By Jared Fields, Managing Editor
Josh Groves sits in his Mabee room like any guy in the dorm’s confines. The typical arrangement of posters and stray clothes surround a couch in the middle of the room. An orange poster board with 67 names sits against the wall. Each name is a person in his family who has attended ACU.
The irony for Josh is that he isn’t living in the dorm named after his great-great-grandfather who is the reason the list even exists.
“Eh, bigger dorm rooms,” Josh says about not living in the building named after J. E. McKinzie.
Josh is the youngest on the list. He has six brothers and sisters. Three older siblings, Jason, Jenifer, Jonathan came to ACU and Jessica is a senior. Jacob and Jocelyn are next in line. All the Groves siblings have posters.
The family members anticipate Josh and his generation will attend ACU, and even now they don’t hesitate about where his kids will eventually attend college.
The new generations to attend ACU aren’t necessarily forced to go to school here, but do feel they are expected to attend.
Josh’s grandmother, Bettye Shipp, says family are expected to attend a Christian school. Despite the pressure someone like Josh faces, Bettye says there is no demand to attend a school like ACU.
Her words are illustrated in her response to a wavering younger family member’s college choice.
“Goodness, when you get away, when they have homecoming, we’ll be sad we can’t go ‘cause you’re so far away.”
John Edward McKinzie came from Hillsboro to Abilene to handle the food service at Abilene Christian College in 1924. He and his family left Hillsboro with eight cows. Eventually, his herd numbered more than a hundred milk cows and some beef cattle and he also raised hogs. All this went into serving milk, butter, bacon, ham and sausage to students in Chambers Hall.
During the Depression, McKinzie helped save the college by dealing with the Hardin family, for which the administration building is named. According to Dr. John Stevens’ book, No Ordinary University: The History of a City Set on a Hill, The Hardin family donated money to keep ACC open when financial problems threatened the school. He also played a large role in moving the campus from it’s original location on North 1st to its current location.
A trustee since 1919, the board appointed McKinzie the chairman in 1933. He served as chairman until 1936 and as trustee until 1937.
After World War II, the school began construction on its first new building since moving the school in on its first new building since moving the school in 1929, a women’s dormitory. President Don H. Morris told McKinzie the trustees wanted to name the building after him, and McKinzie asked for it to be named in honor of his wife, Bess. McKinzie died of a heart attack before the building’s completion.
“This school is how J. E. gave service,” his granddaughter, formerly Bettye McKinzie said. “He knew how to raise money and left an indelible mark.”
The Family Today
Bettye Shipp values Christian higher education, and so did her grandfather. She grew up on the campus. Her house is next to Barret Hall now, but she grew up when the neighborhood was much more open.
Family members and friends come in and out. But there doesn’t seem to be much distinction between the two. Anyone who has met her once feels like they have been lifelong friends.
She is used to this connection to the community. Every afternoon when she was younger Bettye would have tea at her house where anyone was welcome to stop by and share a cup.
Except for an occasional semester or two away, she attended school in Abilene from elementary school through college.
The family has had members stray to other Christian colleges, but like most of the clan, Bettye doesn’t see a reason to go anywhere other than ACU.
“It’s great to go to another college, but on the other hand it’s a discerning person that knows you can get the same education here,” Bettye said.
Josh didn’t want to come to ACU. He has been to every Sing Song since birth, but like many high school seniors, he just wanted to get away from West Texas.
He wanted to go to Pepperdine. Growing up in Lubbock, the California coast sounded like a nice place. Besides, his maternal grandfather was a vice president there. But California is too far away, so Josh thought he would stay closer, maybe too close to home, and go to Texas Tech.
“I didn’t want to come here; I’m kind of the black sheep,” Josh said. “So many people here know us, I just wanted to get away.”
Josh is here now, and says it’s better than he thought.
He was expecting more rules.
“I wanted to go to Pepperdine, then Tech, then ACU. It’s not that big a deal,” Josh said. “I’m away from mom and dad.”
But he’s not away from family or the names on the poster. Not at ACU.