Dr. Rice, AU and Church of God leader, dies

Fri, 2012-07-20 11:33 -- univcomm
For almost 70 years, Hillery Rice had a passion for Anderson University and making sure students had the financial resources to obtain an education. Rice, 94, who had an Anderson University residence hall named for him and his wife, Pauline, died Thursday at ManorCare Health Services. Before coming to Anderson from Oklahoma in 1932, Rice worked as a clothing salesman when he decided to join the ministry. He graduated from Anderson College in 1942 and was pastor of Park Place Church of God from 1962 through 1972. Prior to returning to Anderson, Rice was a pastor in West Virginia and Florida.

After retiring, he worked as a probation officer for Madison County and started helping raise funds for AU in 1975, serving as director of scholarship development.

"It was a long, impressive journey," Dr. James Edwards, president of Anderson University, said. "It was a marvelous and rich life, and he lived it right to the end."

Edwards said he was a freshman at AU when Rice preached his first sermon at Park Place. "I believe his happiest days have been in Park Place," said Edwards.

Edwards said in one year Rice had 25 students from his church in West Virginia attending AU. "He had an interest in the students," he said. "Many people can be named, who are now church leaders, that came to Anderson University because of Dr. Rice."

Edwards said Rice had an ability to call a stranger on the telephone and ask for a gift for the school, and he was able to get it.

"He touched the lives of hundreds of students," he said. "One wonders where do you get the Hillery Rices of this world. He is someone that can serve as a model for future leaders; Dr. Rice had a quality that is irreplaceable."

Edwards said during his 16 years in Charleston, W.Va., Rice had a longtime influence on that community, probably more than any other pastor because of his active involvement.

Dr. Robert Reardon served as president of AU when Rice was pastor at Park Place, and the two formed a lasting friendship.

"He was one of my oldest and most valued friends," said Reardon. "This man began as a very good salesman in Oklahoma. When he was called to the ministry, he brought that approach to his churches. He sold the message of the gospel."

Reardon said Rice was a great salesman for AU and sent many students to the university to get an education. "All of his life he was positive and encouraging," said Reardon. "Many are in the ministry today because of his influence."

When Reardon led a civil rights march from the AU campus to the Madison County courthouse in the 1960s, Rice and his wife were right in the front.

"He was on the side of civil rights from the start," said Reardon. "It was not a popular decision for him to take part in the march, coming from Oklahoma and the South. Parents were calling students from his former churches telling their children not to participate. Pauline was telling them to take part.

"He was a strong person when it came to encouraging people to do the right thing," he said.

Ron Moore, senior vice president at AU, said Rice was pretty remarkable for what he could accomplish on a telephone in terms of raising funds.

"If he learned that someone was interested in supporting a student with financial aid, he would call up and get a donation," said Moore. "He was pretty persuasive." Moore said Rice raised between $150,000 and $175,000 annually for scholarships.

"He had a passion for wanting to help young people go to school and get an education," said Moore. "That was a passion all his life."

---Ken de la Bastide is a reporter with the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.