Manhattan Christian College 75 Years Of Growning Christian Leaders

The History of Manhattan Charitian College is from the MCC Connection "News From Manhattan Christian College". The early history of MCC is taken from Daniel Thomas Johnson's Master Thesis, "History and Backgrounds of Manhattan Bible College." Much of the material from the Lown years is taken from "A Man's Ministry" by LeAnn Cook and Kevin Cook under the project management of Ron Grover.

The latter material focusing on the Cable administration was compiled by Melanie Horton.

The early history of MCC is taken from Daniel Thomas Johnson’s Masters Thesis, "History and Backgrounds of Manhattan Bible College." Much of the material from the Lown years is taken from "A Man’s Ministry" by LeAnn Cook and Kevin Cook under the project management of Ron Grover. The latter material focusing on the Cable administration was compiled by Melanie Horton.

Since 1927, almost 5,000 men and women have come to Manhattan Christian College (MCC) to learn more about the Bible, more about themselves, and more about Christian service. To each of these students, MCC has faithfully executed its call to educate, equip, and enrich Christian leaders to further the Kingdom of Christ regardless of their chosen profession. In fulfilling her mission, the college has persevered.

Our history shows how God has protected and blessed the college in times of depression, drought, and war. How He sustained and blessed the college during cultural conflict, social upheaval, and civic unrest. And how God undergirded and blessed MCC through the industrial revolution, the sexual revolution, and the technological revolution. In celebrating the college’s diamond anniversary, MCC rejoices. The years have passed quickly and it has been a privilege to be a part of the educational experiences of our students, today’s church leaders who are abounding in the work of the Lord.

The story begins when Dr. Eugene C. Sanderson, President of Eugene Bible University, Eugene, OR, purchased property in 1927 on Bluemont Avenue in Manhattan, KS, for the purpose of establishing a Bible college. He believed placing a small college in the setting of a university community would result in what he called "The Life of Spirit in the Fellowship of Learning." Sanderson’s vision was to further the Kingdom of Christ. His method was to plant Bible colleges across the United States and "Christianize" the nation. Throughout his lifetime he was instrumental in developing four Bible colleges that are still in existence today. They are Northwest Christian College (1895, Eugene, OR), Minnesota Bible College (1913, Rochester, MN), Manhattan Christian College (1927, Manhattan, KS), and San Jose Christian College (1932, San Jose, CA).

MCC’s inception began in the summer of 1926 when Sanderson met T. H. Johnson, dean of Johnson Bible College. Dr. Sanderson was so impressed with Johnson that he wrote him one year later in the summer of 1927 to ask Johnson to help form a Bible college in Manhattan, KS. They met in August of that year to pray and discuss the plans. After the meeting, Johnson felt called to Manhattan as Dean of the new college.

Johnson and his family arrived in the city of Manhattan on September 5, 1927 and the college officially opened seven days later on September 12. The school opened in cooperation with International Bible Mission and Eugene Bible University under the title "Christian Workers University." That first year, one teacher greeted 28 students. Six of these students were interested in formal ministry. They were R. C. McCord, Marion A. Brown, Rex Harmon, Clayton Hildebrand, Leo Warner, and Clarence Closen. The other 22 were primarily local residents taking non-credit courses. The courses offered that year were Hebrew History, Life and Teachings of Jesus, Homiletics, Church School Administration, Public Speaking, and Greek.

The college campus consisted of one frame building which was divided into twelve rooms and four sleeping porches. The students as well as the Johnson family made this large house their home and their classroom. During the first year, Eugene Bible University purchased land adjacent to the frame house on the corner of Bluemont Avenue (now Anderson Avenue) and 14th Street and a $55,000 building project began for a new campus facility.

In September of 1928 the college broke ground on the new building. The local bank, contractor, and other interested individuals contributed $30,000 toward the project. Security Benefit Association loaned the college the rest of the money for construction. Later in 1928, the college changed her name to "Kansas Bible College," a name which was often confused with the similarly titled "Kansas Bible Chair" in Lawrence, Kansas.

The end of the second year brought the first commencement ceremony, with three students graduating: Marion A. Brown, Mrs. S. M. Smith, and Rufus C. Mowery. Since then, more than 1,200 students have completed their undergraduate degrees from MCC.

