Title: Edwards begins 11th year at AU helm
Dr. James L. Edwards is excited about classes resuming at Anderson University, which is bustling with nearly 2,400 students. "There's a kind of a spirit of excitement around here. The returning students always bring that great energy, and they are the reason we are here," said Edwards, who has served as AU's president for 10 years, since the fall of 1990. "Time flies. It has been an amazing journey," said the president, who finds great joy in being called the "students' president." Edwards is looking forward to greeting new and returning students, and making them aware that they are the central focus of the university.
"They've chosen an excellent institution, and others who have chosen this place have fulfilled dreams beyond their imagination," said Edwards with a smile. "It's a place full of opportunities."
AU has fulfilled the president's dreams, too.
He came to Anderson in 1961 as an Anderson College student from Ohio.
"It was the biggest thing in my life," said Edwards, who still remembers the thrill of being accepted in the college choir.
"In my day, I was the only freshman in the choir. I remember running from the audition to the pay phone to call my parents and say, 'I just made the Anderson College Choir!' ... I felt there was nothing else for me to accomplish here, that this was it."
Academically, Edwards found college challenging in his first year. "It was a real stretch for me."
He says he was "blessed" early on with faculty members who served as mentors, and he was determined to do good enough to maintain his financial aid package.
"I also worked almost full-time in my student days, and it may have had something to do with my lousy grades," Edwards said, recalling he worked in downtown Anderson at J.C. Penney's for 85 cents an hour, selling shoes and men's clothes. He also had student jobs on campus and later worked at a small westside church, serving as a minister of music and fulfilling other capacities.
Edwards' wife, Deanna, was his sweetheart all through college. They both enrolled the same year.
"She was a very serious student, and she kept me on track sometimes," he said, adding Deanna has always been the "cheerleader" in his life. They were married after their junior year.
"Graduation from college was a nice little moment, but I knew I was going on to graduate school," he said, which was followed by seminary and more studies.
Of all his accomplishments, Edwards says it's his family -- wife and three children, Cory, Todd, and Katie -- that he's most proud of. His children also graduated from AU.
Edwards hopes if he ever becomes a grandparent, that his grandchildren will follow the family tradition and go to AU. He credits his parents, Harold and Vera Edwards, who live in Anderson, for being an inspiration in his life, and for motivating him and his siblings to get a college education.
"That was a gift, the assumption that we would go on to school," he said. "My dad stays vital and vigorous, because he has purposes in his life, and I think that is a wonderful blessing to know," said Edwards, adding his father still serves as a minister, at age 81, for a small Daleville church.
Edwards is looking forward to the future at AU and expects the college to continue growing as it has the past few years under his administration.
"It's a great time to be an AU student," said Edwards, with a smile, adding he would probably be a better student today than he was nearly 40 years ago.
"There are so many broad opportunities for discovery and adventure. It's exciting," Edwards said, as AU students may participate in a variety of activities, including world travels with Tri-S mission trips, cultural events, and more.
Edwards tells of times when AU students have popped into his office for a chat, or just to say, "Hi!" And that's just fine.
"I have been the recipient of some gracious compliments in my life, and one of them was by a wonderful priest who said to me, 'You are the most un-president president that I have ever met," said Edwards. "I really liked that. It's a great compliment."
----Theresa Campbell is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.