Jarvis Christian College

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Jarvis Christian College
Established 1912
Type Private, HBCU
Affiliation Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
President Dr. Lester Newman
Students 800
Location Hawkins, Texas,
United States
Campus 1000 acres
Colors Blue and Gold
Sports Basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball, volleyball
Website www.jarvis.edu

Jarvis Christian College is an independent four year, historically black college affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).[1] It is located in unincorporated Wood County, Texas, near Hawkins. It was founded in 1912, and is currently headed by President Dr. Lester C. Newman.[2]


1. Oil Wells were discovered on the campus of Jarvis in the early 1940s. These wells have provided millions in revenue since their discovery and still provide some source of revenue to this day.

2. The campus is closed one hour on Tuesdays of each week for chapel service. Chapel services are steeped in the Christian tradition as Jarvis has always been affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

3. Founded in 1912, the four-year liberal arts college is the only school remaining of the dozen historically African American colleges founded by the Christian Church.

4. You can learn about the college’s founding through the beautiful stained glass windows in the campus’ Christian Church. Paintings on the stained glass windows capture the very interesting story of Jarvis College.

5. The Nature trail on campus is a relatively undiscovered trail system attached to the College. It was built with federal funds and therefore open to the public. The trail is a great 2-mile figure-8 loop through heavy woods and partially over a boardwalk area. It also intersects with other trails and roads in the woods behind Jarvis that are used to access various oil wells and pipelines. A great running trail, maybe 5-feet wide in most places. The trail has periodic signs which point out the flora and fauna of the area. The trail is open to everyone!


Jarvis Christian College is a historically Black institution that has been affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) since inception. Jarvis Christian College began as Jarvis Christian Institute, modeled after the Southern Christian Institute of Edwards, Mississippi. Formal instructional programs commenced on January 13, 1913, with an enrollment of twelve students, all in the elementary grades.

The recorded history began in 1904, when the Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas, spearheaded by Mrs. Mary Alphin, State Organizer, in conjunction with the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions, began planning for a school for Black youth. Financial goals were set. The Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas were to raise $1,000 for a school; the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions would contribute $10,000 if this were done. Meanwhile, Miss Virginia Hearn, State Secretary for Women’s Work, convinced Mrs. Ida Van Zandt Jarvis of the need for a school for Black youth.

In turn, Mrs. Jarvis worked to persuade her husband, Major James Jones Jarvis, to donate land upon which a school could be built. In 1910, Major and Mrs. Jarvis deeded 456 acres of land near Hawkins, Texas, to the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions on the condition that it “keep up and maintain a school for the elevation and education of the Negro race... in which school there shall be efficient religious and industrial training.” Inherent in the spirit of the donation was the idea that the land would be used to educate “head, heart, and hand” and to produce “useful citizens and earnest Christians.”

Although the thrust of the educational program has changed dramatically since then, Jarvis Christian College has continued to educate “head, heart, and hand,” a challenging and ambitious purpose. Shortly after the land was donated, the Negro Disciples of Christ in Texas, largely through the efforts of the women of the churches, successfully completed the fundraising campaign.

In 1912, Mr. Thomas Buchanan Frost, a graduate of the Southern Christian Institute, who was to serve as Superintendent, came to start a school. Soon Mr. Charles Albert Berry, also a Southern Christian Institute graduate, came to join him to serve as Principal. These men and their families were the Jarvis pioneers, a small group who accepted the monumental challenge of clearing the swampland and erecting the buildings in order that instruction could begin.

In 1914, Mr. James Nelson Ervin came from Johnson City, Tennessee, to be the first president. He served in that capacity until 1938, a period of twenty-four years. During the first year of his tenure, high school subjects were added to the curriculum. Notably, during its early years, Jarvis Christian Institute was one of the few schools available in East Texas in which Black youth had the opportunity to complete a high school education. Jarvis Christian Institute was the only accredited high school for Blacks in East Texas.