The college began its third academic year in the new building with an increased enrollment, and enlarged faculty (S. Marion Smith from Butler University), and its first public relations director, John Carroll. Thesis writer, Dan Johnson, states, "John Carroll, the first field man, was receiving good welcome from the churches, and the young preachers in training at the school were being gladly received by the churches, who were eager for leadership that could be had from the school." Even in its infancy the college was making an impact.

Although the college’s influence was continuing to grow, it was not financially stable. The national economic condition at this time, combined with the institutional debt, mandated action. In July 1929, Manhattan Bible College, Missouri Christian College, and Colorado Bible College were unified under the banner of International Bible Mission and incorporated into the Midwest region of Christian Worker’s University.

Financial conditions continued to worsen across the nation and Dr. Sanderson was compelled to give up his work with Bible colleges. On June 4, 1930, the trustees of Manhattan Bible College elected the academic dean, Thomas Henry (T. H.) Johnson as President of the college and elected Professor S. M. Smith to the office of Dean.

When T. H. Johnson was installed as President of Manhattan Bible College, the college became a self-governing entity with twelve trustees. The original Board was comprised of the following individuals:

• C. O. Wilson, Fredonia, KS

• Charles P. Butler, Farmington, KS

• George W. Hacker, Manhattan, KS

• F. A. Lindsley, Junction City, KS

• Paul C. Dooley, Manhattan, KS

• C. O. LaShelle, Manhattan, KS

• John A. Scott, Scott City, KS

• Mrs. A. A. Carpenter, Protection, KS

• R. A. Olson, Marysville, KS

• M. J. Selby, Manhattan, KS

• E. A. Newby, Wichita, KS

• Leon L. Myers, Dodge City, KS

In 1930, the campus property was legally transferred from the regional Christian Workers University system to the newly chartered Manhattan Bible College (MBC). The Board and Administration planned to continue developing the college along the original pattern envisioned by Dr. Sanderson.

The years ahead were stormy for the college. When MBC took over the property of Christian Workers University, they assumed a $70,000 debt. Financial conditions across the nation in 1930 and in Kansas particularly made it impossible to meet the debt service. These severe financial woes were not unique to Manhattan. According to Dan Johnson, ". . . all our schools [colleges] were faced with the same situation, and some were unable to stand the test, but with a driving faithfulness of all connected with this school it [she] was able to survive."

In spring of 1931, 60 students were enrolled at MBC. The increases in enrollment and hiring of an additional faculty member in the fall of 1932 found the college with a surplus of $95.42 at the end of the 1933 fiscal year. End-of-month account balances sometimes showed as little as fifty-nine cents.

The mortgage holder began foreclosure procedures against Manhattan Bible College in the summer of 1935. Although the financial condition of the college was poor, she continued operations. For eighteen months, until final foreclosure, the college leased the first and second floors of the stone building on the corner of 14th and Anderson Ave. This rental arrangement marked the beginning of better finances for the college.

Manhattan Bible College was able to survive these difficult days due to the concerted efforts of a dedicated faculty and student body, several generous benefactors, especially Dr. and Mrs. O. M. Owensby, and the tireless leadership of T. H. Johnson.

President Johnson spent much of his energy and time telling the MCC story and casting the vision of Kingdom building. He focused on building lasting relationships with churches such as Greensburg, Harper, Atwood, Anthony, and Stockton, KS. Finances improved as financial support gleaned from the relationships built by Johnson and others grew. In 1942, the college purchased the frame building it had been renting since 1927 and called it Pardee Hall. In the fall of 1943, Mr. Carl Jolliffe of Peabody, KS, gave the college a large gift of $15,000 which the college used to purchase the stone building on the corner and Jolliffe Hall was a part of the campus once again.

A milestone of educational achievement was reached in 1949 when MBC became accredited by the newly founded American Association of Bible Colleges (AABC). Having learned of the existence of the AABC, Dr. Johnson wanted the college to have this credibility. After an extensive application process, MBC became the second college of its kind (after Minnesota Bible College) to achieve accreditation. The infant accrediting agency (now known as the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges) was the first to assure the public that a quality educational experience was offered at Bible colleges across North America.

Three years later, in May of 1952, President T. H. Johnson died at the age of 61 after a three-month illness to which the pressures of his job contributed. He had served Manhattan Bible College as president for 24 years and his death was a severe blow to the faculty, constituency, and students. The frame house (Pardee Hall) which had served the college since its inception in 1927 was renovated in 1953 and renamed "Memorial Hall" in his honor.

