About 90 to 95 percent of the students at AU receive some sort of financial help, he said, much of that made possible by donations.
During the event, three special AU friends and an outstanding student, Sarah Michelle Lantz, were honored.
Lantz, an AU junior who hopes one day to blend a medical degree and her faith into a life spent helping others, received the 2001 Madison County Medical Society Distinguished Scholar Award presented by Lapel physician Mark Seib, president of the local medical society.
Ned and Ailene Bardsley, a couple who came to Anderson in 1942 when he was hired as a student engineer at Delco Remy, raised their family here and adopted AU and Anderson as their own.
On Saturday they received the 2001 William P. Riethmiller Award, which honors those who nurture the partnership between the university and the community.
"Anderson University treasures the friendship of Ned and Ailene," Edwards said in describing a long list of contributions made to the university and the community by the couple. "They are seekers of knowledge and persons of uncommon grace and generosity."
Edwards carried the large wood and glass clock to the table where the Bardsleys sat side by side.
"Ned, this is a wrist watch we'd like you to wear," Edwards said as Bardsley laughed out loud.
"My wife is also my memory," Bardsley said. "I'll let her speak for us."
Ailene Bardsley charmed the crowd as she talked about her work with AU and her appreciation for the award.
"Isn't this a shining couple?" Edwards asked the crowd. "Ned, you married well."
As Edwards spoke about the third recipient Saturday, he told the crowd that Deane Cunningham had graduated from Anderson High School in 1972. When Cunningham laughed, Edwards peered closely at the paper in his hand.
"My goodness, Deane. It took you a long time to graduate from Anderson High School," Edwards said to the silver-haired woman, a former colleague who wore many caps at AU. Twice she tried to retire.
Cunningham came to AU in 1972 and in June 2000 firmly declared that she was going to retire and she meant it, Edwards said.
Along the way, she became a treasured friend and an asset to the community through her many civic contributions, Edwards said as he presented the clock to her.
"I want you to know that this will be one of my most treasured possessions," she told Edwards.
CINDY CARSON is a Staff Reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.