Although fragmentary records indicate some college work was offered as early as 1916, junior college courses were included as regular curricular offerings in 1927. The school was incorporated as a college in 1928. Senior college courses were introduced in 1937. Built in 1936, the Emma B. Smith Building is used to house several administrative offices and is the only campus structure remaining from the Ervin era. In 1938, Mr. Peter Clarence Washington came from East St. Louis, Illinois, to serve as the second president. High school work was eliminated that year. The original charter by the State of Texas, granted in 1939, states that Jarvis Christian College proposes to offer “. . . practical, domestic, manual, and agricultural training, as well as high grade instruction in the arts and sciences... ” The Florence Robinson House, now the Alumni Heritage House, is the only structure remaining from the Washington presidency.

In 1949, Dr. John B. Eubanks assumed administrative duties as Executive Vice-President. He is credited with the introduction of a general education program and additional innovations, which hastened recognition by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1950, to include Jarvis Christian College on its Approved List of Colleges and Universities for Negro Youth. This was the only regional accreditation then available to Black Colleges in the South. Dr. Eubanks was named the third President of Jarvis Christian College in 1951 and served until 1953.

In 1953, Dr. Cleo Walter Blackburn, who had served as a consultant to President Eubanks, began his eleven-year tenure as the fourth President of Jarvis Christian College. That same year, Fundamental Education was included as a component of the educational program. In 1959, Dr. John Oliver Perpener, Jr. was named Executive Vice President and served as resident executive.

The Blackburn presidency culminated with an affiliation between Jarvis Christian College and Texas Christian University in 1964, through a “Memorandum of Understanding” (revised in 1965, reaffirmed in 1969, and discontinued in 1976). Also, in 1964, the year that Dr. Perpener became Provost and Chief Administrative Officer, Fundamental Education and the Agro- Industrial offerings were eliminated as components of the educational program.

The Olin Library and Communication Center opened in 1965. This major building was a gift from the Olin Foundation. Operation Cram, a pre-college program for prospective college students, was initiated during the summer of 1965. While this effort had an academic component, its major emphasis was socio- cultural enrichment.

In 1966, Dr. Perpener became the fifth president of the College. He was the first alumnus to be appointed to the office. Also, in 1966, Jarvis Christian College gained membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The next year, Jarvis Christian College became affiliated with the Texas Association of Developing Colleges, a six-college consortium of historically Black colleges.

In 1969, the Texas Education Agency approved the Teacher Education Program, and the campus master plan was updated. During the same year, the Charles A. Meyer Science and Mathematics Center opened. This was the second major building underwritten by the Olin Foundation. In 1970, four additional residence halls—two each for men and women—and the Elbie Guy Crawford Titus Women’s Commons Building were completed. Dr. Perpener resigned in 1971, and Dr. John Paul Jones was named Acting President. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted reaffirmation of accreditation following the regularly scheduled visitation in 1971.

Dr. John Paul Jones was appointed the sixth president of Jarvis Christian College in 1972. A major improvement to the physical plant during his administration was a water purification system and sewage disposal plant that was completed in 1973. The Advanced Summer Enrichment Program was begun in 1976. The major focus of this program was providing entering freshmen an academic introduction to college. The program continues to serve this function. After the resignation of Dr. Jones in 1976, Dr. James O. Griffin served as Interim Administrator for two months.

In 1976, Dr. Earl Wadsworth Rand, an alumnus and a former dean of Jarvis Christian College, became the seventh president. Recognizing a need for special attention to entering students, the academic sector added the Division of Basic Studies in 1976. The Division of Basic Studies had the administrative responsibility for initial advisement for all transfer students as well as for academic advisement for freshmen and sophomore students.

In 1978, the Southern Christian Institute National Alumni and Ex-Students Association merged with the Jarvis Christian College National Alumni and Ex-Students Association.

The Earl Wadsworth Rand Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center was dedicated in December 1979, the month Dr. Rand retired. Dr. Charles Albert Berry, Jr., an alumnus of Jarvis Christian College, became the eighth president on January 1, 1980. In 1981, the official transfer of the title of the initial land donated, by Major and Mrs. Jarvis, from the United Christian Missionary Society to Jarvis Christian College was realized.

The James Nelson Ervin Religion and Culture Center named in honor of the first president of Jarvis Christian College and consisting, currently, of two structures, was completed in 1983. The two structures are the Smith-Howard Chapel and the Peoples-Dickson Religion Building. Two additional residence halls were dedicated in 1986—one each for men and women—as was a twelve unit student-parent apartment complex in 1988.

