JACKSONVILLE — Hundreds turn out for a bittersweet “final homecoming” Saturday at Jacksonville’s First United Methodist Church: a celebration of the life and ministry of fading Lon Morris College. The sermon was delivered by Rev. Ted Campbell, an alumnus who’s now an associate professor at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. Campbell said, “The loss of the college is very much like the loss of a family member.” He harked back to Lon Morris’s heyday, when “person-to-person education was a hallmark.”
Longtime faculty member Peter Hoheisel echoed Campbell’s feelings about the college’s classroom intimacy. With the growth of computer-based education, Hoheisel told KTBB of his fear that we’ll be seeing less of “this type of college, where you would have an actual relationship with a teacher — small class size, fifteen, sixteen.” Professor Emeritus Dr. Jimmie Reese led a prayer and a statement of faith during the service. Speaking to us afterwards, Reese called his 39 years at Lon Morris “a tremendous journey for me…an absolutely superb time.” The saddest thing of all, says Reese: “This did not need to happen. It was preventable.”
After the service, many attendees headed across town, where the dormant campus’s Scurlock Center came alive one more time with a sale of branded Lon Morris merchandise. Officials say money raised from the sale will be given to employees who have missed paychecks since the school’s financial troubles began. Lon Morris is now going through bankruptcy proceedings; on February 4, a federal bankruptcy judge will take up results of a recent auction at which the college’s property was sold off.