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History

In the very early days of Radford College, the people of Grove Avenue Methodist Church welcomed the college girls to participate in worship and the educational offerings of their church. Grove’s earliest writings about college students speak of offering them a church home while at college. From the birth of an idea for a special Sunday School class for college students through its infancy as The Wesley Foundation at Grove Avenue into being the first campus ministry with a student center at Radford College in 1949, to the present status of having its own debt-free facility dedicated to the glory of God and the service of God's people, the Wesley Foundation has at every stage been connected, intertwined, and supported by the good people of Holston Conference. Since its inception individuals and congregations of the Wytheville, Tazewell, and Abingdon, and, until the 1960’s Big Stone Gap, Districts have witnessed to God's grace and blessings in their lives by service and commitment to ministry for and with college students through the Wesley Foundation at Radford. In the early days all the girls came to Radford to be teachers. High academic achievement, learning to be Radford ladies, and looking for “Mr. Right” occupied much of their time. As a way of life most of the students participated in religious activities. A short-lived partnership between Radford and VPI resulted in a brief union called the Rad-Tech Wesley Foundation. Even though the official merger of the two organizations was short-lived, countless associations between Radford Ladies and Tech Men resulted in unions which are still thriving.

Until the late >60's, life at Radford College was pretty calm and sedate with the school holding firm to its in loco parentis policies. Grove and Central UMC’s offered church families and an open door for worship participation and involvement of the students. There were so many students at the Wesley Foundation on Sunday mornings that Ed Jervey and Lil Bondurant each taught a class in addition to the one taught by Carol Dunsmore.

In the late 1960’s, things began to change. The winds of rebellion sweeping the country finally blew onto Radford’s campus. Students began to question authority and discard age-old practices in every area of life. At first, change was subtle-- the women won their battle to wear slacks without having to wear a long coat over them; then they were allowed to leave campus without signing out or going to an approved destination with an approved escort. Radford students staged sit-ins, walked picket lines, and held other peaceful protests to raise the awareness of administrators and the Board of Visitors. The nationwide rebellion over gender and racial equality and the Viet Nam war also surfaced at Radford College. The discord rocked the southern customs of separate-but-equal and acquiescent women, as it challenged the role of the United States as world peacekeeper. Peace with justice and issues of social discrimination forced the established Church into an era of accountability and transformation. Many in the general membership took a dim view of students rejecting age-old customs to implement equality in the Church’s racial, gender and peace promotion practices. Equality and integration of congregations, ordination of women and sanctity of the lives of young men at war were the incendiary touch points that both rallied and offended the church-at-large.

Since campus ministry has always been on the cutting edge of theological, political and social reform, the Wesley Foundation was known as the place to call if you or your friends got into trouble and needed help. Effecting social change and pastoral counseling were at the heart of this ministry in the late ‘60’s through the mid ‘70’s. Under the progressive leadership of Bishop L. Scott Allen, one of the earliest African-American bishops, Holston Conference rallied behind its campus ministries as the students were involved in raising public awareness and action for those oppressed by poverty, gender bias, racial discrimination, and issues of war and the draft. Campus ministry broadened its focus of program-based ministry to include faith in action, a focus on others and accountability between beliefs and practices.

In 1971 Radford College President Charles Martin called Dr. Keith Roberts, RC Professor of History and long-time Wesley Foundation Treasurer, into his office. The purpose of the meeting was to strongly suggest that the Methodists reign in their campus minister. It seems Carol Dunsmore was allowing the students labeled “troublemakers” to meet at the Wesley Foundation to openly discuss problems at RC and to plan strategies for change. Dr. Roberts affirmed Ms. Dunsmore to be a professional who had the backing of her Board of Directors. In spite of tumultuous change occurring in every walk of life, Dr. Martin continued to hold fast to his sovereign authority at Radford College. Amidst falling enrollment, loss of faculty support, and student unrest, Dr. Martin was promoted to the position of Chancellor in 1972. He retired in 1975.

