Dr. Hudson Taylor Armerding (1918–2009), the former president/provost of Wheaton College (1961–1982), passed into the presence of Jesus on December 1. His funeral service will be tomorrow, December 12, at 11:00 a.m. at College Church in Wheaton. Dr. Armerding was one of the most visible and respected evangelical leaders of his era, the era led by the pre-World War II generation. He served, with distinction, in the Navy during the Second World War and was decorated for service to his nation.
To me Hudson Armerding was my friend. That seems odd to say since he was more than thirty years my senior. When I arrived at Wheaton in 1969 he was fifty years of age and I was not quite twenty. But it is true. We were good friends. Dr. Armerding and I met in his office in the fall of 1969. I was a junior transfer student from the University of Alabama. My reason for an appointment with the rather quiet and somewhat austere president was a passion beating in my heart—a passion for spiritual awakening at Wheaton. Several friends joined me that day. Our purpose was to enlist Hudson Armerding to pray with us for our spiritually needy campus. He was, quite honestly, stunned that students made an appointment for such prayer. I eventually asked Dr. Armerding to join our 24/7 prayer chain. He did. In February of 1970 the Holy Spirit came with power to the Wheaton campus. I shall remember as long as I live seeing Dr. Armdering sit all night in his chair in Edman Chapel watching with amazement and deep pleasure as God moved across our student body all night long. This movement eventually spilled over into the surrounding churches and youth ministries. Through it I met my wife to be only a few months later. Dr. Armerding came to our wedding and continually supported us over the years. When I began ACT 3, in 1991, he became one of my first regular donors and a faithful prayer supporter. When we had opportunity we would meet in person and pray together once again.
I have personal letters and photographs of Hudson Armerding that I will treasure until my last day. One of the greatest blessings I ever received was a short paragraph in Hudson Armerding’s memoir written for the alumni association of Wheaton. In it he mentions the 1970 awakening as the “highlight” of his presidency and named me as his friend and as the student who urged the all-campus prayer movement for that divine visitation. I never knew just how much this all meant to him until someone gave me a copy of the book and I read it on a long flight. I was in a sad state at the time and wondering about my calling and future. When I read this page I wept. I realized God has used my mentor/friend to refresh me this time. I knew I needed to press on in faith no matter what the future held for me.
Dr. Armerding was a distinguished history professor, a former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and a leader among Christian college presidents for several decades. He wrote several published books but the one that best represents the man is his book: The Heart of Godly Leadership. He was just that, a godly leader with a heart that loved and served. I will always remember Hudson like a father in the faith. At my age more and more of these spiritual fathers are passing into the arms of Jesus. I lost another one, a very important one, on December 1. I will attend his funeral tomorrow and celebrate his life and thereby join many friends in remembering all he gave to them by his faithful life.