100 Years of Giving : The Early Years
Messiah College’s first President, S.R. (Samuel Roger) Smith, was one of the strongest advocates in the Brethren in Christ denomination for the creation of a church-affiliated school. Smith donated his home in Harrisburg to provide a building for lodging and classroom space for Messiah’s first term. Eight students were enrolled at that time. In 1911, S.R. Smith donated approximately 5 acres of land so that the growing school could be relocated in Grantham, close to his own home and his noodle factory. Revenue from Smith’s noodle factory helped to sustain the fledgling school in these early years, and faculty members were often paid in the form of food because salaries were minimal. For the first few decades and beyond, many professors lived on campus and willingly earned small salaries because they believed strongly that their life’s work was to further Messiah’s mission and train young people for lives of Christian service. Professor Emeritus K.B. Hoover recalls the time in the mid-1940’s when he was informed that his annual salary would be increased to $1,000. His wife, Esther, remarked that she wondered if the Lord should really trust them with that much money!
Information about Messiah College’s early years was gleaned from Messiah College: A History. (Nappanee: Evangel Press, 1984) by E. Morris Sider.