Dr. Julius Franklin Nimmons, Jr., became the ninth president on June 1, 1988. During his administration, Jarvis Christian College was involved in extensive review and assessment of its total operation. Emphasis was placed on campus beautification. Dr. E. W. Rand and Dr. Charles Berry, Jr. served as administrative officers during the summer and fall of 1990. Dr. Sebetha Jenkins became the tenth president on January 1, 1991.

Jarvis Christian College received reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December 1993.

Other milestones realized during Dr. Jenkins’ tenure included a $7.5 million capital campaign, the implementation of a campus-wide computer network, the initiation of the Pioneer Hall of Fame Awards Program, expansion of summer programs for area youth, the Hands-On- Mission Program for campus beautification, the Service-Learning Program, and the Walk of Fame Plaza.

Major renovations and capital improvements occurred during 1993 and 1994. A distance- learning laboratory was built to allow students at Jarvis Christian College to participate in classroom activities simultaneously with students in courses held on other college campuses without having to leave Jarvis. Since 1995, the College has completed a community technology center and a three-story 7.5 million dollar, 304 bed residence hall.

On January 2, 2009, Dr. Cornell Thomas was appointed the eleventh president. Dr. Thomas was committed to students receiving a quality education. His vision for Jarvis was that it becomes a premier Christian College that offers a quality education that prepares our youth to face the challenges confronting them upon graduation. He started a Pre-Honors Program for Freshman students, revitalized the Honor’s Program and opened the Office of Student Academic Success.

On April 2, 2012, Dr. Lester C. Newman became the 12th President and is currently serving in that capacity.


Jarvis Christian teams, nicknamed athletically as the Bulldogs, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC). Men's sports include basketball and cross country; while women's sports include basketball and cross country.

Jarvis Christian has appeared in the NAIA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament three times (2003, 2008, and 2009.) The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Champions of Character provides training to ensure student-athletes know, do and value the right things in all areas of life. The five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership are put into play, accounted for and tracked at all NAIA schools. As an NAIA institution Jarvis Christian College has developed a Champions of Character campus program that includes: • Ongoing character education for all student-athletes using the Champions of Character Live 5 orientation program. • Professional development for coaches, athletics administrative staff including completion of the Character-Driven Coaching course. • Emphasis on hospitality and game management of athletics events and conduct in competition • Servant leadership activities that promote student leadership and athletic community engagement • Ongoing oversight and assessment of progress in the program’s implementation by both Jarvis Christian College and the NAIA.

Student Life[edit]

Eight of the nine National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities are represented on campus. These organizations are:

Organization Symbol Chapter Chapter Symbol
Alpha Phi Alpha ΑΦΑ Theta Alpha ΘA
Alpha Kappa Alpha ΑKA Zeta Chi ZX
Kappa Alpha Psi ΚΑΨ Zeta Xi
Omega Psi Phi ΩΨΦ Phi Beta ΦB
Delta Sigma Theta ΔΣΘ Theta Kappa ΘK
Phi Beta Sigma ΦΒΣ Epsilon Zeta EZ
Zeta Phi Beta ΖΦΒ Zeta Delta
Sigma Gamma Rho ΣΓΡ Kappa Upsilon KY

Intramural Sports Game Room (equipped with pool tables, air hockey, video game consoles, movie room, ping pong, and more) Gymnasium Cultural Awareness Projects Community Service Projects

East Texas Natural History Collection[edit]

Jarvis houses a regional collection of biologial specimens in its 10,000 square foot Frost Hall. The collections are concentrated on the herbarium and entomology collections, but also houses minor holdings in other natural history areas of study and historical materials that are related to natural history or land use history.


  1. ^ "Texas Christian University." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, (2011): 1.
  2. ^ NAIA Championship History
1. ^ Texas Christian University." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, (2011): 1.
2. ^ Lawrence A. Q. Burnley, The Cost of Unity: African-American Agency and Education in the Christian Church, 1865-1914 (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2008);
3. ^ Edward J. Robinson, The Fight Is on in Texas: A History of African American Churches of Christ, 1865-2000 (Abilene, Texas: Abilene Christian University Press, 2008);

External links[edit]