December 7. President Franklin Roosevelt called it a “date which will live in infamy” in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that propelled the United States into World War II. A generation later, that date would take on special significance at a place called Central Wesleyan College. As the campus grew quiet on the evening of December 6, 1962, little did anyone know what dramatic changes would take place within a few hours. Perhaps some were thinking of the date—it was only 21 years since that infamous day when the country had been launched into the massive war.
In the fall of 1962, there were only about 150 college students on the campus of Central Wesleyan College. In addition, there were six or seven high school seniors. This was the last year of the high school program. Soon after WWII ended, enrollment increased as men returned from military service with financial support from the GI bill. Other men and women who had not sought college degrees during the war years entered college as well. At times in the early 1950s, a significant percentage of students were over 30. But, by 1962 this trend had passed. Only a few of the students in 1962 were born before the start of WWII. Most would have been born during the war. Only the older students would have been able to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most would not have direct memories of the war. However, all would have been growing up in the years just after WWII. Many would have had family members in the war. Most would have heard vivid stories of December 7, 1941—but these would have been stories from family and friends, not their own recollections.
The years following WWII had brought major changes to the college campus. Prior to 1940, the campus consisted of three main buildings: Grimes Hall, which housed offices, classrooms, dining hall, library, and labs; Smith Hall, the original administration/classroom building which had been converted into a women’s dormitory; and Teter Hall, the large men’s dormitory. Besse Cottage, the president’s home, stood near Teter Hall. The First Wesleyan Church stone building was built in 1940. While not owned by the college, it played a major role in campus life. McDonald Hall was built in 1941. This was the first major building project on the campus in 25 years. At the conclusion of the war, major changes took place. As the student population grew rapidly, there was a response in facilities. 1947 marked a dramatic change in the campus. Childs Hall, the new men’s dorm was opened. The Bridwell Library (now Correll Hall) was built the same year. Government surplus buildings also added to the campus. The Student Center/Dining Hall was erected on campus near McDonald Hall and the Veterans’ Apartments were brought to campus shortly afterward. It is also interesting to note that the road leading to the college (Wesleyan Drive) was first paved in 1950.