Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Welcome to Story Board

 Updated - September 2023

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.



Senior Chapel Infraction

Typically, stuffed animals do not attend chapel.  But the stuffed animals who lived at Southview were routinely not typical. They had been abducted and held for ransom, had survived swinging from the ceiling, had nearly met their demise in the swirling destruction of the toilet bowl. (See the StoryBoard topic, Women's Dorm.)

This one, belonging to Sandy Harris, had a front and center seat for her senior chapel. It was a complete surprise to her.  When she stood up at the pulpit, and saw the red cowboy hat, she momentarily lost track of what she had been about to say. That, of course, was exactly what her housemates had been hoping for.

But they got a bonus.  Sandy received an infraction, courtesy of Dr. Jim Porter.



In the 70s, chapel seating was alphabetical, and so students sat next to the same people every morning.  Sharon couldn’t help but notice the students near her who slept during chapel, some occasionally, some frequently. 

One was her friend who sat in front of her.  On one of the mornings that her friend nodded off, she shook his shoulder and whispered, "You’ve been called on to pray!”  He struggled to his feet, only to realize that the announcements were proceeding and in fact no one had asked him to do anything.  

Another time, the chapel speaker asked everyone preparing for the ministry to stand. The student sitting next to Sharon was sleeping soundly through this, so she woke him and told him he was supposed to stand, and 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, he did not see the humor, “but his fiancée who was sitting in front of us could hardly control her giggling.”


That Guy Who Was Always Late

It was the start of freshman year for Larry and Sandy who were seated alphabetically next to each other in chapel. Back row, center of the row. Chapel began at 8:00, and when the chapel bell rang students had to be in their seats or they received a tardy slip.  Sandy typically arrived with everyone else, getting to her seat so people wouldn’t have to get out of her way to let her to the center of the row.

Larry also typically arrived with everyone else.  But he stood at the end of the row, waiting until everyone else was already in their seat. Grinning, and watching the clock, he would wait until just a few seconds remained. Then 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 Larry, 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.

A couple of weeks into the school year, Sandy was going to be on the platform during chapel for a presentation. The night before, she used twine to fasten Larry's chapel seat in the up position.  

The next morning, a few minutes before 8:00, Sandy was on the platform with her group, having a perfect view of the back row of Larry loitering in the aisle while Mrs. Anderson lectured him.  As the clock neared 8:00, Larry 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.  Mrs. Anderson had noticed what was happening and she was advancing with her pen and tardy slips.  As the bell rang, Larry was still standing.  A couple seconds later he pulled hard enough to break the twine and lower the seat, just in time to receive the tardy slip Mrs. Anderson handed over his shoulder.

Assuming correctly who was responsible, Mrs. Anderson looked at the platform 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 one 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.  

Sunday, November 25, 2018



Mud Pit

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 mud pit. 

Tug of war over the mud pit, 

walking a balance beam, jumping over the mud pit - all were big hits. 

One year in the 70s, it had rained the day before the athletic field activities. So not only was the mud pit full to the brim, but all the surrounding area was also 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 mud pit, giving her brother the win and Don the well-deserved dunking. 




These cheerleaders were recognized for their excellence at the end-of-season basketball conference 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.  And 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



Pizza Hut

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.
  • Tim 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



Missions Class

Missions class was in the classroom on the main floor near the stairs to chapel.  Greg and his friend were sitting together where they always sat, near the window. For some reason the topic came up of being called on to pray at the start of class. Greg commented that he never closed his eyes during prayer.  He liked to see what everyone was doing when they were supposed to be praying.  His friend said that at least he must close his eyes when he was the one praying, but Greg said nope, he just prayed aloud, looking around.  His friend asked, didn’t he get distracted?  Greg confidently said he could keep his train of thought no matter what.

A week later Greg and his friend were again sitting near the window. It was winter, and the radiators below the windows put out so much heat, the windows were left open a crack to allow a drift of cold air in. That day, Greg was called on to pray.

He stood and began his prayer.  His friend, watching, saw that Greg was indeed looking all around the room, leaning forward and backwards for better views while he prayed.  His friend then picked up Greg's rather expensive pen and tossed it out the window.

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


It could only happen to a freshman

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;

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

For a few years there was a pop can collection making the rounds of the women's dorm. There were several dozen cans. How you would acquire them 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.

