In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was president, the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth and John E. Brown formed Southwestern Collegiate Institute. This college would later be renamed John E. Brown College, and later, John Brown University. JBU is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2019.
John E. Brown founded JBU to give students a “Christian liberal arts education with an emphasis on specialized vocational training,” or in other words, “head, heart, and hand.” Over the 100 years, though many things have changed, Brown’s vision has not, said JBU Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Brad Edwards.
“There’s a ton of value to head, heart and hand. The intentionality to making sure the students we graduate are top of their fields, but are healthy people, and faithful followers of Christ,” Edwards said.
JBU alumna and Director of Communications Julie Gumm said she has also seen changes since she graduated in 1995. One thing that has especially impressed her is the opportunities JBU provides for its students. “JBU has done an increasingly good job at providing opportunities for students to expand on what they’re learning,” Gumm said. “There’s also been a growth in the faculty and the university coming along students to help them find internships. It promotes a higher degree of excellence in our students.”
JBU has changed in other ways, however. Men’s dormitory J. Alvin Brown Hall was the first permanent school building, laid in 1920. More than 90 percent of the current buildings are new or have been renovated in the past 10 years, including J. Alvin.
The school as a whole has only grown since the first class was held in 1919. At the time, the school consisted of 12 faculty and staff members and 70 students. In 2015, JBU announced its largest class ever, with 456 new students.
The centennial celebration is in full bloom. Banners and stickers beam from every building on campus. But the centennial will officially begin next fall with events such as the opening of the time capsule, a Michael W. Smith concert and alumni chapels throughout the year. “I hope we are creating events where students are able to connect with alumni and vice versa,” Edwards said, “There’s great learning that can take place both directions.”
Another exciting part of 2019 is the publication of a JBU history book. The book, titled “Christ Over All: History of John Brown University”, tells the history of the university up until 2018. “It’s been a really fun project to work on,” Gumm said, “It’s an interesting book written by an alum, in conjunction with the three living presidents. I’ve really enjoyed working on it.”
Since 1919, the evolving campus has seen countless students, an array of faculty and expanding buildings. But the one thing that has stayed consistent is John E. Brown’s original initiative, to train students vocationally and to train their hearts to follow God. “The question I get a lot from alumni is, ‘Is JBU the same?’” said Edwards. “I always say, ‘the physical footprint of JBU is different, but the heart and ethos is the same.’”