Monday, July 31, 2017

Gooding College President and Methodist Minister Charles Wesley Tenney [otd 07/31]

Charles Wesley Tenney, LL.D., was born in Vancouver, Washington on July 31, 1873. His father, Horace Dewey Tenney from Vermont, pioneered in Washington by way of California in 1863. Horace became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution through his great-grandfather, Josiah, who served three years with the Third Massachusetts Regiment. Charles graduated from Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, in 1898, with a Bachelor’s degree (Ph.B). He immediately enrolled at the Oregon Law School.

However, during his time at Willamette, Tenney had also been designated a Deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thus, after a year at the Law School he was called to teach at the Montana Wesleyan College in Helena, Montana. Charles arrived as Professor of Civics and Economics for the fall semester (Helena Independent, September 14, 1899).
Helena, ca 1908. Library of Congress.
After two years, Tenney was placed in full control of the college, although he was not given the top title. Then, in August 1903, Charles was ordained in the ministry, and was thereafter referred to as the President of the College. In 1908, he obtained his Master’s degree from George Washington University, in Washington, D. C.

Tenney remained President of the College until 1913, when he became Rural School Inspector for the state of Montana. He held that position into 1917, and then became Superintendent of Schools at Libby, Montana. During the summer of that year, Charles taught classes on rural school organization and leadership at Syracuse University. He also gave summer institute lectures at two schools in South Dakota (Anaconda Standard, April 16, 1917).

In 1918, Tenney was called to the Presidency of Gooding College, located south of Gooding, Idaho. The Methodist Episcopal Church established the College in 1917. The school had moved from temporary quarters into new buildings at the end of November. Before the church assigned Tenney there in September 1918, the school was apparently headed by a Vice President.

Charles was formally installed as President on March 21, 1919, in a program that included Idaho Governor D. W. Davis [blog April 23] and former governor and future U. S. Senator Frank R. Gooding. The school offered a Bachelor of Arts degree, being particularly strong in the fine arts.

In 1927, Charles received an LL.D. from Helena’s Intermountain Union College, a predecessor to Rocky Mountain College. Dr. Tenney would see Gooding College through a period of growth, followed by its decline. Unfortunately, the Great Depression crippled the College, as it did many other small schools. By the mid-1930s, Charles had come under pressure to add non-academic classes (“manual arts,” presumably) to the curriculum. He resigned as of the end of the 1934-1935 school year (The Oregonian, April 17, 1935).
Gooding College. National Register of Historic Places
Gooding College folded in 1938, and the property was donated to the state of Idaho in 1941. The buildings housed a tuberculosis hospital for over twenty years after 1946. The main structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. More recently, part of the property has been converted to a bed and breakfast.

Dr. Tenney worked at the Institute of Religious Studies on the University of Idaho Campus for about a year. He then spent about four years as an “office employee” for a religious correspondence school, working from Portland, Oregon.

Starting in about September 1940, Charles served as a “supply pastor” in and around the city. The following year, he became the regular pastor at Bennett Chapel, a small Methodist church in East Portland. Tenney finally retired from active ministry in late 1943. He passed away in November 1947.
References: [Defen]
“Ailment Fatal to Educator,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 30, 1947).
“Educational News – Idaho,” Journal of Education: New England and National, Volume 89, Boston (January 2, 1919).
"Gooding College," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service (1983).

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