Louise Clark is pictured here, carefully positioning a doorway of the pop cans.

In the spring of '78, two Southview residents came in possession of the can collection. (Southview was the house for junior and senior girls, across from the Women's Dorm.)  It's not clear how the Southview residents came by the pop cans (better not to ask).  
It was finals time - very hectic, everyone very stressed.  Some fun was needed to balance things out. Wanting to do something different, the Southview girls decided to 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 in the Women's Dorm was available for girls to study late at night.  During finals, bread and peanut butter were left out (thank you kitchen staff).  So the dining room would typically have a few girls studying past midnight. The residents of Southview would be back in their own house by that time, so the girls waiting to hang the pop cans had to keep watch from outside.

That was a different time in the world, and it was not unusual or unsafe for the dining room windows to be left slightly open, for ventilation on those warm, late-spring days.  (It is also possible that earlier in the evening the Southview girls removed a screen from a window in the ground floor dining room.)  In any case, by about 2:30 a.m. the way was clear.  The two girls headed across the street from Southview with the garbage bags of cans.  Getting quietly into the dining room with that clattering bag was a bit of a trick, but it was managed without raising an alarm.

Right away, there was a problem with the plan. Pop cans at that time did not have a ring that stayed on the can, and no ridges.  Tying string to the cans wasn't working; the cans slipped out. So they taped the string to the top of the can. Standing on the tables, they then tied the other end of the string onto the ceiling tile supports.

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

Then the first can fell.  The dining room had hard table tops, and the polished concrete floor. No carpet, no table cloths.  When the pop can fell it clattered as it bounced numerous times on the table, then onto the floor where it bounced several more times before rolling away.

That sound in the middle of the completely quiet night rang out like a cannon.  The girls froze, and waited.  They didn't hear any steps pounding down the stairs.  Breathing a sigh of relief, they resumed work.

About 3 minutes later, the next can fell.  And then they realized.  All the cans were going to fall.  And this time, they did hear footsteps heading down the stairs. They made an immediate decision - leave the cans and run for it, propping up the screen behind them.

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

They stayed there in the ditch until the last can fell, laughing quietly and hysterically.  They knew no one would believe they hadn't planned for the falling cans.  But in this one case, at least, they could be considered to be innocent, or at least not completely guilty. 


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 an infraction.  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

Story from 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 last piece of the Victory Castle Mystery is solved

Christian Holiness University (CHU) opened in 1906, being the first college on the University Park campus.  One of the buildings of the new college had not been planned nor was it built by the school. It was constructed by a few enterprising students who couldn't afford the college's housing costs. Called the Victory Castle, or the Victory Tower, it survived at least until 1922. After that, the tower was demolished, and with it went the details of its exact location.

President Harris had long been interested in the tower, and included its story in his book on the history of Vennard College, "The Torch Goeth Onward."  His research into Victory Castle included details about its construction, but not a precise description of its location. 

People have speculated over the years as to where the tower had stood.  A favorite guess was the point of the triangular shaped lawn between the music building and the administration building. But Dr. Harris found no evidence to support this.  

A more persistent oral tradition was that the tower stood to the right of the tabernacle. This theory was supported in the mid-1970s when what appeared to be foundation stones were unearthed in that area.

Though Dr. Harris did locate a photo of Victory Castle, it did not show any surroundings and so none of the speculation could be confirmed. 

This excerpt from "A Torch Goeth Onward" gives what information Dr. Harris found...

Since the publication of Dr. Harris's book, 
more evidence of the tower has come to light.  

Phil Nendel, a frequent contributor to the heritage pages of our website, located a photo and two yearbooks online that provide more details.  

First was this photo that shows the tower in the vicinity of the tabernacle, which is seen in the background. The photo seems to support the theory that Victory Castle stood to the right of the tabernacle. 

Then we found a photo of the tower in the 
1926 John Fletcher College yearbook, the Sylvis. Though it's an interesting picture, it doesn't give an indication of the castle location. It does, however, document that the tower was still standing in 1926.

And then, paging through the CHU 1922 yearbook, the Aletheia, 
the mystery of Victory Castle was suddenly solved.
Here it is...  


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 mission 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.