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ACU reflects on 100 years of growth, change

August 21, 2005

By Blanca Cantu / Abilene Reporter-News Staff Writer

Several hundred people gathered Sunday at Abilene Christian University to commemorate the university's 100th anniversary with a centennial service at Moody Coliseum.

The service, themed ''Renewing the Promise: A Time of Covenant and Blessing,'' offered guests an opportunity to reflect on ACU's spiritual history through prayers, scripture readings and songs.

Speakers at the event enlightened the audience with excerpts from books and speeches written about the university, including a book by former ACU President John Stevens titled "No Ordinary University: The History of a City Set on a Hill."

The university presented a video of 100-year-old alumna Willie Waters Henry, who now lives in Dallas, reminiscing on her time at what was then called Abilene Christian College.

Her advice to current and future ACU students was simple.

"Be a Christian and pray," she said.

The structure of the service included five important elements: remembering God, professing trust, confessing shortcomings, giving thanks and making a covenant.

Theology major and second-year graduate student, Mark Weathers, 24, said he perceived the event as one way for ACU to confront issues the university will have to deal with, like race and reconciliation - a subject ACU professor Dr. Jerry Taylor touched on during part of the service.

Weathers said ACU is, after 100 years, trying to re-evaluate its priorities as a Christian school.

"One apology is not sufficient," Weathers said. "(The university) needs to carry though the apology over time."

In 2000, ACU President Royce Money made a public apology about past racial discrimination in the university's admissions policies.

While standing at one of the two lecterns on stage, Taylor reminded audience members of the university's stance on racial relations.

"ACU's clear commitment is to embrace all races and ethnic groups," he said.

The audience applauded after Taylor said the multi-culturally diverse campus reflects that commitment.

In another gesture to celebrate the university's anniversary, ACU unveiled a centennial mural and timeline Saturday in the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

Graphic designer Greg Golden and centennial curator Becky Estrella designed the 10 foot-tall, 160 foot-long timeline and mural that features photos and descriptions of each decade in ACU's 100-year history.

The university is commemorating the anniversary from Aug. 22, 2005 to Sept. 11, 2006. The university was founded by A.B. Barret on Sept. 11, 1906, as Childers Classical Institute.

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