Friday, September 12, 2008

Otho Winger

Manchester College began under the leadership of President E.S. Young and his brother S.S. Young from 1895 to 1899 when both suddenly left the college. Local newspapers simply reported that the Youngs and the board of trustees "could not agree upon the conduct and management of the school."

Over the next 15 years a succession of five presidents struggled to keep the college afloat and paying off a staggering debt of $30,000. One of the major changes taking place during this time period was an agreement of the trustees to turn over college ownership to the surrounding districts of the Church of the Brethren debt-free. The three Indiana districts along with the district of Northwest Ohio agreed and an intense effort to retire all debt was led by Elder I.D. Parker with assistance of an energetic student named Otho Winger who volunteered to drop his studies to help with the project. With the debt paid off in May 1902, the college was deeded to the Church of the Brethren with the provision that the school would never go in debt again.

Meanwhile, Otho Winger had returned to school as a student and then became a promising young member of the faculty in the education department. He would later change to teaching history, English, philosophy, and even Latin and Greek. In addition to his teaching load, he began to add speaking or preaching engagements on almost every Sunday.

Winger's abilities did not escape the notice of the Board of Trustees. He had been on the faculty only three years when he was asked to serve on the Executive Board as the faculty representative. This Board not only ran the college, but shouldered financial responsibility. On January 10, 1911, the Board of Trustees elected Otho Winger as the next president. He would go on to serve Manchester College as President for the next 30 years.

Winger would later confess, "Personally, I was not ambitious for any such job. I came to Manchester hoping to get a few years of college teaching and get a little money so I could go on to the university to take my Doctor's degree." He envisioned a lifetime of teaching college history and writing books.

Much that Manchester College is today, it owes to his strong and stable leadership that allowed the college to grow and develop during those early years. More than the buildings erected, programs initiated, or funds raised, people from this time remember the vigor of Winger's personality, the depth of his values, the force of his convictions. Any assessment of Winger's contributions must recognize that his remarkable energy and character explain much of Manchester's momentum and growth during the years he was president.

In April 1940, poor health and fatigue compelled Winger to announce to the trustees his intention to retire on September 1, 1941, at the age of 65. He spent his remaining five years of life composing his Memories of Manchester and pursuing his interest in Indian artifacts and lore.

Source: A Century of Faith, Learning and Service