Wednesday 1 December 2021

The Spicer College Song
(Gordon E. Christo)

The first performance of the Spicer College Song in public was by the eleven students of the graduating class at the commencement ceremony in Krishnarajapuram on Sunday, March 17, 1940. The voices of the congregation swelled as they joined in the singing of the “new College Song.” Prof Erwin J Henning, the writer of the words led the singing and his wife accompanied them on the piano. (Eastern Tidings, April 1, 1940, 4).



        (Words by E. J. Henning; music by Mrs. Don Spillman)
        --as in Eastern Tidings, Sept 1, 1940, 3)


            1. In the golden land of India is our school we love so well,
            With her teachers true, and her students too,
            Who a song of praise do swell;
            'Tis a school of God's own planning, filled with youth who all proclaim,
            As a gleam of light, in the heathen dark'ning night,
            The glories of God's name.



Spicer College, Alma Mater, we unite in praise of thee,

With the gospel light, in the cause of right,

We'll march on to victory;

Ever loyal, ever earnest, we will press on to the end;

To our goal be true, we will honour you,

And thy bright name defend.


2. From the snowy capped Himalayas, from the sunny, fronded plain,

From the happy land of the Burma strand coastal sand,

We have gathered in God's name;

To the clarion call to service we have yielded of our all,

To be trained to go, to be taught to show,

God's love to great and small.

3. Though we come from different peoples, though each speaks a different tongue,

Yet as one we stand in a Christian band

Representing fields far flung;

For the love of God unites us, and to speed His work our plan,

So that soon each clime hears the news sublime

Of the love of God toward man.



The Composers


Erwin Henning held an MA in maths and science. In 1935 while teaching at the Los Angeles Adventist Academy, he accepted a call to teach maths and science at Vincent Hill School in Mussoorie, India. However, before leaving the US the Hennings were informed that the position at VHS had been filled, and that instead they were wanted at the South India Training School in Krishnarajapuram. This junior college had no science or maths courses as yet. Henning proceeded and started working on building a chemistry lab, having to fabricate much of the equipment. He also set up a radio repair industry for the college, and served as a resource person for photography and moving pictures. Mrs Henning was appointed supervisor/head in the normal (education) department, and also taught English. She was given charge of all the music classes.


No doubt the Hennings were acquainted with the Spillmans, also from California, and were responsible for getting Lillian to compose the tune for the Spicer College Song.  Lillian Buxton, a talented musician, had married Don Spillman on Nov 10, 1927. He sang in quartets and conducted choirs, and served as pastor, evangelist and administrator in California.


The Words and the Tune


The words of the College Song have continued practically unchanged over the years. The offensive term “heathen,” has been replaced with “dark’ning” in the first stanza, and since Myanmar ceased to be part of the Southern Asia Division, I suggest that we replace “Burma strand,” in the second stanza with “coastal sand,” which follows a progression from mountains and plains. The chorus has a curious mix of “you” and “thee,” but these are to facilitate rhymes with “true,” and “victory.”


The tune of the College Song has affinities with certain hymns. The first 11 notes follow the same progression as in hymn number 480 in the old hymnal. "A Year of Precious Blessings." The musical phrase is repeated again in "Tis a school of God's own planning . . . " Also, the part "With her teachers true and her students too," and the next few notes, follows the progression of "I am thine O Lord, I have heard Thy voice," hymn number 594 in the old Church Hymnal and number 306 in the new Adventist Hymnal.




For more than seventy years the song has evoked loyalty and unity among alumni as they sang this song at several occasions a year. The College Song has served its purpose and the institution well. However, now that Spicer is a university further adaptation will be required. 

