Reynolds helped make Hendrix one of the best
By BEAU WILCOX
Log Cabin Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 1999
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Tucked into its comfortable plot between Harkrider and Washington Streets, Hendrix College is, by a purely aesthetic examination, an unassuming institution.
But its reputation statewide and nationwide often makes it seem significantly larger. The school which barely exceeds 1,000 students is considered an outstanding value by major publications like Forbes and Money Magazine, and has found itself among elite company in recent years in the U. S. News & World Report's list of the best colleges in America, private or public.
The chain of individuals who have helped Hendrix attain such high regard is extensive. But many current and former administrators and faculty members would mention John Hugh Reynolds as a singularly important force in the growth and advancement of Hendrix College.
Between 1913 and 1945, Reynolds served as president of the institution. And during that period, his efforts were both numerous and grand.
Bob Meriwether, a former Hendrix professor and administrator, now serves as an unofficial historian for the college. In the book "Faulkner County: Its Land and People," published by the county's historical society in 1986, Meriwether included a biography of Reynolds that lists his litany of accomplishments.
Born near Enola in 1869, Reynolds experienced some schooling before moving to Altus (Franklin County) in 1889 to attend Hendrix College. A year later, the school relocated to Conway, and Reynolds would be a part of that transition for over half a century.
After teaching at Hendrix for a few years, Reynolds moved to Fayetteville to perform the same duties at the University of Arkansas. In 1912, he was named the university's acting president, and when he was not granted the position permanently, Reynolds came back to Hendrix June 17, 1913 to take that leadership role.
He would, in truth, never leave again.
Hendrix College presidents (from left) Stonewall Anderson (1902-1910), Alexander C. Millar (1887-1902, 1910-1913) and John Hugh Reynolds (1913-1945). Taken in Conway, date unknown.
Reynolds' work was impressive. He made great efforts to get financial donations for the college and to heighten the quality of the faculty. Even while the Great Depression spelled doom for other institutions across the nation, Reynolds kept Hendrix stable and even growing, with four new buildings constructed during that tumultuous period. The school's endowment increased markedly during his tenure, and the prominence it enjoys today truly began to flower in Reynolds' 32 years as president.
Consider these myriad achievements: Reynolds was a member of the General Board of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church South for three decades, and a chairman of the church's Christian Education Movement. He was a political activist and an administrative genius who attracted money to the college from some of the nation's most prestigious foundations, and he is still renowned for bringing a highly-acclaimed faculty from across the state, region and country.
The physical sciences building at Hendrix was named after Reynolds, although he resisted that honor until after his retirement. Coincidentally, as Reynolds is being celebrated as the ninth-most influential person in Faulkner Coun ty history, the building which bears his name is being renovated as part of Hendrix's new physical science complex. He died in 1954, but his legacy was preserved as all four of his and wife Margaret's children attended and graduated from Hendrix.
One President on Another
Although his work at Hendrix concluded more than half a century ago, appreciation for Reynolds' varied successes still runs high, particularly from the woman who now holds his former position.
Current Hendrix President Ann H. Die said during a recent interview that Reynolds' contributions retain their significance and glory today.
"I do think that the college's modern reputation dates from his time," Dr. Die said. "He not only sought to have strong academic programs here, but he brought in a number of well-known academics to speak, and he was responsible for major curriculum changes."
Dr. Die also noted that Reynolds truly helped mold the college into a liberal arts institution.
"The quality of academics certainly flourished during his tenure," Dr. Die said. "He intended for students to study all that was out there...and to learn how to sort fact from fiction, and theory from falsehood."
Other tidbits about John Hugh Reynolds:
In 1922, B.W. Torreyson gave a witty biography of Dr. Reynolds at the Conway Rotary Club in the club's series of "gridiron" talks.
In 1924, J.H. Reynolds' daughter, Ruth Reynolds, married Professor David Driver who was teaching in Brazil. She sailed from New York to Brazil for the wedding with her brother, George Reynolds, and her mother as escorts. George taught at Centenary College in Shreveport, La.
In 1926, Dr. Reynolds joined the Conway Country Club along with D.W. Robins.
In 1928, Reynolds announced that their would be a new roof garden atop the administration offices for social activities at the college.
In 1930, Dr. Reynolds continued working despite a fractured collarbone suffered when he had to run his car off the road into a ditch to avoid an accident in Malvern.
In 1931, Reynolds' mother-in-law, Mrs. Elizabeth McWhirter Harwood, celebrated her 100th birthday in Conway. She moved to Conway from Missouri following her husband's death.