Professor Virgil Hinds, who had been at the college for 16 years, assumed leadership of the college until O. Ray Burgess (1952) was selected as the new president several months later. Poor health forced Dr. Burgess to resign in 1953 and once again, Professor Hinds took over the reins of the college. Dr. Burton Thurston (1953-1955) was chosen to be the next president. He resigned in 1955 after deciding to continue his education at Harvard University. In May of 1955, W. F. Lown was called to serve as fifth president of Manhattan Bible College.


Wilford Franklin (Bill) Lown came

to MBC in 1943

to develop a music program and complete his undergraduate college education. With the unique perspective of both student and colleague, he was impressed with the college’s faculty which included some of the finest educators in the Christian brotherhood - Dr. T. H. Johnson, S. Marion Smith, C. K. Thomas, and James B. Carr.

As the new professor of music, Lown began his teaching career with great enthusiasm. All students, regardless of talent, were encouraged to be in the new choir. Dr. Lown began music ensembles, gave private voice lessons, taught music fundamentals and song leading. Even with an overall enrollment of only 40 students, Lown developed a men’s quartet and chorus, chapel choir, and women’s glee club. Within two years he had assembled a 30-voice mixed ensemble and the college’s enrollment had reached 80 students.

In July 1950, after serving several years as part-time minister at First Christian Church of Junction City, W. F. Lown left MBC to devote himself to full-time preaching ministry. For five years, Dr. Lown led the church in Junction City until, with the passing of Dr. T. H. Johnson, the college took a turn for the worse. Two presidents had come and gone in quick succession and the MBC Board of Trustees urged Dr. Lown to become president of the college. After praying much about the unexpected offer, Lown felt the Lord’s call and became president of MBC in the spring of 1955.

The college was once again on the verge of financial collapse. Although the early days of Lown’s tenure were difficult, he continued to build relationships with churches and individuals as much as possible. His renowned and respected faculty, James B. Carr, Lloyd Taylor, James Lackey, Daniel Johnson (son of T. H. Johnson), Ben Duerfeldt, and Wally May shared his vision for building the college through relationships and got the college back on its feet financially.

During this time, a movement among more liberal Christian preachers to organize a formal denomination was gaining strength and support nationwide. More conservative preachers resisted and a rift grew between the two factions. The movement resulted in the founding of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. MBC was caught in the middle of the dispute with churches on both sides of the issue. Independent churches accused the college of siding with the Disciple churches and Disciple churches accused the college of siding with independent churches. Lown led the college to maintain its Biblically conservative position. This position was acceptable to only a few churches which had also refrained from siding with either side of the movement.

The Christian Church/Disciples of Christ movement attempted to take over the MBC Board of Trustees around this time.

In response, the Board issued a statement that the college would not form any alliances which would inhibit its freedom in Christ. This issue led churches supporting the Disciples movement to withdraw their financial support from the college.

Despite the heavy criticism Lown and the college received for their conservative stand, the college had many opportunities for improvement and advancement. In 1960, Dr. James Van Buren and Dr. Charles Gresham, both well-known and trusted Bible scholars, joined the MBC faculty which helped strengthen the college’s character and instill greater confidence among Kansas churches. However, the Disciples movement continued to influence faculty turnover and financial support from churches.

In spite of the financial impact of the church controversy, MBC was able to begin developing their campus. In the late 50’s, a large fraternity house was purchased and named "Buckles House" in honor of the benefactor of Memorial Hall. Around 1960, "The Canteen," a local student hang-out, was purchased by MBC to house the dining hall, bookstore, and music building. In 1966, the men’s dormitory was built and named Johnson Hall in honor of Mrs. T. H. (aka Mother) Johnson for her years of dedicated service as dorm mother.

Enrollment, although consistent, remained low and serious consideration was given to deciding if the college should remain open. President Lown and the Trustees discussed an idea which could boost enrollment. The idea encompassed a new cooperative educational venture between MBC and Kansas State University. The 3/2 Program (what is now called the Dual Degree Program) allowed students to take three years of course work at the Christian college, and two years of course work at the university, with enough work transferred between the two colleges for two degrees to be earned. Lown began to lay the groundwork for the implementation of the program. In 1968, a 3/2 Program of Christian Education and Secondary Education was offered jointly between MBC and KSU. One year after it was announced, student applications at MBC increased 90% over that of the previous year.