Wednesday 11 August 2021


History of the Spicer College Choir

The Spicer English Choir was first organized by R. S. Lowry in 1944 with sixteen members. He was followed by conductors L. J. Larson, and E. L. Sorenson. Mrs D. G. Bower led the choir from 1948-1953 and Mrs Evangeline (H.H.) Mattision conducted the choir for one semester in 1953. Neville O. Mathews conducted the choir from 1953-1954. Mrs Eldine Frederick directed from 1955 till Linwood Burns took over in 1956. Burns formed a special Spicer College Symphonic Choir which performed several Cantatas such as Caleb Simper’s “Rolling Seasons,” and Handel’s “Messiah,” which was sponsored by the Poona Music Society at the Gulati Hall in 1959.  Mrs Phyllis Bonney who had received a silver cup and shield for scoring the highest in India for the licentiate certificate from Trinity College conducted the choir from 1960-1963 during which time the choir performed the Cantata “Ruth” by R. Gaul, the “Holy City” by Alfred Gaul, and “Olivet to Calvary” by J. H. Maunder. Stella Prasada Rao often assisted as accompanist. The Spicer College Symphonic choir performed several times at the Gulati Hall accompanied by the orchestra of the Poona Music Society.  The church choir, a separate group, was during some of these years conducted by L. J. Larsen.

Dr George Jenson took over the choir in 1964. Jenson also started a smaller Advanced choir with forty members, and a Motet with sixteen select voices.  He also built up a substantial library of choir music. During his absence John Truscott conducted the choir from 1970-1971. Upon his return, Jenson led the choir in performances of Handel’s Messiah in Calcutta and Delhi in 1972. Mrs Jenson and Parul Pandit served as accompanists for the choir. in 1974 the choir performed for a Christmas programme on Doordarshan. The George Jensons left in 1975 and were replaced by his brother Gordon Jenson who directed the choir while his wife accompanied at the piano. While the Jensons were on furlough in 1981-1982 the choir was directed by Gordon Christo and accompanied by Mrs Lalkaka. When the Jensons returned they led the choir on a major tour of South India in November 1983, traveling to Bangalore, Vellore, Madras, Ernakulam, Thiruvala, and Kottarakara.

The Spicer College Department of Occidental Music

Courses in piano were first offered by Mrs N. O. Mathews during 1946-1954, and next by Mrs Elaine Burns. Courses in vocal music were first offered by Mrs D. G. Bower in 1947 The Music Department was organized first in 1958 with Mrs Elaine Burns as head and teaching courses in piano. Her husband Linwood Burns taught courses in voice.  The department was renamed Western Music Department around 1961 when an Indian Music Department was organized under the leadership of G. R. Daniel.

Mrs Phyllis Bonney took over as head of the department in 1960 and introduced new courses in voice. That year the new college auditorium was completed and the basement rooms housed the Western Music Department. The first room had a grand piano and was used for choir rehearsals and for classes in music. Two small rooms were for piano practice, and the final room served as a walk-in closet to hang choir robes. The Indian Music department moved to a room high up above the chapel. The Department of Western Music then began offering music as a minor field of study. Edwin Appudoray graduated in 1966 with a minor in voice.  In 1963 the department added Mrs Johnson and Mrs Roe as additional teacher s and began offering music as a major.  Evangeline Pingho graduated in 1970 with a major in music.

In 1968 the Western Music Department was renamed the Department of Occidental Music.

Friday 29 January 2021


SPICER COLLEGE: Different Names

South India Training School (1915-1937)

Coimbatore (1915-1917), Bangalore (1917-1921), Krishnarajapuram (1921-1937)

When the school was first established in 1915 leaders referred to it in the Tidings that year merely as "Our Training School in Coimbatore," though from the 1916 onwards in SDA Yearbooks it is called the South India Training School. Ten years earlier, in 1905, pioneers had established a small training school in Karmatar for the Northeast which eventually moved to Falakata as the Raymond Memorial Training School. Also in 1915 another training school opened in Lucknow which survived only four years. These schools were established to train indigenous workers in the various lines of work required by the Adventist church (E M Meleen, "The Training School--Its Object and Purpose," A Paper Presented at the Ranchi Conference, Eastern Tidings, May 15, 1920, 1.)  For some time it was called the SDA Training School. (Yearbook 1927). 

