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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg




AS PRESIDENT of the Minnesota Conference, I was a member of the board of Union College, and met regularly with it (M. L. writes in his unpublished autobiography). Union College was having trouble again, and it became necessary to find a new president. This was not easy. There was something not quite right with every candidate suggested. At last, having exhausted every other possibility, they came to my name. Would I accept the office? I laughed. Just a few years previously I had been given the gate as a faculty member. Now I was being asked to serve as president. Days went by, and no headway was made. I should have left the room when they discussed me, but I could not stay away for days, so I remained. My presence did not deter them from speaking plainly. I enjoyed it all, for I knew I could never be elected, and did not care much what was said.

But at last the matter became serious. They could not find a suitable man. The majority was in favor of me, but there was a strong minority against me. The final argument was that the General Conference would never permit me to serve. So it was decided that the General Conference should be consulted. The answer was received that Prof. C. W. Irwin, head of the Education Department, would come out.

After a few days he arrived at the campus. He was sent to tell the board that I must not be elected. I sat in the room listening to his report, and he did


well, not sparing. He convinced me that I was not the man. But the board elected me, and when next morning I received a wire from my wife agreeing that I should accept, I did.

The situation at Union College was not good. Strange teachings had been brought in that affected both teachers and students. The president had renounced the faith, and had influenced teachers and students to do the same. The chief Bible teacher had followed the president, but evidently did not know what he had done. He soon died, considering himself a good Adventist but misjudged by his brethren. He was a good man and a Christian.

Union College was in a bad way. It had lost the confidence of the field as a safe place to send young people—the first day of the next school year we enrolled less than two hundred students. We were heavily in debt. Every time the clock struck, we went five dollars behind. And the outlook for the future was not good. To cap the climax. Union now had a president not approved by the General Conference. Union was doomed.

I was to set things straight, to be a reformer. It was a hard year for me. I had a position I did not deserve and was not fitted for. The faculty did well to adjust to me. Gradually they began to talk to me.

Although this is M. L's evaluation of the situation, the expectations had not been all negative. This editorial appeared in the Central Union Outlook of August 4, 1931, with a picture of M. L.

"Professor Andreasen is an educator of long experience and a public speaker of unusual ability. His pleasing and affable disposition wins him friends everywhere. The editor of this paper congratulates the college on being able to secure a man of such strength and experience as its president. The youth who attend Union College under Professor Andreasen's administration will be inspired by his


enthusiasm, his earnestness, his sincerity, and his Christian integrity."

On December 1, M. L.'s byline appeared in the union paper under this article:

"If any endeavor is to succeed, there must be a planning ahead. That is what we are doing at Union College. We are planning for the second semester, and also for the next year, and years to come. While the Master tarries we must 'occupy.'

"The students of Union College are now sending out hundreds of letters to prospective students, and we expect very definite results from this campaign.

"We need more students. A larger attendance would materially help in solving some of the problems we are now facing. We believe we will have that larger attendance. Our friends everywhere are telling us that they are back of the school and will support it to the utmost. We believe they will.

"The whole field is supporting us. The faculty is working hard. We are straining every nerve to make Union a bigger and better school next year. We believe we will succeed. We are trying to deserve your support. Plan for next year, but do not forget that there is an excellent chance to do a half year's work by enrolling for the second semester this year."

The students' writing activities had been sparked by the chapel hour on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Grateful the year was off to such a good start, M. L. was nevertheless anxious for more young people to come share the blessings. He asked the students to put into a few words what "Mother Union" meant to them. One student after another shot to his feet to express his gratitude. Often several were standing at the same time, waiting for their chance to testify how Union had blessed their lives.

M. L. nodded as each speaker took his turn: "I appreciate the pleasant association with Christian teachers and students." "I'm thankful for the helpful


Christian spirit expressed in personal interest in each member of the school family." "How I thank God for my spiritual advancement since coming here!" "I want to be true to the spirit of the pioneer workers who founded Union." "I know young people in the church at home who should have the privilege of being here. I want to invite them."

M. L. summed up the students' sentiments: "You ask what we can do to help our college increase its usefulness. It's very simple: Go and tell your friends what Union has done for you."

Under the date of April 5, 1932, M. L. wrote on "Progress at Union College":

"We are, of course, hard hit by financial conditions. We are doing our best to economize and are meeting with some success. The teachers are cooperating in every way. I wish to emphasize this point, for it is a real pleasure to work with such a group of men and women.

