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Elam Jonathan Anderson
Born February 28, 1890; Married July 3, 1916
(Colena Henrietta Michael d. Dec 6, 1988);
Died August 17, 1944
Children: Frances Delight Anderson Gulick,
October 6, 1919; Victor Charles Anderson, March 31, 1922;
Elam Jonathan Anderson, Jr., July 8, 1926
Elam was the third child and first son of the
six children born to Victor and Hannah Anderson, who
immigrated from Sweden in 1886. He was born in their first house, on Franklin Street in northside Chicago.
They lived in Chicago until he was eleven. He was baptized at the age of eleven at the Lakeside Swedish
Baptist Church in Chicago. Pastor Peter Swartz said Elam was his youngest candidate.
In 1901 the family moved to Missouri, traveling
on a freight train with two cows, a horse and a dozen chickens.
They stayed there less than a year and then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1902. After high school, he
attended Morgan Park Theological School in Chicago. He graduated from Drake University in Des Moines
in 1912 and then taught psychology there.
In l9l4 he went to Cornell University in
Ithaca, New York. There he met Colena
Henrietta Michael, a senior at
Cornell, daughter of Frances Reppien and Charles Michael. They were married on July 3,1916. That fall,
Elam and Colena enrolled at the University of Chicago, Elam in the Department of Education where he
began work toward his Ph. D., and Colena in the Divinity School where she earned a Master's degree.
In 1917, they went to China as missionaries for
the Northern Baptist Board of Foreign Missions.
Elam was the first of the Anderson family to serve as a missionary, followed by others of subsequent generations
who went to other mission fields. They taught at the University of Shanghai, a Baptist-supported institution,
from 1918 to 1923. Their three children were born in China. During their furlough, Elam completed his Ph.D.
In 1925 the family returned to China and began
their second missionary term at the University of Shanghai.
In 1926, Elam recommended to the Board that the Chinese professors whom he had trained should take over
the primary teaching positions. When the Board refused, arguing that the "natives" were not yet ready, Elam
resigned from the University and from the mission, on the grounds that if his position were vacant the Board
would be more likely to let Chinese Christians fill the post.
In the fall of 1926 he became principal of
Shanghai American School, a private, non-church school,
and the family moved from the campus to the city. He served in that position from 1926 to 1932.
In the fall of 1932, the family returned to the
United States, where Elam became President of Baptist-affiliated
Linfield College in McMinnvIlle, Oregon. He was there from 1932 to 1938. He then served as President of
Redlands University, a Baptist-affiliated school in Redlands, California, from 1938 until his death.
On August 17, 1944, at the age of 54, he died
suddenly of a heart attack. Colena
has since carried on
with his unfinished tasks - teaching, speaking, writing and caring for the still-growing family.
My father's faith, strong and founded on the
most basic of Baptist convictions, is the most treasured legacy
he has left. He believed that we must trust the Gospel to truly transform the lives of others, whether they be
Chinese, Jews, or any other culture, and to accept that transformation as a fellowship of believers. This was the heart
of his appeal to the Board to let Chinese Christians take over the teaching posts at the University of Shanghai.
He believed in Jesus' claim that “life is more
than food, and the body than raiment" In
a commencement address a
t Redlands in 1943, to a graduating class facing a world at war, he passionately proclaimed that conviction,
arguing that universities must do more than educate the young to secular history. Using letters he had received
from Redlands students now on the battlefield and quotations from history he could conclude,
may still affirm their premise, 'life is more than food and
raiment,' and it is the
very youth whom they have sought to teach who by their testimony prove its truth. Life is more than
security - it is thanksgiving, and compassion, and sharing and sacrifice for a responsible world. Life
is more than employment - it is understanding the world and our place in it. Life is more than living
- it is becoming acquainted with God.”
In 1916, early in his maturing years, Elam gave
a sermon in Swedish to a church in Evanston, Illinois.
Directed to an audience of young people, most of them college students, he appealed to them to learn to know
Jesus Christ personally because this was how one could become acquainted with God:
"These are things we must follow:
- Don't let anyone talk against your good friend Jesus.
- If anyone speaks against you, do not retaliate, but bring the matter before Christ in heaven.
- Take Christ with you to work. Do not leave Him in church.
- Service is the essence of Christianity. It costs
something to be Christ's friend. If
you would be a Christian,
you must pay the price."
This is true today for all of us, as it was then.
- Frances Delight Anderson Gulick, 1984