G G Lowry moved the headquarters and the school to Bangalore for a more central location for South India and for a better climate. The property in Krishnarajapuram was purchased in 1917 but buildings were ready for occupation only in 1922. Meanwhile classes were held in rented quarters in Bamboo Bazaar. 

Below is the very first signboard of the school in Krishnarajapuram. 

The South India Training School developed best among training schools and attracted students from all over the Division. Eventually the "South India" was dropped in speech and committee actions where it was referred to as Krishnarajapuram Training School and sometimes even as Krishnarajapuram College.  Here is an excerpt from 1937.


Spicer College (1937-1944)

Krishnarajapuram (1937-1942), Poona (1942-1944)

In 1937 the Division committee clarified that only the training school at Krishnarajapuram and Vincent Hill School & College should offer post-high school coursework. The Krishnarajapuram school was made a Division institution and renamed Spicer College in honour of William Spicer who had been president of the General Conference till 1930. The change in name from training school to college indicated the intent that this institution should be more academic than before. Here is the Division action approving the change in name to Spicer College.


Spicer Missionary College (1944-1954)

Two years after the college moved from Krishnarajapuram to Kirkee in Poona, the leaders felt that the term "Missionary" needed to be included in the name to define the true purpose of the college.This was not just an ordinary college, it was an institution to educate mission workers. Here is an excerpt from the Jan 15, 1944 Eastern Tidings.

This is the marble sign that was on the gate post for ten years from 1944-1954.

Spicer Memorial College (1954-2015)

Soon after India became independent and a republic, many became sensitive to the terms mission and missionary. Since SMC had become a popular abbreviation, the "Missionary" in the name was changed to "Memorial" as William Spicer had passed away in 1952. At the same time the Division committee decided to abandon using the term Union Mission and Local Mission for church organizational units. 

There's often confusion during a transition and minutes earlier alternated between Spicer College and Spicer Missionary College. At the time of this transition one can see Spicer Missionary College and Spicer Memorial College in the same Division Committee action in December 1954.

The initials SMC were humorously expanded variously to reflect the changing demographics of the student body. It has been called Spicer Malaysian College, Spicer Malyali College, Spicer Maharashtrian College, Spicer Mongolian College, and even Solusi Missionary College when many Kenyans joined as students. Here is the sign at the gate that many will remember.

Spicer Adventist University

When the institution became a university it was of course decided to retain the name "Spicer" which had been connected with the institution for more than seventy-five years. This is the sign at the gate as it stands now.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Early Adventists in Darjeeling

On a recent visit to Andrews University I stayed a couple of days with Milton Bairagee who informed me that the previous week Mrs Fern Babcock had given some old photographs to the Center for Adventist Research in the James White Library. I soon realized that these must be of early work in India, as Fern Babcock is the great granddaughter of Elder Robinson who was the first superintendent of the Adventist work in India. He arrived in1896, and by the end of 1899 he had succumbed to smallpox. 

One of the photographs was of early workers in Darjeeling and illustrates well their activity as Robinson reported to the Advent Review of August 1, 1899. This is what he wrote:


AT the close of March it was thought best that we come to Darjeeling to spend some time during the hot season in the plains. Brother Ellery Robinson was already here, working with the paper. He secured a suitable house, and March 29 his wife, Miss Whiteis, and my family also came. Several days later, Dr. Place sent up a few patients, with the Drs. Ingersoll and two nurses. Still others desired to come, so it was found necessary to take another small house to accommodate all. These we have had full till the present; but now that the rains will soon be setting in, we shall not have so many. We are situated a mile and a half out of the town, in full view of the everlasting snows, which tower up nearly thirty thousand feet into the sky. Darjeeling itself is seven thousand feet high, making it sufficiently cool to need a fire in the morning and at night. 

