by Zebadiah Demorest, Publications and Promotions Coordinator
This month we are featuring a prominent faculty member from the Fort Wayne Campus: Grant Hoatson. Over his 25-year career at Fort Wayne Bible College, Grant served as Public Relations Director, Alumni Coordinator, professor, and producer of the College radio program “Crossroads” on WOWO.
Before coming to FWBC, Grant worked as the producer and film director at WPTA, the ABC station in Fort Wayne. Dick Gerig, who operated the Crossroads radio program at FWBC and taught courses in journalism and broadcasting at the time, was offered a new position at Wheaton College. Dick knew Grant through Wheaton College where they both worked together at the on-campus radio station. Not wanting to leave FWBC without someone to replace him, Dick met with Grant to ask if he would be willing to come, teach journalism and broadcasting courses part-time at the College, in addition to taking over production of the radio program. Grant accepted President Jared Gerig’s offer and began work at FWBC.
In his early years at the College, Grant met his wife, Patti. She was a speech major at FWBC and took Grant’s broadcasting course during her senior year. Patti had started college at 25 and was the only woman in Grant’s class. The next spring, on March 13, 1959, Grant went on his first date with Patti to the Junior/Senior banquet. One month later, on April 13, Grant asked Patti to marry him. The couple was married on July 25, 1959, and will celebrate 62 years together later this summer!
After marrying Patti, Grant transitioned into the role of Public Relations Director and Alumni Center Coordinator and supervised the print shop and mailroom. As PR director in the 1960s, Grant faced some unique problems related to race relations. While the country overall faced a larger reckoning with its past and present, Grant was fighting his own battles in the world of Christian higher education and the American Church. One particular story Grant told me during his interview was that of Jesse Adams, a student at FWBC and the lone black member of a choir whose schedule Grant was responsible for managing. The choir that Jesse was a member of was scheduled to perform at a church in Baltimore, MD. Upon receiving a promotional photo of the singing group, the pastor of the Baltimore church called Grant and suggested that he “ask that colored boy to take the day off and see some of the sights in D.C.” Grant defended Jesse, saying that he was a nice, Christian man and he would not do that to him. The pastor replied that he could not let Jesse come to perform because he had been at the church for 20 years and wanted to stay there another 20. So, Grant found somewhere else for the choir to perform.
Grant also worked to change the policies at FWBC regarding race. At that time, the student handbook stipulated that if you wanted to date, you were required to date within your race. Grant thought that this was wrong and convinced Cyril Eicher, then Dean of Students, to change the policy. He also tried to create more diversity at the college. Grant said that at the time he was PR director, there were no black employees at the college and few black students. He found it hard to go to black churches to recruit students when there was little diversity on campus. He argued that if we are sending missionaries to Africa to win people to Christ, why don’t we send them to churches in America? So, the student body took up offerings to create scholarships specifically for minority students. They chose Grant as their faculty advisor, and a group traveled around to black churches promoting the scholarship and encouraging students to enroll at FWBC.
After 21 years of service to FWBC, Grant took a year-long sabbatical to earn his doctorate in education from Indiana University. When he returned to the College, he was appointed Director of Instructional Services in addition to serving as professor of elementary education, Christian education, journalism, and speech. In 1984, Grant accepted a job at St. Petersburg College in Florida, where he served as Director of Instructional Television Services until his retirement in 1996.
As I talked with Grant, he mentioned over and over how much he and Patti loved the College and the people on the Fort Wayne campus. He was a close friend of Dr. Rene Frank, and Harold Welty was his prayer partner. If he ever had a question about the Bible, he would ask Dr. Forest Weddle. When the college closed in 2009, Grant was heartbroken. He said that when the college closed “it just took the wind right out of my sails. Even though I had left the college, I still loved it.”
Grant Hoatson celebrated his 90th birthday in October 2020. Because of COVID, his family was not able to host the birthday party they had planned. Instead, Grant and Patti celebrated privately and quietly. Through this written tribute to Grant’s life of service, we hope to honor him and share with all our alumni his story of commitment to serving our Lord.