Saturday, November 23, 2019

Welcome to StoryBoard

Updated - October 2020

When VC alumni get together, it doesn’t take long before we are remembering our favorite college stories.

With over 100 years and 2 campuses of college life, there are tales to be told. We have a few of them posted here, and are ready to add as many as you want to share.

You can email your own story, or comments on these stories, to

Or, you can post the story at the VCAA Facebook Page, and note that it is for the StoryBoard.

Sunday, November 25, 2018



Youth Conference, Breakaway… it was known by several different names, the annual arrival of high school students visiting the campus.  For a few of these events, a popular activity was the mudpit. 

Tug of war over the mudpit, 

walking a balance beam over the mudpit, 

long-jumping across the mudpit – all were big hits.

One year in the 70s, it had rained the day before the athletic field activities. So not only was the mudpit full to the brim, all the surrounding area was a slippery slide of mud. 

The last event of the day was a race around the athletic field.  Running in that race was Don Hotz.  Also running was the little brother of Don’s fiancée, Jackie.  As the race progressed, it came down to Don and his future brother-in-law.  As we recall Jackie saying, she knew Don was going to do his best to beat her brother, that he just had to be that competitive.  

What Jackie thought about this was revealed as the two front-runners rounded the corner of the mudpit. Jackie stepped forward, and nudged Don off his feet and into the mudpit, giving her brother the win and Don the well-deserved dunking. 




These cheerleaders were recognized for their excellence at the end-of-season basketball tournament.  After cheering for our VC team, they were asked by another team to lead  group cheers for their fans, as they did not have cheerleaders.

The tournament organizers also asked this squad to perform floor cheers as entertainment at half time of the championship game.  There were a few squads of cheerleaders at the tournament, but none came close to the skill  of these young women. A couple cheerleaders from the other schools spoke to the sponsor, with interest in transferring to VC.  That's how you represent your school.

Saturday, November 24, 2018



Some good stories came from the Pizza Hut down the road. Maybe you were there for some of these: 
  • Chris Phillips and Michael Toy were part of a group determined to get their money's worth out of the "all-you-can-eat" luncheon buffet. They ate themselves into such a stupor they could barely make their way back to campus. 
  • Chris showed up in another adventure at Pizza Hut. Upon leaving, he discovered that his car has been stolen out of the parking lot. Deb Dill Foy could give you all the details on how that incident of grand theft auto occurred.
  • Willie Watts annoyed his waitress when he placed a to-go order.  He was actually eating in the restaurant and asked her what his table number was, then used the pay phone to call in an order to be delivered to his table number.
  • Generally speaking, the Pizza Hut staff liked Vennard students.  In particular, the girls who came in to get the last pizzas before closing never paid for pop.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Quiet Please

Professor Neva Miller & Dr. Merne Harris

Mrs. Miller and Dr. Harris served many years together as faculty at CEI and Vennard.  In this photo they are professional and dignified.  But they both enjoyed a good joke. Earlier in their careers when they were young professors, they were in charge of writing a humorous skit for a school party.  For some reason they thought it would be amusing to take current obituaries and insert names of faculty members. For instance, they would use a memorial written for someone who was a fan of boxing, and insert the name of a very proper staff lady.  

They were in the library reading the obituaries.  The more they read, inserting names of their friends, the more they laughed. If you ever heard Mrs. Miller truly laughing, you know it was tremendously infectious. Dr. Harris said when telling this story that they had forgotten where they were, laughing uncontrollably.

So they were startled when a hand was placed on each of their shoulders, and they looked up to see Miss Stanley the librarian staring sternly at them.  They got a lecture about being an example to the students, during which Dr. Harris said they still could not completely stop laughing.

Miss Stanley then saw what they had been reading that caused their hysterical laughter.  And that's when she threw them out of the library.
The skit, however, went on as planned and was a big hit.


2 Students

in class...

Missions class, in the classroom on the main floor near the stairs to chapel.  Student 1 and Student 2 sat together, always near the window which was always open a crack.  In warm weather it was open for breeze.  In cold weather, the radiators on that side of the room put out so much heat that the window was open to allow a drift of cold air in. 

One morning in early fall, waiting for class to start, the 2 students for some reason were discussing prayer.  Student 1 commented that he never closed his eyes during prayer.  He liked to see what everyone was doing when they were supposed to be praying.  Student 2 said that at least he must close his eyes when he was the one praying, but Student 1 said nope, he just prayed aloud, looking around.  Student 2 asked, didn’t he get distracted?  Student 1 confidently said he could keep his train of thought no matter what.