The first Sunday in May we began meetings in the town hall. After holding three services, we received word from the authorities that we could not have the hall unless I would promise to say nothing that would give offense to the Catholics or to any other sect. Of course, not being able to make such a promise, we had to give up the hall. The final decision in the matter did not reach us till Saturday night, and we had an appointment out for the next day at the hall. A hotel proprietor, who, with his wife, had attended the meetings at the hall, on learning of the situation on Sunday morning, offered us his big room in the hotel for the meeting that day. By watching the people on their way to the hall, we were able to inform them of the change, and so had a fair audience. We have now made arrangements with this hotel to have the meetings there every Sunday. 

Our largest audience, however, has been from the country over the mountains, from the tea estates, and through the district. After our first meeting, the editor of the Darjeeling Standard requested that I give him the substance of the talk, for his paper; so I have given him between three and four columns each time, and this I shall continue to do as long as we are here, if the way remains open. The Catholics went to this editor two weeks before we began meetings in the hotel, but we did not know it. They desired him to turn his paper against us, but he told them he would do no such thing. Darjeeling is a small place in the mountains, and consequently everybody knows what is going on. We have one hundred regular subscribers for the Oriental Watchman, who have taken it through to the end of the year, and some books have been sold here. The Catholic element is strong, and would rule everything and everybody if it could. 

Our canvassers are working mostly in the northwest. Brother Brown is at Naini Tal, a hill station two or three hundred miles west of Darjeeling. Brother Spicer has charge of the meetings in Calcutta, which, with his work on the paper, gives him plenty to do. 

About the middle of this month, when the rains begin, our English school, which has been closed for a few weeks, will open again. Miss M. M. Taylor will have charge of it. We are all looking forward with interest to the arrival of the two teachers who we understand will reach India about the first of October. We shall be able to give them a warm reception even as late in the season as that; but the hottest weather will then be past. 

In April, thirteen were baptized in Calcutta. The friends there are anxious to do all in their power to carry forward the work. One interesting case is that of a young brother afflicted with leprosy, who accepted the truth several months ago. It is no injustice to him when I say that he was a wild, reckless young man, without hope and without God in the world, till the truth found him, and he found it. He can and does truly say, " Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." He is happy in the Lord, and his friends know it, too. 

We greatly need a place in Calcutta for our meetings, a central location where the people can find us. Calcutta is the great metropolis of India. Through it many are passing and repassing, and there ought to be a place sufficiently prominent to be readily found. If we could have a hall, book depot, and Oriental Watchman office all combined, it would add very much to the interests of the work in this field. 

--D. A. Robinson

The missionaries present in this picture are Samantha Whiteis (a nurse), third from the left. Elder Robinson after a local boy. Mrs Spicer (seated) with Elder Spicer behind. The little child is Mary an Indian  adopted by the Robinsons (she later married a Smart). Mrs Robinson is next to Mary with Ethel Robinson on the other side. The boy in front is Willie Spicer. Behind him is Mrs Ellery Robinson and Ellery Robinson (a colporteur).

Thursday 2 May 2019

Karmatar -- First Adventist Mission Station in India

Elder D A Robinson and family were supposed to come to Calcutta, India with Georgia Burrus at the beginning of 1895 but actually came at the end of 1895. He soon made friends with Mr Haegert, a Baptist missionary who was working among the Santals. Six months later Elder Robinson boarded a train to Jamtara. The train was almost five hours late and he reached at about 2 a.m. A couple of horses and several coolies were waiting to take him the next twenty miles. You can read all about it in the Review and Herald of July 14, 1896. 