The college began acquiring considerable land to prepare for the growth expected from the innovative program. The college purchased a variety of properties in a four-block area surrounding the main college buildings. Enrollment steadily climbed from 97 in 1967 to 271 in 1981.

With the excitement of the 3/2 Program, Lown felt a change in name may be in order. He thought the college’s name, Manhattan Bible College, might cause some people to think that the college only taught the Bible when it dealt with many aspects of Christianity and Christian service. In late 1969, Lown’s suggestion was met with almost unanimous endorsement by alumni and faculty and the college changed her name for the fourth time to become Manhattan Christian College.

Campus development continued in 1972 when the B. D. Phillips Charitable Trust of Butler, PA, made it possible to purchase a building to house the college’s library. It was also approximately at this time that construction began on the Koinonia Campus Center to house the cafeteria, lounge, recreation area, conference rooms, as well as student and staff offices. Funds for this center resulted from a Manhattan Civic Campaign fostered through Lown’s strong community relationships.

While serving in an interim position at Central Christian Church in Wichita during the summer of 1981, Lown felt moved to return to full-time ministry and accepted the position of senior minister at the age of 61. President Lown had grown enrollment, enlarged the campus, and given the college a national recognition throughout the brotherhood. Now, as he prepared to retire, the college’s Trustees sought a man gifted in the area of stewardship to help stabilize the well-documented financial struggles of the college.


With Lown’s retirement, the Board of Trustees looked for a leader who had experience in turning difficult financial situations around. Kenneth Cable had been involved with the college both directly and indirectly for a number of years so he was familiar with the current circumstances and was a proven leader in financial development. Cable was an alumnus (’58) of MCC and had served as a Trustee for several years.

In an effort to make a smooth transition from the Lown administration to the new Cable administration, Cable began his service as Executive Vice President/President Elect in July 1980 with primary responsibilities of long range planning and capital fundraising. With President Lown’s retirement from MCC, Kenneth Cable assumed the office of President in November of 1981.

Building on Lown’s vision of campus development, Cable moved early in his presidency to enhance the campus. The Campus Center was enlarged and renamed in the summer of 1982 through the generosity of Mrs. Bertha Coffin of Council Grove, KS, in honor of her late husband’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Coffin.

A miraculous intervention of tremendous proportion was on the horizon for the college. Cable was moving into his fifth year at the college and much of his early tenure was spent dealing with one financial crisis after another. Although student enrollment was at an all-time high when Cable began his service at MCC, the college was still experiencing financial difficulty. The financial struggles led to a drop in enrollment for several years. The cumulative effect of these financial problems were felt when foreclosure proceedings were brought against MCC by The Christian Church Extension Foundation in October 1985. The college was forced to sell the northwest corner of the property and enter into a major debt reduction capital campaign. The resulting "Miracle Campaign" was an unqualified success raising $1.3 million in cash in 93 days. God’s blessing was multiplied through the selling of various college properties which, combined with the campaign, allowed the college not only to remain open, but to flourish.

The northwest corner of the campus was sold to Empire Development Company, a development company owned by Floyd Sack of Denver, CO, a friend of the college. The selling of property came with the written assurance that all facilities constructed on that property would be beneficial to and compatible with the college’s mission. A better financial picture brought more growth and in February 1986, the college broke ground for the 20,000 square foot J. Donald Coffin Memorial Hall to serve as the new classroom/office building.

In 1991, fundraising began on a new 13,000 square foot women’s residence hall named Kenoyer Hall, for its major benefactors,

Dr. and Mrs. Ray Kenoyer. After the new residence hall was dedicated May 7, enrollment began to increase again.

Educational programming was expanded in the fall of 1994 with the creation of the LEAD Degree Completion Program. This program was designed to help individuals with two years of previous college experience finish a bachelor’s degree in management and ethics by attending classes one night a week. Applicable for business, church, and para-church work, this degree emphasizes the college’s mission to educate Christian leaders in every walk of life. The addition of the LEAD program jump started enrollment from 271 in 1994 to 362 in 1995.

The Master Campus Plan was revised in 1995 to include the renovation of Jolliffe Hall to house the library and adult education offices as well as construction of a student activity center adjacent to the Coffin Memorial Campus Center and a Chapel. The administrative team spent many hours working with the city staff to complete the final plan and gain its official approval in March 1998.