A couple months later… Student 1 was in fact called on to pray.  He stood and began his prayer.  Student 2, watching, saw that he was indeed looking all around the room, leaning forward and backwards for better views while he prayed.  Student 2 picked up Student 1’s very expensive pen and tossed it out the window.

An irate holler, “Hey, my pen!” was how Student 1’s prayer abruptly concluded, all eyes then on him as he mumbled amen and slumped down into his seat.

in chapel...

In the 70s, chapel seating was alphabetical, and so students sat next to the same people every morning.  Student 1 couldn’t help but notice that some of the students near her slept during chapel, some occasionally, some frequently.  This gave Student 1 the perfect opportunity for a prank (and actually, she repeated it with Student 3 Student 4,…)

You’ve been called on to pray,” is what she said to more than 1 student, jabbing them awake. The awakened student would struggle to his feet, only to realize that the announcements were proceeding and in fact no one had asked him to do anything.  In one other instance, the speaker had asked everyone preparing for the ministry to stand. Student 2 was sleeping soundly through this, but Student 1 woke him, told him to stand, told him why.  Of course she knew that by the time he stood, everyone else would be seated, which is exactly what happened.  As she recalls it now, Student 2 did not see the humor, “but his fiancée who was sitting in front of us could hardly control her giggling.”

with Mrs. Anderson...

Student 1 and Student 2 sat next to each other in chapel, in the back row of the center section, right in the center of that row under the clock.  Chapel began at 8:00, and when the chapel bell rang students had to be in their seats or they received a tardy slip.  Student 2 typically arrived with everyone else, getting to her seated so people wouldn’t have to get out of her way to let her to the center of the row.

Student 1 also typically arrived with everyone else.  But he stood at the end of the row, grinning, waiting until everyone else was already in their seat, watching the clock.  When just a few seconds remained, he would make his way down the row, causing everyone already there to have to stand, or to allow him to clamber over them.

Mrs. Anderson, who took attendance, did her best to stop this stunt; she lectured Student 1, scowled at him, and shook her head. Each day she had her pen ready to write out the tardy slip, but each day he managed to get seated just as the bell rang.

Student 2 observed daily Student 1’s satisfied smile at the havoc he caused. She heard and agreed with Mrs. Anderson who lectured him as she stood behind their row. And she tried pointing out to him how annoyed everyone was.  All to no avail.

After a couple weeks of this, Student 1 had an opportunity to take action.

Student 2 was going to be on the platform for chapel. The night before she took twine to the chapel, and fastened Student 1’s seat in the up position.  The next morning, a few minutes before 8:00, Student 2 was on the platform with her group, having a perfect view of the back row, and Student 1 loitering in the aisle.  As the seconds ticked down, Student 1 finally began his trek down the row.  He reached his seat, as always, with a couple of seconds left.  He confidently pulled down on the seat – and it didn’t move.  The seconds were ticking away.  Student 2 could see that Mrs. Anderson noticed what was happening, and was advancing with her pen and tardy slips.  As the bell rang, Student 1 was still standing.  A couple seconds later he managed to break the twine and lower the seat, just in time to receive the tardy slip Mrs. Anderson handed him.

Looking up to the platform, Mrs. Anderson grinned at Student 2, and waved a victory salute.



Professor Mary Bellus Barnes arranged in 1975 for an organ instructor to come from Central College to give classes at Vennard. He was already coming into town to teach a few students at Penn, but we only had 1 organ student.  It was a great favor that he would come over and teach on our campus as well. He also loaned us a harpsichord for our Coffee Cantata, and instructed his one organ student on that instrument as well.

But there was one issue that caused him great frustration.  His student was not tall enough to reach all the organ pedals easily.  In order to play Bach inventions, she was obliged to stand and balance on the pedals at the furthest ends and then to have to sit back down on the bench. She occasionally slipped off the pedal, losing her balance and nearly sliding off the bench altogether.

The instructor inquired of the music department about acquiring an additional, shorter, organ bench. But the budget just wouldn't allow it. That was where the student thought it would end. Then one day she arrived for her lesson to see that the instructor had set up a sawhorse and power saw in the chapel.  He was halfway through the process of sawing and inch and a half off the bottom of the organ bench. He actually wanted to remove an additional inch from the bench, which would have been perfect for his student.  But he knew that would be drastic enough to be noticed.