The Adventists enjoyed the drier climate of the area and two years later they rented a building near Karmatar Railway Station as the first SDA mission station in India. They opened a school for orphans and a dispensary.  Through the years perhaps more than any other mission station in the world Karmatar has seen SDA institutions come and go.  Here I try to piece together a crude history of Adventists in Karmatar. I have certainly missed a lot and definitely made some errors with years because the record is so sketchy. If anyone has more acurate information please correct me. And yes if you have pictures of pioneers or buildings, please send me copies. Let’s try to build on this.
At first the Adventists rented a building near the railway station.  They opened the Orphanage Industrial School in 1898. Unfortunately several orphans and then Elder Brown who was caring for the oprhans, and finally Elder DA Robinson himself caught the disease and died. The school understandably shut down for a while.
In 1902 the Adventists opened an English Boarding School in Karmatar with Thekla Black and Anna Orr in charge. In 1905 the Watchman Press moved to Karmatar so that students could also learn the printing trade. The English students moved out. And because it was hard to move supplies in and printed work out, the Press moved in 1909 to Lucknow. J C Little who had been in charge of the press caught cholera in East Bengal in 1910 and is also buried in Karmatar.
The Adventists had spent nearly Rs 12,000 in rent and so in 1911 they purchased several hectares of land and build a school, and several bungalows for missionaries and Indian families. Elder Borrowdale opned the Karmatar Middle English School in 1912. However, in 1915 it was decided to turn over the facilites to Santali work. A Santali Hindi Girls School had already opened in 1913 and in 1915 a Santali Hindi Boys School opened alongside. The girls school was directed by several ladies in turn, including Mrs Kellar, Mrs Borrowdale, Mrs C J Jenson, Mrs Leech. The two schools appear to have merged into the Karmatar Boarding Schoolaround1923 with Borrowdale and then L G Mookerjee in charge.  The boys section moved to Falakata and merged with the Northeast India Training School there in 1927 and the Girls school joined the Girls School in Calcutta.

In 1930 the Karmatar Mission Hospital opened under the leadership of Dr Hebbard.  However, three years later it moved out of Karmatar to Ranchi. A school operated in Karmatar called the Bihar Mission School and then Karmatar High School under L G Mookerjee till about 1941. Then the Karmatar Mission Press was opened to print material in vernacular languages though that lasted only for about a year 1946-1947. Then for a few years a school known as the Karmatar Secondary Boarding School and then Robinson Memorial School operated on the campus.

A little more than fifty years after the mission station opened in Karmatar the golden years literally began when the Northeast Union moved its headquarters from Calcutta to Karmatar.  In 1952 Elder Spies with Prasada Rao as Union secretary treasurer shifted to Karmatar with CJ Jenson, Japagnanam and Lange as departmental directors.
In 1954 Elder Storz moved in with BJ Williams as secretary. Others included S Jesudas, Lange, B Nowrangi with Japagnanam remaining.  In 1958 Storz was reelected with Appel as secretary. Jesudas, Nowrangi, Lange and Japagnanam were retained. Broderson was added. In 1962 Storz was reelected again with D David as secretary-treasurer. Others included Burr, Holford, P K Peterson, M C Lall and B W Fanwar. However in 1965 B J Williams took over from Storz. S John, William McHenry, P D Kujur came in at this time. M C Lall continued with the publishing department. G C Sircar and R N Dass were also there and the veteran Pastor Arinda.
In 1966 Pastor GJ Christo came in as president with McHenry as secretary and S John as treasurer. Others included RM Neish and C J Gorde. M C Lall, P D Kujur also served with the departments. G C Sircar B Nowrangi and R N Dass continued too. In 1970 Pastor Christo was re-elected and the team with McHenry, MC Lall, PD Kujur, B Nowrangi was retained. Konghat came in briefly. Swansi continued in the business office. However, in 1971 the Northeast Union was combined with the Northwest and the headquarters was in New Delhi. Karmatar housed section headquarters and a school for the blind which today is renamed Robinson Memorial School.
As the Southern Asia celebrates the centenary of the organization of the Division the church is being renovated. The members of the Division Executive Committee will convene for a dedication service there. On May 30.

