one thing to say: Hook ‘em Horns” after a bowl win and national championship is a great memory. I remember taking Brother Warren’s test with double off if you guessed the wrong answer and sitting across the desk from him for a one-on-one final in Christian Evidences.
Mom Decker became a great friend and encourager to me. She would invite us to talk with her when times were tough or when we became overwhelmed. She would hurt with us. Devotionals in the dorm each night gave us an opportunity to develop a wonderful relationship with her as our dorm mother. She loved us. She left us great messages in our rooms when she checked them periodically. When she found dust under our beds, she would leave a note, “The Bible says to dust thou art and to dust thy will return. So, there is a man either coming or going underneath your bed.” One note to me read, “I do not think Susan would like to see your room this messy.” The smell of popcorn filled many of the rooms in what was then New Men’s Dorm most nights. Barbeque on the weekends and Gladys’ ham and cheese and tater tots were good. Lectureship was always an enjoyable event.
The Sigma Rho social club was a joy. Then, there was Chapel Hall. Chapel there every day was such a treat. I remember walking up the steps to chapel and the sounds those steps made. Susan Williams, now my wife of 50 years, and I grew up a lot being in chapel and being challenged to grow and prepare ourselves well for what lay ahead. President Dixon would walk to the microphone and the place would very quickly become respectfully quiet. I can still hear the singing. There is no place like Chapel Hall! Every time I have visited on campus through the years, I have gone to Chapel Hall. I look forward to seeing it again in June at the Golden Year Reunion.
Freed Hardeman College/University! There is no place like it. Through the years, people have told me, “You Freed people are different.” Yes, I guess we are. When you have friends like the ones I had, and the teachers who taught me about Jesus, and the close friendships even with faculty and staff, you are never the same.
“To thee our dearest FHC, we pledge our loyalty…”
Andy Baker, class of 1970, is the president/CEO of World Christian Broadcasting. He has served churches in Kentucky and Tennessee for approximately 40 years and worked with hospice organizations for 20 years. In addition to an Associate of Arts degree from FHU, he holds a Bachelor of Arts from David Lipscomb University and a Master of Health Arts from University of Kentucky. He and his wife, the former Susan Williams, currently live in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee. They have a son and a daughter, Matthew Baker and Andrea Baker Mills.