Known for wearing flowery Hawaiian shirts with dress shoes and wearing a long beard before it was cool, Wendell Broom focused on missions and loving others, rather than on appearances. He made an impact on two generations of students, but his influence spread across the world as far as Siberia.
Broom, former professor of missions, died in Dallas Saturday at age 93. He was born in Oklahoma City. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1945 and returned to teach in the 1960s after doing missions in Nigeria with his wife, Betty.
Broom and his wife led a study abroad trip for graduate students in 1987 to Israel, where they met Dr. Mark Hamilton, professor of Old Testament. Hamilton, who was a student at the time, said he got to know Broom on the trip, and all the students enjoyed his unique clothing style.
“It was more of ‘I’m comfortable with who I am, I’m comfortable with you, let’s all be comfortable,'” Hamilton said. “He’d make fun of himself. There’s a kind of freedom that not very many people have.”
On that same trip, Hamilton met his wife, Dr. Samjung Kang-Hamilton and a few years later, they asked Broom to officiate their wedding. Hamilton said he remembered Broom saying God was present at their wedding.
“He loved God, it’s really that simple,” Hamilton said. “I always loved to hear him pray because you always felt like: this is a person who’s done a lot of this. This is not a contrivance.”
Broom helped start the first missions department among Church of Christ-affiliated colleges at ACU, according to the ACU Today blog. The annual Broom Colloquium was named after him in 2007, said Chris Flanders, director of the Halbert Institute for Missions. Flanders said Broom was the perfect person to name the event after because of his impact on missions.
“He exemplified what a ‘world Christian’ was,” Flanders said. “He was the first one who would say to people, ‘You can still be missional, you can still be a part of God’s mission.’ He was one who got behind people who wanted to be a dentist, to see that as their way to bless the world.”
When Flanders started teaching in 2005, Broom still had an office in the department and often came to faculty meetings to offer support. Broom attended Highland Church of Christ until he moved to an assisted living center in Dallas a few years ago. Flanders said Broom was modest and didn’t seek attention, yet he received attention from Jack Maxwell, professor of art and design, who secretly studied his face every time he saw him at church. Maxwell decided to model the lowest angel in Jacob’s Dream after Broom, although he never asked for permission.
“I think he was honored though when we told him later,” Maxwell said in an email to Bible faculty. “I know he took a lot of interest in the sculpture’s progress as he sat out at the site in his lawn chair.”
Services to honor Broom will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lake Highlands Church in Dallas.
Broom was preceded in death by his parents, Benjamin R. and Gladys Broom, his brother, Charlie Broom, and his son-in-law, David Adams. He is survived by his wife, Betty, and their children: Wendell Jr., Mary Beth Best, David Broom, Margaret Broom Adams, Kathryn Broom Mick and Jonathan Broom; 11 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren, according to ACU Today.