Earlham School of Religion is one of two separate institutions that operate under the authority of the Earlham Board of Trustees, along with Earlham College. The College originally opened in 1847 as the Friends Boarding School. Earlham was coeducational from its inception, echoing the historical Quaker view of equal educational opportunities for both men and women. Friends expected women to speak in meeting, if so led, and to take part in public affairs. Twenty-three men and twenty-two women from the Indiana Yearly Meeting region, most preparing to become teachers at Friends schools, were taught the classics, natural sciences, and religious education.
In 1859, Indiana Yearly Meeting declared that henceforth the school would be called Earlham College. The name derived from Earlham Hall in Norwich, the estate of the influential British Quaker, Joseph John Gurney.
At first, most students came from the Indiana and Western Yearly Meeting areas. Gradually Quaker students from the eastern United States enrolled; later still the College attracted students from all over the United States as well as from overseas. It was in 1875 that the first non-Quaker students were admitted.
Earlham was a pioneer of Quaker education in the United States, following British Quaker education traditions. Quaker testimonies of simplicity, equality, and nonviolence permeated the campus. During both world wars, many Quaker students took up the cause of pacifism and registered as Conscientious Objectors. However, many others served in the military.
The litany of historic institutional struggles sounds much like contemporary concerns: recruiting highly-motivated students eager to learn; attracting able and enthusiastic faculty and staff; raising money to offer respectable salaries; improving and broadening the curriculum; maintaining the Quaker flavor and distinctives amid secular distractions; nurturing a student body that challenged rules and guidance as it stretched mentally and spiritually; finding funds to maintain and improve the physical plant; and, as always, dealing with the diversity and inevitable tensions within the College, between the College and the yearly meetings, within the yearly meetings, and within the Religious Society of Friends itself.
Throughout its life Earlham has been blessed with many gifted and Spirit-led Quaker presidents, faculty, staff, and students. The College has benefited from many graduating students who developed gifts of leadership and returned to serve the College.
One such Quaker who strengthened Earlham was D. Elton Trueblood, who came to the College in 1946. An internationally known and respected teacher, author, and lecturer, Trueblood was a driving force in the establishment of the Earlham School of Religion in 1960. With a number of other deeply dedicated and weighty Friends, he held a vision for the "equipping ministry"—a Quaker seminary to prepare women and men for a breadth of ministries—which in turn would liberate others for the universal ministry of all believers.
So much about Earlham is unique, and trend setting in a positive way, that it is difficult to choose just a few examples. There is the observatory, built in 1861 near Carpenter Hall to house an equatorial telescope. This was the first college observatory in Indiana, reflecting Earlham's keen commitment to the natural sciences.
The Earlhamite, the oldest alumni magazine in the United States, is still a delight to read. It illustrates the College's early recognition of the importance of maintaining a vital connection with its graduates.
As a nationally ranked liberal arts college with an excellent Japan program, Earlham's relationship goes back to the 1880s when Joseph Cosand, a Friend from Indiana, became the first Quaker missionary to Japan.
Today Earlham continues its commitment to excellence in education with a Quaker flavor. The surrounding community continues to benefit from public invitations to take part in seminars and conferences, to hear nationally and internationally acclaimed speakers, to attend art, music, drama, and athletic events. The enthusiastic participation of student volunteers also enriches the wider Richmond community.
A single President is administratively responsible to the Earlham Trustees for the two institutions that comprise Earlham. Earlham School of Religion also has a separate Board of Advisors that is representative of the constituency the school serves. It is a liaison and consultative body for the Earlham Trustees, the President of Earlham, and the Dean of ESR. The Dean of ESR is responsible for the administration of the School of Religion, and reports directly to the President of Earlham.
On the Earlham Campus
The School of Religion operates in two buildings on the northeastern corner of the Earlham campus. The Robert Barclay Center, 228 College Avenue, houses the offices of ESR administration, all teaching faculty and support staff, as well as a conference room. Originally a farm house and later the home of D. Elton Trueblood, Barclay was the first classroom building of ESR.
The ESR Center faces Barclay Center. The building contains classrooms, several small meeting rooms, a dining room and kitchen that can serve more than 100 persons, the Quigg worship room, two student computer labs, and space for various community activities.
Earlham College facilities include Runyan Center, the student union building with a bookstore, post office, ATM machine, recreation facilities, coffee shop, fine arts center, and Wilkinson Theater. An excellent food co-op is also located on campus. Stout Memorial Meetinghouse, built in the early '50s, largely with volunteer labor, provides a large worship room for religious gatherings, and the Wymondham Room, which sometimes is used as a classroom. The Pauline Trueblood Memorial Nursery, a cooperative, is also located in Stout. Carpenter Hall is the location of the College administrative and business offices, as well as offices of student development, career services, and campus ministry. Carpenter Hall also houses Goddard Auditorium and classrooms. Lilly Library is the primary Earlham library and holds the ESR collection. It is nationally known as a teaching library. (See p.12) The Joseph Moore Museum collection is noted for its early acquisition of a mastodon and a mummy. The Earlham Athletics Wellness Center provides modern facilities, as well as ample opportunities, for exercise and recreation. It is available to ESR students and spouses. Participation in intramural sports and other exercise options, such as horseback riding, are also available through the College. Earlham facilities are accessible to people with disabilities.
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