Monday 10 December 2018

Spicer College Auditorium
In 1958 Pastor Rice announced to the college that a new auditorium would be built the next year with a capacity of not less than 500.  This was truly ambitious because the enrolment in the ‘58-‘59 school year had dropped to 178 from a record high of 199 in the ‘56-‘57 school year  (though they had the highest number of college girls that year—45).
Students pledged Rs1,100 towards the college goal of Rs 5,000, and the Division promised to double-match what the college raised.  Richard Jonathan and Sam Kodan college seniors, and Stella P. Rao and Gentry Israel, High School seniors promoted the fund-raising among the students.
Pastor O. O. Mattison, president of the Division broke the ground for the new auditorium on August 21, 1959. Pastor D. S. Johnson, Division Secretary, and Elder M. E. Kemmerer, Division Treasurer were also present.  In his speech Pastor Mattison said that the new assembly hall was was evidence of the growth of the college, and expressed the hope that the day would come when the student body would outgrow even the new auditorium.
The class of 1960 made first use of the new auditorium on Mar 18. The building was not fully completed, but attractively decorated.  Florescent lights and a new PA system added a new dimension to the services.  Pastor R. E. Rice, College President, and Pastor H. H. Mattison, church pastor, conducted the last two services in the old chapel which was converted to a reading room for the new library in April 1960. The new auditorium was calculated to comfortably seat 700 while the old was crowded with 260.  The benches were moved to the new auditorium and folding chairs added along the sides. (The flowering trees now growing beside the auditorium were planted by boys as punishment for going to the movies.)
The new auditorium was so spacious that students and staff could move the benches to the walls and to play active indoor games on Saturday nights.  But the enrolment rapidly  increased to 700 in the seventies, and suddenly the new auditorium was inadequate.
In the early 1970’s Pastor Crump, college chaplain was the first to strongly advocate the idea of a dedicated church.  The inspired congregation responded and money started trickling in.  Some women even donated their wedding rings for the cause.   Social, academic and mundane programs intruded upon the spiritual atmosphere of the hall, and finally it just became way too small as the college family approached 2,000. Two service on Sabbath helped, but created new difficulties.  Secular events with large numbers moved outdoors to the main lawn, but Sabbath services could not.
The College has a new church now, but the auditorium continues to serve for chapel exercises, social programs, and daily worship services for the men. Boys and girls interested in each other still vie for aisle seats during services and programmes, and of all things, spoons have started falling out of pockets again during boring sermons just like in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
--Gordon Christo

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Vincent Hill School Memorabilia 

On August 30, 2018 my dad Gerald J Christo, one of the legends of Vincent Hill School and College (voted at a reunion of alumni) passed away. With the passing away of VHS alumni, the memory of that wonderful school fades further and further.  Nevertheless, dad did what he could to preserve the memory of that institution by coordinating the construction of a memorial on the campus of the Division office in Hosur.

A replica of the entrance to VHS leads to the Sabbath School rooms funded by alumni of VHS. A large photograph of VHS and the school logo grace the walls of the library in the building.

When VHS closed in 1969 the band uniforms and some musical instruments went to Spicer where some still remain. The dining hall crockery went to Delhi where they were sold off in small lots. My mother acquired a few which have survived till today. Some of you will remember eating desserts in these little bowls.

Dad also carefully preserved the church record book which has names of members from 1922-1942. On the first page are the names of George Belchambers, Robert Ritchie, I F Blues, Walter Mackett, and on the last page are the names of the Chapmans, Matinez, Colin Smith, Mrs MM Mattison, Ashley Lamb, and many more.

I have three Mountain Oaks in my collection. The oldest is from 1941. The next is from 1953, and the third is from the last year of VHS's existence, 1969. If any one desires, I can have these scanned and uploaded.


I also have in my possession an old army whistle which Pastor Jenson used in the early 60s for VHS camps (and later at Spicer in the 80s and 90s). Some of you may recall the steady toot of those whistles. He also had in his possession the VHS bell, a hand bell that was used to ring the end of each class period. Someone borrowed it for an AY program at Spicer and didn't return it. It's still out there somewhere.