History: 1970’s Students Earn Glowing Reputation for Emmanuel

May 14, 2020

This year, as we celebrate Emmanuel’s eightieth anniversary, we will be posting monthly articles on the history of the College

At Emmanuel, 1970 was a year of hope and excitement. Since 1964 the College had enjoyed its new campus, which included new buildings constructed under the leadership of President Bruce Wideman. Unfortunately, some other Bible colleges were struggling and seeing a decrease in enrollment, but Emmanuel was experiencing growth. The enrollment for the 1970–1971 year was two and a half times that of the 1964–1965 year.

Behind the success of the College’s growth was surely the new campus, Wideman’s bold leadership, and the prayers of many people. However, an additional important factor in this success seems to have been the students, who built a positive reputation for the College through their acts of service in the community.

At this time a number of students at Emmanuel belonged to the Samaritan Club Club, which was committed to helping people who were stranded on the roadside due to problems with their vehicle. In those days, before cell phones and do-it-yourself online videos, those who faced mechanical problems while driving often relied on help from people who drove by; if nobody stopped, they could find themselves in peril, especially in the winter. Members of the Samaritan Car Club, like the Good Samaritan of Jesus’s parable, stopped and helped such people and refused to take any money for the services or gasoline they provided. Instead, they left those they helped with a card stating they had been helped by a member of Emmanuel Bible College’s Samaritan Car Club.[1]

Emmanuel students found numerous other ways of supporting people in the Kitchener area. Two female students of the College read the obituaries in the local newspaper each day and sent a sympathy card to the families of those who had passed away. Others visited with people in the hospital, nursing homes, and apartment buildings. Some volunteered with churches and assisted pastors in their ministerial work.[2]

Students also represented the College by serving on deputation teams that travelled around Ontario. The Emmanuel choir was well practised and even had multiple recording sessions. When the People’s Church in Toronto hosted the official launch of the Good News Bible, the Emmanuel choir was there to participate in the celebration.[3]

The staff of Emmanuel were also serious about advertising the College and following up with those who had thoughts about enrolling. Lloyd Wilson, an Emmanuel alumnus, began working for the school in 1966 and used a bold strategy for connecting with inquirers. Instead of sending documents by mail, he would send a representative of Emmanuel to the person’s house to connect personally.[4]

Throughout the 1970s, enrollment continued to increase. The number of Emmanuel students in the 1978­­–1979 academic year was 32 percent higher than that of the 1970–1971 year. Among new students there was more and more representation from churches not affiliated with the Missionary Church, the College’s denomination. Clearly the school had earned a good reputation and was reaping the benefits.[5]

During this time Emmanuel’s next president, Dr. Charles Seidenspinner, led Emmanuel in working toward the goal of achieving accreditation with the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges. Under the leadership of his successor, Ellis Lageer, the College fulfilled this goal in 1982.[6] At that point Emmanuel had gone, in just over forty years, from being a very small school meeting in the basement of a church to being a major Canadian institution of higher education. Much of this growth came from the selfless service of the students, many of whom continue to serve in the church and further God’s kingdom to this day.

[1] Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 1970, quoted without citation in Eileen Lageer, Merging Streams: Story of the Missionary Church (Elkhart, IN: Bethel, 1979), 153.

[2] Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 1970, quoted without citation in Lageer, Merging Streams, 153.

[3] Kevin Oates, 60 Years of “God with Us” (n.p, n.d.), 50.

[4] Kitchener-Waterloo Record, 1970, quoted without citation in Eileen Lageer, Merging Streams, 153.

[5] Oates, 60 Years, 48.

[6] Oates, 60 Years, 48, 57.