The student was more than willing to be sworn to secrecy, as she wasn't certain what the consequences would be.  And she kept that secret, even when listening to senior students and faculty organists puzzling over what was off about the pedal placement.  


 Perils of Freshman Life

A lot of campus stories happened in the lower hallway of the Administration Building.
Dr. Harris told this story that happened to him in part, but more significantly 
happened to a freshman in his first week of college.

This story happened at the beginning of the school year, in the busy lower hall of the Administration Building.  It was just a couple minutes before time for chapel to start.  Dr. Harris was about to leave the men's room, but the door was blocked.  He pushed at the door again, and then decided to wait.  He had heard the voices of Ray Adams and a freshman young man.  Knowing Ray, Dr. Harris was certain he knew what was happening.

He suspected Ray had told the boy they were holding the door to keep one of their friends from getting out.  He also suspected that Ray was going to make a getaway, leaving the freshman holding the door by himself.  Dr. Harris was right on both counts.

In a few seconds he heard the boy calling out as Ray ran off.  And then complete silence, as the young man started to wonder who exactly was on the other side of the door.  

Very hesitantly, the door opened.  Dr. Harris described a look of terror on the freshman's face when he saw the President step out.  All Dr. Harris said was, "don't you think you need to get to chapel?"  The student raced away at full speed.

When he recounted this story, Dr. Harris did have to admit that it was a good joke on the freshman, and that in truth it was exactly the kind of stunt he would have pulled as a student.


Spotted by a Yearbook Photographer


Pink Slip Summons

Tom Thurman shared this account of being summoned to President Harris's office;
Younger alums will spot a couple of their professors in this photo.

In the '70s, college enrollment was full. Chapel was the one time during the day when all students could be located. So the start of chapel was the time that notices, usually unpleasant, were delivered. A staff member would hand folded notes to the person seated at the end or the row, and the note would be passed down to the unlucky recipient.

Tom Thurman had received notes on occasion, so was not particularly worried when a note was passed to him - until he saw the message. He was to report to the president's office at his first opportunity. Tom recalls spending the entire chapel hour racking his brain trying to think what could have caused this. 

During those years classes filled up quickly, and you could not always sign up for the classes you needed. Tom was particularly adept at getting the academic department to substitute one class requirement for another. So he thought one of his class substitutions might have gone a step too far. But he could not think why it would be so bad that he was bypassing the academic office and going straight to the president. 

Not only did he have to worry about this all through chapel, but also through classes. Eventually, with great trepidation, he made his way to the president's office suite, and was ushered into President Harris's office. He took his chair and waited nervously while Dr. Harris concluded the business in front of him. 

Finally Dr. Harris set aside his papers and sat back in his chair. He studied Tom for a moment, and then asked, "What do you think of the Yankees chances for winning it all this year?"

When Tom told this story he said he wasn't immediately relieved. While they talked baseball, he was waiting for the real reason he had been summoned.  But after a few minutes, Dr. Harris told him thanks, and he could go.

30 years later, Tom said it still makes his heart stop a little.  Dr. Harris had known Tom would worry all morning about being called in and would expect the worst.  Tom said he still couldn't quite believe it.  But we can.


Pop Can Tag

In the '70s there was a pop can collection making the rounds of the women's dorm.There were several dozen cans in this collection, and how you would acquire your turn with it varied. But usually, a wall of pop cans would be stacked and tilted against your door.  Upon opening your door in the morning, you would be buried in cans.  The collection then became yours until you decided to hand it down to the next victim.

In the spring of '78, Cindy and I were living in Southview (house for junior and senior girls, across from the Women's Dorm.)  It was finals time - very hectic, everyone very stressed.  Some fun was needed to balance things out.

I'm not sure how Cindy came by the pop cans (better not to ask), but we had them.  Once the pop cans had been used, there was speculation about who would get them next.  We decided it would be fun to do something completely different.  Why not hang them at night in the dining room, so that when everyone came in for breakfast there would be dozens of pop cans hanging from the ceiling. 

The ground floor dining room was available for girls to study late at night.  During finals, bread and peanut butter were left out for us (thank you kitchen staff).  So the dining room would typically have a few girls studying past midnight.  But that was ok because our preferred practical joke timing was after 1:30.

It was not unusual for the dining room windows to be left slightly open, for ventilation on those warm, late-spring days.  It is possible that earlier in the evening we removed a screen from a window in the ground floor dining room.  I should mention that this was at a time when we did not have the security concerns that are an issue today.)  In any case, at about 2:30 a.m. the way was clear.  Cindy and I headed across the street from Southview with our garbage bag of cans.  Getting quietly into the dining room with that clattering bag was a bit of a trick, but we managed it without raising an alarm.

