Messiah’s fourth president, C. N. Hostetter Jr. was the son of former Messiah president C. N. Hostetter Sr.
Hostetter was a devout Christian from a very early time in his life. At a young age, he was already making great contributions to the Brethren in Christ Church.
At just 19, he was assigned the position of superintendent of the church’s Sunday School. Under his leadership, the school became so popular that it was overflowing with youngsters. It eventually grew to be the largest of all the Sunday Schools in the denomination at the time.
By the age of 21, he was ordained a minister. He served as a zealous mission worker and a pioneering evangelist.
In 1915, he attended Messiah where he was most popular for his evangelical work. He took part in Messiah’s Young People’s Christian Society where he was sent out into the community to visit and pray for people in need.
Fully devoted to the cause, he spent his summer evangelizing as well. He, along with three friends, went out into the world to serve God. Having split into teams of two, Hostetter and his companion found themselves in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, a town consisting of mostly bootleggers, moonshiners, and ex-convicts. There, they led a three-week revival, and the work they began there still continues on today.
After his revival campaign of 1922, he married Anna Lane.
The next year he became the pastor of a small Brethren in Christ church, fresh ideas and deep passion in tow. He began a Sunday School, Sunday worship services, and a Vacation Bible School. The Vacation Bible School was the first in the surrounding area and in the denomination.
Following his graduation from Messiah, Hostetter turned to the business world, selling everything from stereopticons (a projection device that consists of two lanterns arranged so that it appears that one picture fades into the next) to peanut butter and calendars.
Over the years, he remained a loyal friend to the College, visiting frequently, making guest speaker appearances at Bible conferences, and even acting as a stand-in professor.
As he grew older, he maintained prominent leadership in the Brethren in Christ church, serving as executive secretary of the Foreign Mission Board and chairman of the Home Mission Board.
Hostetter was a firm supporter of education, a leader in the Church, and a successful businessman. Logically, he was a good leadership fit for the College.
By 1934, Hostetter was appointed president of Messiah.
Upon his entrance into office, he set a goal to tackle the biggest problems that plagued the school. His first ambition was to heighten student morale and enforce discipline. Hostetter had bold and effective ways to accomplish these objectives:
- Appointed himself faculty advisor to a number of key student organizations to oversee operations
- Enforced attendance at Tuesday student prayer services
- Wrote a new student handbook that “tightened up” the disciplinary code
- Set up a system to better recruit students and advertise to the public
Hostetter was a visionary for the College. Not only did he invent ways to build a sense of enthusiasm and dedication among the students, but he also had the intention of seeing the College grow in a host of new ways:
- Financial development
- Always kept the budget balanced.
- Created the Board of Associates, a group of community leaders that partnered with Messiah, forming positive relationships with key people who helped the college greatly in terms of financial assistance.
- Despite constraints of the Depression, held many successful fundraising campaign initiatives, which allowed the school to flourish.
- College accreditation
- Led the four-year accreditation process (although he did not see it through before his presidency ended, he set essential building blocks that led to this achievement).
- Building and expansion
- Oversaw the construction of a new dormitory, administration building, library, chapel, and the Alumni Auditorium which housed the dining hall and gymnasium.
While Hostetter clearly had a lot on his plate, he always piled more on. At one time, he taught five classes and served on 13 other boards, committees, and organizations outside of his presidential undertakings.
There can be no doubt that Hostetter was beyond busy, but he always made time for his students. He was a father figure to them. He even secured jobs and living arrangements for them. Throughout the years, he and his wife also helped struggling students pay off their school bills. After graduation, students often returned to campus just to seek counsel and wisdom from their beloved president.
One student said of Hostetter, “Your Christian character has challenged me to a life of humility and service. As I met you in the classroom, in the chapel, or in your office, you always left me with this impression, ‘He has been with Jesus!’ ”
Students, however, were not the only ones who adored Hostetter. He developed strong and loving relationships with his staff as well. He praised their work and took them on enjoyable retreats.
After nearly 30 years of service, Hostetter decided to retire while he was still in good health to devote more time to other things that were important to him.
What happened in the world during C. N. Hostetter Jr.'s presidency?
- The Empire State Building, then the world’s tallest building standing at 102 stories, was completed.
- World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945; Holocaust death tolls toppled over three million.
- In an effort to keep baseball alive during wartime, businessmen formed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
- Silly Putty, accidently created during research for rubber substitutes, became a national fad.
- Slinkies, matchbox vehicles, Barbie dolls, and hula hoops became the most popular children’s toys.
- Blue jeans took off as the latest and greatest fashion statement in the 1950s.
- The Korean War began in 1950.
- Rosa Parks’ historical refusal took place in Montgomery, Alabama and launched a large-scale bus boycott in 1955 that kicked off the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, sending the first manmade object into orbit.
- Alaska and Hawaii became part of the U.S. in 1959.
- Watson and Crick cracked the DNA code.