Perry Epler Gresham
Twelfth President Of
Perry Gresham, youngest of four children, was born in Covina, California, December 19, 1907, the son of George E. and Mary Epler Gresham. Perry's grandfather, Daniel Epler, migrated to Elbert, Colorado, from the Midwest by wagon train at the end of the Civil War. The Gresham family arrived during the 189os. George and Mary were wed in Elbert (1898), and after an eight-year stay in California, where Perry was born, they returned to the Colorado ranchland (1912).
Young Perry grew up on the family ranch in the days before school buses. He rode his saddle horse four miles to Elbert High School but soon dropped out, opting to work on highway construction, hauling sand with a team and wagon. By age 19, he owned a small herd of cattle and a Buick convertible. Persistently recruited by the president of Colorado Bible College, Perry left the ranch and highway construction to attend that Denver institution. Simultaneously, he attended Denver Junior College and within one year received his high school diploma. On December 6, 1926, he was married to Elsie Enez Stambrough, soprano in the choir at Central Christian Church, which housed the Bible College Perry was attending. For the next three years the newlyweds shared in building and pas to ring the new University Place Christian Church in Denver. In September 1929, the Greshams moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where Perry entered Texas Christian University (TCU) to study for the ministry. He graduated in two years (1931) with a B.A. degree, Summa Cum Laude, while at the same time teaching as a graduate instructor in Greek and philosophy. On December 1, 1931, a son, Glen Edward, was born to them. By 1933 Perry had completed the B.D. degree at Brite College of the Bible. During the following decade (1932-43), he was minister of University Christian Church in Fort Worth and a professor of philosophy at TCU. Granted a leave of absence in 1939-40, Perry pursued postgraduate work as a Margaret Hoe Scholar at Columbia University. He had earlier taken postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and later added postdoctoral work at Union Theological Seminary and the University of Edinburgh.
Beginning in 1943, he was senior minister for four years at University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington, and taught at the University of Washington. He then served a six-year pastorate with Central Woodward Christian Church in Detroit, Michigan, and also taught at the Detroit branch of the University of Michigan. While there, his wife Elsie died suddenly in March 1948 of a heart attack.
In December 1952, Perry Gresham was elected president of Bethany College, where he would serve with distinction for nineteen years. He was married to accomplished musician Aleece Fielding Cowan, May 6, 1953. Perry, Aleece, and her teenage daughter, Nancy, moved to Bethany College, and Perry officially assumed the duties of the presidency in September.
Perry Gresham was president of the International Convention of Christian Churches (1960-61), a member of the twenty-five-person Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, and a member of numerous boards of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), including the Board of Higher Education. He was a renowned speaker for church gatherings in the United States and around the world, having addressed the International Convention nineteen times, being regularly featured on CBS Church of the Air, and for several years serving as summer minister at Old Renfield Church in Glasgow, Scotland. In a 1952 poll of Disciples ministers, he was named the outstanding preacher among Disciples by The Christian Century Pulpit magazine.
He was the author of numerous books, including Incipient Gnosticism in the New Testament (1933), Disciples of the High Calling (1953), Sage of Bethany (1959), Campbell and the Colleges (1972), With Wings of Eagles (1980), Toasts- Plain, Spicy and Wry (1985), Growing Up in the Ranchland (1993), and The Sign of the Golden Grasshopper: A Biography of Sir Thomas Gresham (1994). Among his many honors were four Freedom Foundation Awards, sixteen honorary degrees, honorary citizenship in six states, and numerous citations in a wide range of Who's Who publications. He was a Life Fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Fellows, chairman of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities, chairman of the Foundation for Economic Education, and a member of the Author's Club of London, in addition to numerous local and regional leadership positions in educational agencies. In addition, he was a director of several corporations, including Cooper Tire and Rubber Company and the John A. Hartford Foundation.
During the last decade of his life, Gresham was involved with senior citizens' issues and continued his work as an author, poet, and lecturer. He died September 10, 1994, at his home in North Carolina and was buried in the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany, West Virginia.
-BIBLIOGRAPHY The Blue Book • James W. Carty, Jr., The Gresham Years (1970) • "Educator Elected Convention President," The Christian 32:5 (October 26, 1960): 1 • "Perry E. Gresham, Educator and Churchman, Chosen Bethany Head," Bethany College Bulletin 46:3 (Apri11953): 3 • Sunday News Register (Wheeling, West Virginia) (September n, 1994): 1 • Who's Who in America • Who's Who in the World • Who's Who in American Education. D. DUANE CUMMINS.-Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, pages 374-376.
GPS Coordinates of the grave:
The West Of Hope That Even Dies A Glorious Way
They Who Wait Upon The Lord
Shall Renew Their Strength
They Shall Mount Up With Wings
The Floor Beneath My Feet Shall Be Humility
The South Of Tolerance That I May Outreach Hate
Twelfth President Of Bethany College
The East Of Faith That Rises New And Clear Each Day