Pop cans at that time did not have a ring that stayed on the can, and no ridges.  Our original plan of tying string to the cans didn't work;  the cans slipped out.  So we taped the string to the top of the can. Standing on the tables, we then tied the other end of the string onto the ceiling tile supports.

After we had about 15 cans hung, it was beginning to look quite festive.

And then the first can fell.  You remember those hard table tops, and the floor.  When the pop can fell it bounced numerous times on the table, then onto the floor where it bounced a couple more times.

That sound in the middle of the completely quiet night rang out like a cannon.  Cindy and I froze, and waited.  But  we did not hear any steps pounding down the stairs.  We breathed a sigh of relief, and resumed our task.

About 3 minutes later, the next can fell.  And then we realized.  They were all going to fall.  We made an immediate decision - leave the cans and run for it, propping up the screen behind us.

We made it as far as the ditch in front of Southview when we looked back and saw someone in the dining room.  So we dropped flat into the ditch to avoid being seen.  But we could also hear every 3 minutes the next can falling, and we could see lights coming on in the dorm.

We stayed there in the ditch until the last can fell, laughing hysterically.  We knew no one would believe that we hadn't planned for the falling cans.  But state it here for the records, our only plan was a fun decorative prank during finals.  In this case, at least, we could be considered to be innocent, or at least not completely guilty. 

Cindy Thurman Eaton and Sandy Harris

Note - one of the late '70s yearbooks has a photo of the popcans propped up at a door;  when we locate that photo, we'll post it here.


Southview Stories

Officially, there were 10 residents of Southview in the spring of 1978. There were actually 12. 

College life can be rough around exam time. Fritz was rescued from more than one death-defying situation, including the harrowing predicament seen below, and a near-flushing.

The teddy bear Disneygribble attended a senior chapel and managed to acquire a demerit.  He was also held for ransom by Greg Morris and Dave Schweigert, the terms announced from the speaker system of Greg's car, demanding that Southview turn over all snacks or else. 

Despite the threats, no harm came to any stuffed animals as a result of college pranks.


'Tis The Season

Cindy Thurman Eaton and Sandy Harris

My family lived just off campus (Dad was President of Vennard for several years).  Thanksgiving of '77, Cindy and I were both there for the holiday, looking for something to do.  Things can get a little boring during Thanksgiving break when almost everyone has left campus.  Cindy had found a booklet of Turkey Carols, and caroling a few professors took up a couple hours. But we needed another project.  

It just so happened that Professor Michael Toy had decided he didn't want Christmas decorations in his piano studio in the Music Building.  I don't remember how the conversation occurred, but a few of us in his classes thought this was rather Scroogish behavior.  Cindy and I decided to rectify the situation.

If you look at the photo above, Professor Toy had the corner studio at the right side of the building.  Not the bottom row of windows, not the second.  The third row of windows.  We knew that he always left one window slightly open.  Our first thought was to climb up the decorative bricks that jutted out from the corner of the building. 

We very quickly abandoned that plan.  Back to my parents house to get a ladder.  I drove, and Cindy, leaning out the passenger seat window, held the ladder against the side of the car as we drove very, very, very slowly back to the Music Building.

Once we had the ladder up the side of the building we saw that it reached to a little above the window sill.  It was a bit of a balancing trick, forcing the window open enough for us to get through.  You remember those windows - big, and old and not easy to move.  But we got it done, got the evergreen branches up the ladder and hung above the chalk board.

It was a complete success.  Not only did Professor Toy leave the evergreen decorations up for the Christmas season,  they remained long after they lost their needles.

As to how the decoration got there, he did comment that he knew the doors were locked. And so someone would have had to come in through the window, but no one would be so idiotic.  He should have known better.

Monday, October 23, 2017


The Victory Tower Mystery, Part II 

Note - Nov. 2020 - this mystery has been solved...  see the note at the end.

In the early 1900s, during the first years of education on the University Park Campus, there was a structure known as Victory Tower or the Castle.  We have a photo of the tower, and we know its history.  But we haven’t known where it was located.  Not familiar with  the Victory Castle?  Here is the story from, “The Torch Goeth Onward…” 

From the picture, some have believed the tower was located in the triangle of land between the Ad. Building and the Music Building.  Others held with the oral tradition that the castle tower had been built near the road to the right of the Tabernacle.

