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Eastern Through the 20th Century: George Claghorn & Fredrick Boehlke

“Few men shape institutions during their lifetimes, but Dr. George Claghorn and Dr. Fredrick Boehlke are two such men. Dr. Claghorn (’44) and Dr. Boehlke (’52) both served Eastern University over the years in various ways. They taught several generations of students, and were both involved in creating EU’s educational foundations. Though they came from different backgrounds, they represent the generation that made Eastern possible.”

Upon meeting Dr. Claghorn, one will surely understand why students enjoyed his teaching. He greets you with a warm smile, more than willing to talk about any subject you choose. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Claghorn, and I found him to be exactly as he appeared: intelligent, humble, generous, and kind. He was quick to recollect the years he had spent at Eastern.

Dr. Claghorn graduated from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1944. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, he returned to the seminary to teach philosophy in 1948. When Eastern Baptist College was established in 1952, Dr. Claghorn was a member of the first group of faculty to teach at the newly-acquired site, the St. Davids campus. Dr. Claghorn notes that during those years he was the youngest member of faculty.

Indeed, Dr. Claghorn came to Eastern during a major period of growth and transition. The original faculty and administrative members, who had been with Eastern since its founding in 1925, were retiring, and Dr. Claghorn was the first of the next generation to fill their shoes. Dr. Claghorn went on to serve as the academic dean of Eastern from 1954 to 1961. In those days, Walton Hall contained Eastern’s library, dining hall, classrooms, as well as faculty and administrative offices. However, the college was growing, and it was under Dr. Claghorn’s tenure as dean that the he led the school into this new era. Paul Almquist, former chairman of Eastern’s Board of Trustees, observes that during this time Dr. Claghorn “proved to be a capable author, effective teacher, a splendid scholar and dedicated Christian leader. Heartily committed to both the spirit and purpose of Eastern he has applied himself with diligence and devotion to the further building of the College… His leadership has added incalculably to the reputation of the school for its high academic quality, dynamic character, and soundness of faith.”

While at Eastern Dr. Claghorn met his future wife, Shirley Haines, who was then a secretary in the dean’s office. They were married on the front lawn of Walton Hall on May 28, 1955. Their very lives are interwoven with the history of Eastern.

In 1961 he stepped down from his position as dean, in order to pursue an invitation by Yale University Press to write a scholarly work on Jonathon Edwards. Despite this added workload, Dr. Claghorn remained at Eastern until 1964 as professor of philosophy and director of the American Studies Program. Even after leaving Eastern, he never stopped being a teacher, and he would go to serve as a professor for four decades at West Chester University. Dr. Claghorn also returned to Eastern in 1968 to serve on the Board of Directors. Even though he left this position in 1980, Dr. Claghorn has often visited Eastern.

When asked how he would describe his years at Eastern, Dr. Claghorn replies, “I enjoyed every minute of it… it was a grand experience.” To this day Dr. Claghorn still hears form his former Eastern students 50 years after they sat in his classroom. This is a testament to the impact he had on these students as a professor.

Dr. Frederick Boehlke, like Dr. Claghorn, attended Eastern in its early days, and continues to render his services to Eastern to this day. He is a very remarkable man who has successfully preserved Eastern’s history within his archives. Dr. Boehlke is also a scholar who deeply cares about his students and the subject he teaches.

Dr. Boehlke completed his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania in 1948 before entering into Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. An incredibly hard worker, he simultaneously studied for his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania while pursuing a degree at the seminary. When asked what drew him to come to Eastern, Dr. Boehlke says that he became disenchanted with secular education and wanted to pursue an education that named Christianity as its foundation. This is what set Eastern part from the other schools of this era, it had a dedicated mission, which was to train people for the service of Christ. Dr. Boehlke recalls that Carl Morgan, who was then the dean of the collegiate division of the seminary, first pointed out to him the need for more Christian teachers. Dr. Boehlke would remember this conversation as he faced career decisions years later.

Graduating from the seminary in 1952, Dr. Boehlke was faced with a choice that would define his future years: Would he go into the pastoral ministry, or pursue teaching? On the day President Eisenhower was inaugurated, January 20, 1953, he went to an ordination council, and it was at this event that a friend told him that he should go into teaching. After talking it over with close friends and with much prayer, he decided to do just that. But teaching would have to wait until he obtained his Ph.D.. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, he headed to Alabama where he taught at Judson College for 12 years. In 1967 he was given the opportunity to come back to Eastern and be a professor and chair of the history department. He has not left Eastern since.

Dr. Boehlke left full time teaching in 1997, but stayed on as a professor until 2010, retiring after 55 years of teaching. Currently Dr. Boehlke holds the title of “Official Archivist.” Students and faculty often seek Dr. Boehlke’s knowledge about the history of Eastern, and he will always do his best to find the correct answer. When asked to describe his years at Eastern, he replied with a large smile, “I’ve enjoyed them.”

It is people like Dr. Claghorn and Dr. Boehlke who have made Eastern a great educational institution¬, for they both put forth their best effort in their work and they also sought to have a positive impact on their students’ lives. They not only cared about the institution, but the individual student as well. Through the different eras they taught, and the political and social upheavals, they remained true to their calling as professors, and they showed that they were men for all seasons of life.

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