Pioneer in Christian Education
January 1, 2017
More than a century ago, Ellen G. White inspired and guided the foundation of many Adventist educational institutions. Based on the Bible and her teaching, the core Adventist philosophy has become that education should be redemptive, for the purpose of restoring human beings to the image of God. Ellen G. White championed the now widely used “whole person” approach to education that encompasses mental, physical, social, and spiritual health, intellectual growth, and service to humanity.
In 1904 Mrs. White was one of the founding members of the Nashville Agricultural Normal Institute, later named Madison College. It was formed as a self-supporting institution, but closely allied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It would grow to include a school (grades 1–16), a sanitarium-hospital, and a farm of more than 800 acres. This became the only time when Mrs. White agreed to officially be a member of a board of trustees. The goal was to have a school whose doors would swing open to any young man or woman of worthy character who was willing to work. The large tract of land was needed to provide facilities for this student self-support. The training here would include not just ordinary book studies, but also how to solve practical problems having to do with daily life. Nearly 40 small outpost schools and centers were started from this model.
In 1909, at the age of 81, Mrs. White made the long trip from her home in California to Washington D.C. While her chief purpose was to attend the quadrennial session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, she also made it a point to stop by Nashville and encourage the faculty and staff as well as visit several other Adventistschools and colleges.
Along her journey, Ellen White preached in Asheville, North Carolina, and was able to meet for the first time, Martha Rumbough, the daughter of a successful inventor. Sister Rumbaugh was studying to become an Adventist but had already built and given to the conference a commodious meetinghouse and parsonage. She was also personally supporting the pastor of the Asheville church at a salary of four dollars per week. During the visit Mrs. Rumbough asked Mrs. White, “What more can I do with my share of my family’s wealth to further the cause of God locally?” Mrs. White answered in the familiar and oft quoted words, “the Lord would be pleased if you would start a medical and educational work in the vicinity of Asheville.” The next year Mrs. Rumbough would provide the money for the initial purchase of the property in 1910 that would later become Fletcher Academy and Park Ridge Health.
Ellen White was a woman of remarkable spiritual gifts. During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender. Her life-changing masterpiece on successful Christian living, Steps to Christ, has been published in more than 140 languages. Her writings cover a broad range of subjects, including religion, education, social relationships, evangelism, prophecy, publishing, nutrition, and management. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent. Throughout the remaining years of her life, she maintained a deep interest and concern for the church work in the southern States.