"We are trying to remain true to the faith once delivered to the saints. In a school where there are hundreds of students with active minds, whose chief work is study, it would be strange if theological difficulties and problems should not arise. We must not take the attitude that students shall not think. That would be fatal. But as long as we are guided by the teachings of the Bible and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, we will not go far astray. With the experience of the past few years to serve as a warning, we should be very careful not to give the impression that we are afraid of having anyone think. That was one fear some had when I connected with the school. Orthodoxy is not dependent upon nonthinking. Seventh-day Adventist doctrines are eminently fitted for deep and thorough investigation. Clear thinking only makes truth shine brighter. We have had and are having some interesting studies, and I believe some good is being accomplished.


Among these studies are Organization and the Spirit of Prophecy."1

M. L. recognized the great depression as an opportunity:

"There is no time like the present to prepare for the future. There is very little work to be had and not much money to be earned anywhere. We would advise every young man and woman who can arrange to get a little money, to go to school this year. Rates have been reduced and every effort is being made to help students. We have never had a better faculty, and there is a determination on the part of all to cooperate and make this year a success. We do not know whether better times will ever come or not;

but if they should, even for a little time, it would be worthwhile to have the preparation out of the way to be ready to do efficient work when times ease up a little."2

An unsigned article in the same issue announced:

"At a recent meeting of the Union College board it was decided that President Andreasen, in addition to his work as president, assume the responsibilities of the head of the Bible department. This is made possible by a reorganization in the administrative work of the college whereby many of the duties formerly carried by the president will be carried by the executive dean."3

The dean tells of their experience in working out this arrangement: "When President Andreasen asked me to be dean, it wasn't clear what that meant. So we went to the University of Chicago to find out what other people thought. It turned out that as we enumerated various responsibilities, virtually all of them were considered as responsibilities of the dean and not the president. M. L. asked, 'What's left for


the president to do?' 'If he's a good president and has a good dean, he can go out and play golf.' We went out on a park bench and had a good laugh, but he took this very seriously. He had a hard time convincing the board, but he adopted this position and was loyal to the situation. And I tried to be loyal. Again it shows that he was not a selfish man.

"In those years they didn't keep a president very long. There were five during my sixteen and a half years at Union. He was a good president. We were very close to each other though he was my senior by many years. He used to talk in chapel about friends being able to explore the realms of silence together, and we could do that. We didn't have to talk all the time. It may be presumptuous of me to claim it, but to me we seemed to be kindred spirits—intellectually, spiritually, and theologically. My admiration for him was unbounded—even though we did not agree on everything.

"More than any president before him he considered that the faculty, not the president, was the authority on educational matters."

Other teachers remember: "He felt that faculty meeting was valuable time, not to be wasted. It was not the place to consider small matters that could just as well be handled by administrative processes. He was interested in the overall philosophy of instruction and the overall curriculum of the college."

"He made us feel that we were all a team, that he was one of us, simply chairman of the group."

"Back from Fall Council, he'd invite interested faculty members to hear a little report about what had gone on—about plans, feelings. What he knew, we knew. We weren't working for him, we were working with him."

M. L.'s supervision included what some may have thought to be a purely personal matter: "He was very outspoken in regard to a teacher's obligation in


relation to his tithe. He checked the church books. He had no place for a nontithing teacher."

M. L.'s dean recalls, "I was always impressed by the humanity of his disciplinary actions. I remember a young man who got himself in serious trouble and denied it for a long time. His father had appealed to Andreasen to see whether he couldn't handle this constructively and help him so it wouldn't ruin the boy's reputation for the rest of his life. I as dean and he as president worked on the young man until we finally got him to own up. He had to take some sort of punishment, and it was so administered that it wasn't a light slap on the wrist, yet it was of such a nature that no one knew about it. Andreasen assured him that he and I would never mention it to anyone, and we never did. Sometimes the crime is so public that the punishment has to be.

"Another boy had done something that, had it been known, he would have been expelled and have been unable to get a job for a long time. My inclination was to be much more tough. But I learned something from Andreasen. He used to say that when a faculty member or a minister or a student went wrong, there ought to be a conspiracy of silence about it. It shouldn't be dragged out. He felt strongly that a man's misdeeds should not be public property unless they were public in the first place. Many deeds are not public. When there was a delicate situation, he didn't hesitate to bypass the preceptors, the regular members of the discipline committee."