So this is where the Mystery Part II appears.  A few years ago, the foundation stones were located.  Some sort of work crew was doing excavation, maybe for maintenance, maybe after storm damage.  In any case, it was reported that the foundation had been uncovered.  We have checked with a couple people we thought were involved with this project, but they reported back that it was not them.

Someone found the stones, and shared the finding.  But who was it, and where exactly is the location of Victory Tower? If you know, please solve the mystery of the castle tower, again. 

Mystery Solved!
Phil Nendel located a photo, taken from a different angle, showing another structure in the background of the castle.  When you enlarge the photo, it clearly shows the tabernacle under construction. As to the precise location, we would still like to hear from the person who unearthed the foundation stones.


The Men's Dorm Parrot

A CEI alumnus shared this story with us at a homecoming in the 90s. 
We later checked with Mrs. Sue Harris to see if she also recalled the story, 
and she verified that this did in fact happen. 

At the original Chicago location, Dr. Vennard and her family lived on a floor above the Men's Dorm.  The Vennards had a young son at the time.  

They also had a talking parrot that had been given to Mrs. Vennard on a missions trip. At first, the parrot was allowed to fly freely in the building.  But it turned out the bird had picked up some salty language earlier in its life, and was not shy about using it. It was not language that Dr. Vennard wanted her son hearing.  So the parrot was confined to the lower floor of the Men's Dorm.

The parrot's new quarters had windows just at ground level.  Not long after the parrot was relocated to the lower floor, the police arrived at the dorm.  There had been complaints from young women about wolf whistles when they walked past this religious college.  

early CEI students
At first the police were skeptical when the boys claimed it was only a parrot. But the parrot obliged with a demonstration. The boys promised to keep the parrot away from the sidewalk windows, and the police left, only issuing a warning.

Unfortunately a short while later the police were back. The boys had been unable to keep the parrot away from the windows. And this time the problem was not wolf whistles.  The parrot had learned the signal pattern of the traffic stop whistles. Traffic was snarled at the street intersection because drivers were hearing conflicting whistles, some of which were coming from the parrot.

That was the end of the parrot's residency in the men's dorm.  A place in the country was found for him, making dorm life more peaceful.  But he left a legacy of colorful stories.


Grover's Engagement

Grover Branson shared this story from the early days Vennard College.

Grover Branson told lots of stories, but this one is probably true. This was in the years just after the college had moved from Chicago to Iowa. It was the custom that when a couple became engaged, the guys in the dorm would drag the new husband-to-be into a tub filled with icy cold water. 

Grover had often helped drag unwilling victims into the cold bath, and didn't want to join their ranks.  Once his engagement was announced he knew they would be coming, so he was vigilant.  

The night when he heard steps creeping down the hall, he put his plan into action.  When the guys opened his door, they found Grover piously kneeling as if in prayer. The key words there are "as if in prayer" because Grover admitted he was not praying at all, except to be praying they would believe he was having devotions. 

They did in fact believe him, and quietly backed out of his room.  Grover said they did not try again.  Decades later, Grover continued to feel pretty clever about his escape.


The Un-Joke

Cindy Thurman Eaton and Sandy Harris

In the spring of '77 there were occurrences of cars in the men's dorm parking lot being decorated.  Cindy and I were not involved with those, except possibly to serve on one occasion as tour guides.  There was some concern about cars being damaged, and we didn't want to see that happen.  We never played practical jokes on anyone who didn't return the favor, or who didn't want to be involved. So we had no plans involving cars.

However, we did make a trip to the parking lot to specifically not play a practical joke.  We heard Bob Smith say that he and his friends were going to wait on the roof of the dorm that night, that they were going to catch the culprits, that no one would get past them.

How were we supposed to ignore a challenge like that.

At the appropriate time we arrived near the dorm, and could hear Bob and his friends talking up on the roof.  We waited until we heard them saying it was late enough that no one would be coming.  We waited a few minute more to make certain they left.

And then we put a note on Bob's car that read something to the effect of - just think what we could have done.

The next day we were confronted - did we do it.  I must point out that we never actually lied to anyone about our activities.  But it would go something like this. Bob might say, are you the ones who put that note on my car after 2 in the morning. And Cindy and I would say, we have a Theology final today; why in the world would be running around at 2 in the morning when we have to pass that test

Cindy and I think the statute of limitations has run out on pranks.  So, yes, this one was us.