When Dr. Donald Dedmon arrived on campus, everyone thought his initial changes to be a sign of enlightenment and a genuine commitment to education and the welfare of Radford’s students.*******
During all these changes, the churches’ doors remained open to students who occasionally showed up to worship with bare mid-riffs, tattered blue jeans and/or bare feet.
After 1975 the trend once again shifted toward students who came to school seeking not only academic enlightenment, but spiritual opportunities through the church as well.
From >75 until about >85 Wesley's ministry grew, forming strong ties with area churches through worship and by catering United Methodist Men's dinners and serving or bringing programs to United Methodist Women=s events. Church family connections were organized, and students became more involved in the life and activities of the local United Methodist churches.
The late >80's brought a downward trend in campus ministry participation across the nation as students demanded instant gratification in their spiritual and personal development. Though the numbers at the Radford Wesley Foundation declined slightly in 1986-87, the quality and commitment of those involved remained constant. Concern for self and personal achievement lead the majority of students to individual and social pursuits not affiliated with the church.

Even though these national trends had far-reaching effects on participation and support of campus ministry in Holston. The students at Wesley in Radford remained faithful to mission and ministry to others as they updated programs and explored new areas for ministry. The students made every effort to breathe new life into discussion groups and to reach far beyond their existing boundaries to share God’s love with others. During the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s, Wesley Homecoming was born. Acknowledging their own need to stay connected after graduation, students initiated an event that would encourage alumni to return with their families for a week-end each spring. Currently held on alternate years, this event has been coupled with anniversaries, Ed Jervey’s retirement party, note-burnings, a celebration of Carol Dunsmore’s ministry, and the dedication of our new Chapel. Admittedly, there are many alums who don’t participate in this program, but those who do have re-kindled friendships and forged relationships with older and younger alumni and students who are currently involved. Former faculty, staff and Board members participate in this week-end of reminiscing the past and dreaming for the future.
As the number of students involved began to dwindle, Holston’s leadership began to evaluate the effectiveness of its campus ministries.

The trend began to shift as a strong, positive and deeply committed freshman class came to school in August, 1997. Each year since has brought new enthusiasm and energy for spiritual growth and ministry to other students and outreach to others. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ by helping others is widespread practice with students today. Participation in worship and religious groups is also important to many students of the >90's.

As we prepare for ministry in a new millennium, we can expect the trends and cycles of campus ministry to continue. We are confident that God's love and grace will sustain us, motivate us and guide us as we seek to serve and minister to Radford University. We look to the people of Grove United Methodist Church for their continuing love and parental pride in a ministry and mission begun so long ago as a way to help the college girls find a church home in a strange place.

Mar ’62 paid debt on house
July ’62 Broke ground on new addition
Dec 8 ’62 new bldg complete

In the early 1940's, Grove Avenue Methodist Church changed the name of its College Sunday School class to the Wesley Foundation Class. Soon the church established a Wesley Room@ in the church to provide a meeting place for the college girls. On November 15, 1949 the Grove Avenue members rented a Wesley house at Fairfax and Washington Streets and became the first religious student center at Radford College. To give the girls a real home away from home, in 1952 Grove Avenue members Corinne and John Nye and the church congregation each contributed $5,000.00 toward the purchase of the S. L. McConnell property at 1022 Downey Street . Margaret and Homer Bailey lived upstairs in the center (where Peters Hall stands today), and Margaret was employed part time as the first Director of the Wesley Foundation at Radford College.
In March, 1962 the note on the house was satisfied, and the center was dedicated to the glory and service of God. On July 1, 1962 ground-breaking ceremonies were held for the large multi-purpose addition which would meet the ministries growing demands for space and facilities. In 1992, through God's grace and the generosity of a bequest by Mary and John Shelor of Galax, the debt on this facility was satisfied. Our center remains the only one in Holston Conference that is debt-free!!! As the school has grown by leaps and bounds to become co-ed and achieve university status, the Wesley Foundation has continued its metamorphosis to meet the challenges of ministry to an ever-changing constituency at Radford University. Since those early days of 1942, the “college girls, now guys, too have had a place in the hearts and ministry of the conference. As we embrace the opportunities for ministry to each generation of students, we at the Wesley Foundation are anchored in the knowledge that the people of Holston Conference have always provided the spiritual, financial, and personal resources for United Methodist campus ministry in Radford.

DIRECTORS:
1949 – 52 Margaret Bailey M/M Homer were house parents
52 – 54 Mrs. Wm. Duncan
June – Sept, ’54 Mrs. Robt Walker
Sept, ’54 Rev. Sam G. Dodson
July ’58 Rev. Charlotte Whitfield
June ’63 Rev. Nancy Green
Nov. ’66 Carol Dunsmore
July, 94 - Present Martee Buchanan