December - January 2023
Lighting the Darkness
The Goen Gift
By Todd Parrish
For almost 50 years, the building stood on the corner of Craighead and Richland in the West End neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee. Constructed in 1967, Goen Hall became the home of many young men who attended Welch College. In fall 1985, I started my four-year residency in that brick dormitory, and I still recall the laughter and banter that regularly filled the hallways. Many nights, bunk beds became altars as students gathered with their prayer groups, shared burdens, and prayed for one another. Theological debates and intense biblical discussions were as common as the practical jokes we played on one another. Few Welch graduates today remember Goen Hall without recalling good memories of bygone days.
I walked under those large, black letters spelling out “Goen Hall” above the entryway a thousand times, but it wasn’t until this year that I learned more about the man who lent his name to the building. Described as “a genuine cattle-working, horse-riding, lasso-throwing Texas cowboy,” his name was Clyde F. Goen. His love for Welch College and the Free Will Baptist denomination was as big as his native Lone Star State.
Sitting in his grandson’s living room on the Goen Ranch in Bryan, Texas, I learned more about this amazing Aggie. Clyde graduated from his beloved Texas A&M in 1912. An influential lay leader among early Free Will Baptists, Goen saw the need for a denominational college. When the National Association formed in 1935, some like John L. Welch and Clyde Goen knew Free Will Baptists needed an institution to train leaders or risk losing them to colleges operated by other denominations. Goen not only believed in Christian higher education; he put his money where his mouth was and gave generously. On one occasion, he gave when he didn’t have the cash in hand. All he possessed was a vast love for Welch College and a tremendous faith in God to provide.
It was the late 1940s, and Goen heard the new college in Nashville was in great financial need.
Goen’s desire to help was so strong, he returned from a National Convention and asked his banker for a loan of $10,000, an astronomical amount at the time. Goen wanted to give the money to Welch College so the school could continue. The banker desperately tried to talk him out of such a risky move, but Goen was determined. He eventually obtained the loan and gave the money to Welch College, saving it from a financial crisis. Later in 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Goen gave Welch another $35,000 to help construct a new men’s dormitory, named Goen Hall.
I wonder how many sermons were preached and churches planted by the boys who lived
in Goen? Many who resided on the corner of Craighead and Richland went on to make an eternal difference in the lives of high school and college students. Others mentored many more young people to surrender to Christ and His plan for their lives.
Today, people like to play it safe when it comes to money. They don’t put all their eggs in one basket, and they rarely take the unusual step of taking out a loan so the Lord’s work can move forward. But most people don’t have the love and faith of Clyde Goen, either. Because he willingly gave money he didn’t have to house students he didn’t know, many young men had a home away from home while fulfilling God’s call on their lives. Welch College could use another like Clyde Goen. May God bring us another friend who possesses a faith in God that’s as big as Texas!
About the Author: Todd Parrish is vice president for institutional advancement at Welch College. Learn more about how you can help train future generations of biblical leaders: welch.edu.