In 1999, Manhattan Christian College reached a milestone in academic recognition by becoming a candidate for regional accreditation with the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The pursuit of this achievement came on the heels of reaffirmation of accreditation with the AABC in 1996 and culminated in February of 2000 when MCC was granted initial accreditation with the North Central Association. NCA accreditation brought credibility to the college’s Bible-based curriculum as well as testified to the fact that the college maintains the highest standards in all its operations.

During this same time, a family with interest in the college, Bill and Pat Sanders of Protection, KS, established a trust which enabled the college to purchase a new apartment building adjacent to campus property. Sanders Apartments were dedicated in May of 2000 to serve as upper-level student housing.

In addition, a monolith of the Ten Commandments which was removed from Manhattan’s City Hall was relocated to the MCC campus and became the centerpiece of the first official entrance to the college campus. More than $100,000 in donations and gifts-in-kind were received from the Manhattan community to create Heritage Court as a tribute to the Judeo-Christian heritage on which our nation was founded. Heritage Court was dedicated in May of 2001 with a community-wide celebration and was the first part of the Master Campus Plan (new campus signage) to be completed.

The financial condition of the college has stabilized during Cable’s tenure with the college. From a $3 million plus deficit to consistently balanced budgets, MCC is enjoying her best financial position in her 75 years of operation. The college is preparing to move forward with major campus development while preserving the past through the renovation of the college’s focal building - Jolliffe Hall. And the commitment to the original purpose of the college remains the top priority - to impact the world with the gospel of Christ.


Since 1927, MCC has motivated and trained Christian men and women to serve God. In spite of the numerous financial struggles, the college has consistently produced quality leaders. Enrollment has grown from 28 students in its inaugural year of 1927 to 412 in 2002. MCC is proud to count many gifted Christian leaders among her alumni.


Over the past 75 years, God has called servants of great stamina and tenacity to minister at MCC. T.H. Johnson believed that God had a purpose for Manhattan Bible College and that He would sustain her through The Great Depression. And God did.

W. F. Lown envisioned an expanded campus partnering with Kansas State University to produce Christian leaders in any field. The 3-2 Program (dual-degree) became a reality. And God made it happen.

Since 1981, Kenneth Cable has demonstrated the same faithful perseverance. His dreams to stabilize the college’s financial position and for MCC to become regionally accredited has become reality. As in the past, God put all the pieces into place.

These leaders working alongside many other faithful servants have led the college to fulfill God’s purpose - to prepare men and women to penetrate the world with the Gospel of Christ, regardless of chosen profession.

A more extensive history is being documented by Ray Stites, MCC alumnus (’68) and current Trustee, in a book which will be available at the Reunion Weekend in October 2002. May this brief look at the college’s past serve to remind us of the precious fruit produced through the talents, prayers, and financial gifts with which God has blessed MCC. God is pointing us toward the future as a new generation is called to MCC.

Thank you for your devotion, sacrifice, and commitment, and for being a partner in laying a strong foundation on which to build 75 more years of solid Christian education.

A Living Tribute - The T. H. Johnson Preaching Scholarship

Manhattan Christian College is honored to announce during its 75th anniversary year the founding of the T. H. Johnson Memorial Preaching Scholarship established by his son and daughter-in-law, Daniel T. and June Johnson. The scholarship will be awarded to full-time, upper-level MCC students in the Pastoral Ministry Degree Program.

Thomas Henry (T. H.) Johnson was MCC’s first teacher, academic dean, spiritual development director, chief financial officer, public relations director, career counselor, groundskeeper and cook (oyster stew was his specialty). He was the second president of the college, a position he held for 24 years until his death in 1951. For 32 of his 61 years, his driving desire was to train preachers to spread the gospel of Christ.

During his tenure the college grew in number and reputation. And although it went through difficult financial times, Dr. Johnson’s commitment, tenacity, and faith held the college together. Aside from his duties at the college, he traveled extensively building relationships to undergird Manhattan Bible College (now MCC) in prayer and financial support. He preached in countless meetings across the nation sharing the Gospel he loved so well and promoting the college he was called to serve.

MCC is privileged to administer this fitting tribute to one of the college’s most beloved founding fathers. Memorial contributions to this fund are welcome and will be used to continue Dr. Johnson’s passion - training preachers for the churches.