M. L. himself tells us of another of his guiding principles:

"Some parents and teachers have a custom of saying No to every request unless there are good reasons for granting it. I made up my mind that I would take the opposite view. Instead of saying or thinking, 'Why should this be granted?' I would say,


'Why should it not be granted?' As I followed this line, I would immediately have the good will of the child or young person, and though at times I was compelled to deny the request, he would still consider me his friend and would come back again for counsel. He knew I would weigh the problem, look at it from his viewpoint, and attempt to help him."4

A teacher comments: "One of his policies was that when young people came to Union College, the staff should recognize that they were no longer in academy, they should be called 'young men' or 'young women.' We were to show we had confidence that they would, at least up to a point, live up to the standards held up without being crowded and corralled all the time. Of course, that did not eliminate discipline. Those who made infractions were dealt with.

"Cheating in examinations was completely taboo. Anyone who cheated, M. L. considered to have failed. We had a few cases where this was actually applied. One girl was sent home because she cheated, and she never came back."

Plenty of students did come to Union to stay. But in the fall of 1935, under the heading "Large Enrollment at Union," M. L. wrote:

"It is not numbers that count. We are glad that we have as many students as we have, but we are more glad to know that by far the greater majority are here to work, and to work hard. . . . We are also glad to be enabled to furnish work for so many. It is the unanimous opinion of the teachers that the students here this year are here for business, that they study harder and work harder than ever before. This is as it should be. Times certainly do not seem to improve much, and it is the part of wisdom to prepare now for the future. We bespeak for Union the prayers of all."5


During the 1935-1936 school year, eighteen former students of Union began foreign mission service. This was no accident, because Union was known as the "College of the Golden Cords." On the front wall of the chapel hung a large picture of the college building, from which extended a golden cord for each former student who had gone out as a missionary. The cords were fastened to the plaques on either side of the picture, representing the hemisphere to which each had gone.

One Friday morning during chapel, M. L. passed out cards to all students who would be willing to go as foreign missionaries if God should call. He did no urging; it was just a matter-of-fact presentation of the needs and an opportunity for the students to let it be known that they were available. One hundred twenty-five signed the cards.

Friday evening, a week later, cords were hung for each of the eighteen missionaries who had gone out that year. Then the 125 who had signed the cards solemnly went to the front to offer themselves to foreign missions.6

Union's work opportunities did not come spontaneously, as seen from news notes appearing from time to time during 1934 in the Central Union Reaper:

"Industries greatly enlarged. . . . More land rented for farm. . . . Broom shop to be built. . . . Capitol City Book Bindery, one of Union's industries, has received large orders from all over the State for thousands of books to be rebound, necessitating addition of four more workers. . . . Union College dairy this week has bacteria count of 3,000, as against usual certified milk figure of 10,000 to 12,000. Management has been forced to increase barn capacity to accommodate sixty-seven cows. Some thirteen


students work in the dairy, doing milking, breeding, and barn work; bottling milk; making cheese, butter, and ice cream. . . . Union has weathered the financial storm and paid a substantial sum toward debt reduction.

Other news notes during the year touch on academic matters:

"Medical-cadet course announced, in consultation with General Conference. . . . Dr. Schilling lectures on 'Mysteries of Light and Electricity.' . . . Elder Andreasen asked by General Conference to teach systematic theology in advanced Bible school, to be held during six weeks this summer at P.U.C."

On October 31, 1936, a special offering was taken throughout the 25,000-member Central Union to make possible a new library for Union College. Each of the conference presidents wrote an article about it in the Reaper. Andreasen's contribution read:

"The new library is not an ordinary necessity that somehow we could manage to get along without if we do not get it. It is a compelling necessity, one of the things needed for our continuance as a college. . . . It means much, I am impressed to say that it means all, to Union College . . . at this time. We believe . . . our people will respond not only liberally, but of their necessity. This project must not and will not fail. . . . Our great Central Union is behind the movement to a man; God is going before us; and victory is ahead. Brethren, pray for Union College . . . its faculty, and its students. Much depends on the next few weeks."7

The new library was built, thus meeting one of the urgent prerequisites for the accreditation of Union College.

1 Central Union Reaper, April 5, 1932.

2 Ibid., Aug. 23, 1932.

3 Ibid.

4 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, p. 181.

5 Central Union Reaper, Oct. 22, 1935.

6 Ibid., Dec. 3, 1935.

7 Ibid., Oct. 13, 1936.

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