One inspiring story to remember on this Memorial Day comes from No Ordinary University: The Story of a City Set on a Hill, the 1998 Abilene Christian University history book by Dr. John C. Stevens (’38).
During World War II, the ACU campus remembered its students, faculty and alumni serving in the military with a 6 foot by 8 foot 6 inch service flag that was displayed in Sewell Auditorium, where the campus community met for daily Chapel, and the College Church of Christ met for services. The Cadettes women’s social club, sponsored by Alma Morlan (wife of Dr. G.C. Morlan), affixed blue stars it assigned to each individual. When word of the death of a person in service came to the registrar’s office, the Cadettes replaced his or her blue star with a gold one.
Today, the service flag is displayed in the Jennings House, which serves as the ACU Museum on the corner of Campus Court and East North 16th street.
By July 1944, Abilene Christian’s seventh president Dr. Don H. Morris (’24) said that “approximately eight hundred ACC boys, four of them faculty members on leave, are in the service. Twelve of them have given their lives in service to the nation; others are missing.” Stevens, ACU’s eighth president, wrote in his book that 1,088 stars eventually were affixed, and 40 of them were gold.
Stevens said each gold star was worthy of an essay, but this one stood out to him:
“Paul Sherrod Jr., of Lubbock, was killed in Leyte [in the Philippines] in December 1944. He had been a student from 1939-1942. On his body was found a clipping from an ACC Bulletin printed in 1943 and reprinted in the Optimist of Nov. 26, 1943. The article was a message the college hoped students would learn. The fact that Paul carried the clipping with him into battle shows how deeply students can be influenced by their years on the campus. Author of the article was Max Leach, and it was titled ‘The Promise of Abilene Christian College to Its Students of the Past, of the Present and of the Future.’ ”
The message read:
“Since the past is gone, and the future is yet to be, this promise is to you, students of the present.
Believing first that the Christian life is the only life to be lived, I will do all that is in my power to help you to live as a Christian.
Believing that the greatest characters that have ever lived are the humble, the serving, the unselfish, I will do my best to inspire you and to education or mold your life around these qualities. …
… Believing that not riches, nor power, nor world glory nor fame, nor pride of life constitutes success or contribute to the happy life, I will not try to make of you a stuffy intellectual or a learned snob, but will give you an education that is useful in the living of a life among men, and towards spending eternity on the banks of the River of Life.
Believing that you are an individual, having your own hopes and fears, abilities and limitations, talents and defects, I will treat you as such – loving you, cherishing you. You will not be just a number or a name in my roll book.
Believing that your soul is precious in the sight of God, I will aid your development as a Christian and cause you to be well-pleasing to him.”
Leach was a professor in the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work. From 1942-48 he was executive secretary of the Alumni Association, and publicity director. Morlan came to Abilene Christian in 1915 to begin the Department of Home Economics.