When Athens Clay Pullias became president of David Lipscomb College in 1946 at the age of thirty-five, he was one of the youngest college heads in the country. Twenty years earlier he had preached his first sermon at fifteen. At the age of twenty, he was admitted to the Tennessee State Bar by special act of Chancery Court removing his age disability. Today at forty-five, still one of the country's younger college presidents, he devotes his talents and energy to the service of youth, to the end that other young people may have the same opportunity for Christian education and leadership that he has enjoyed.
In Athens Clay Pullias is a rare combination of abilities and preparation that peculiarly fit him to head a growing Christian college in an age when more and more young people are finding it possible to attend college. First of all, he is a great evangelist and his first and foremost purpose in life is to advance the cause of Christ. For thirteen years he was minister of one of Nashville's largest congregations, the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ, and since giving up local work to become Lipscomb's president he has continued to preach in ten meetings each year and also to devote twenty-six Sundays to speaking for congregations throughout the country as visiting evangelist.
Second, he is a lawyer and business man, by training and ability thoroughly qualified to handle the multiple and complex affairs of a modern educational institution. In this connection, he maintains his membership in the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Bar Association, and the American Bar Association, and represents Lipscomb in the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Third, he is a scholar and educator, beloved by Lipscomb students privileged to study Bible under him, and highly respected in educational circles throughout the country. Before becoming president, he was professor of Bible and head of the department at Lipscomb, and as long as he is in charge of the College, the Bible will remain the most important subject taught. Born in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, where his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. G. Pullias, still live, he is a member of a family of distinguished educators and preachers. His uncle, C.M. Pullias, now in Texas, has been preaching for sixty years, has held hundreds of meetings, and has spoken on many lectureships. A brother, Earl V. Pullias, is dean of George Pepperdine College and is also a well-known evangelist. Another brother, I. C. Pullias, presently preaching for the church in Fayetteville, Tennessee, has been preaching since 1917 and was for twenty-one years a public school administrator and teacher in Tennessee.
It was in the family tradition that Athens Clay Pullias should go to David Lipscomb College. Since 1913 a Pullias has been a student, staff member, or in some way connected with the College. After graduating from Lipscomb (then a junior college), he continued his studies at Cumberland University, where he received both the B.A. and LL.B. degrees. While a student there, he met and married the former Mary Frances Newby of Lebanon, Tennessee, a woman of great charm and talent as well as spiritual qualities. Mrs. Pullias is a graduate of Lipscomb (and also of Peabody and Ward-Belmont Colleges), and their son, Clay, Jr., seven, now carries on the tradition as a second-grade pupil in Lipscomb Elementary School. From Cumberland, Pullias went on to Vanderbilt University, where he received the B.D. degree.
In 1944 he was placed in charge of the Lipscomb Expansion Program launched in October of that year for the purpose of developing the school into a four-year college. The first senior class was graduated in 1948, and by 1952, more than $3,000,000 had been raised under his leadership. Lipscomb is now fully accredited as a senior liberal arts college by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
The Gospel Advocate has been an honored visitor in his parents' home and in his own all of his life, and copies are placed in all student mail boxes at Lipscomb. It was a happy occasion for Pullias when the Advocate launched its centennial anniversary drive for 100,000 new subscribers at the Lipscomb Winter Lecture Series last January. His membership in the GA 500 Club, therefore, will be ranked by him with the many other high honors that have come to him as a distinguished Christian educator.
-Willard Collins, GA Centennial, pages 289-292
Athens Clay Pullias
Athens Clay Pullias ended one of the longest college administrations in the nation, and the longest tenure in the office for any college supported by members of churches of Christ, in his retirement as president of David Lipscomb College on August 31, 1977.
The Board of Directors had previously voted unanimously its full confidence in his leadership and accepted with regret his request for retirement after serving thirty-one years as Lipscomb's president. In a statement issued immediately after this action, the chairman of the Board said:
The Board of Directors also voted unanimously to name Pullias president emeritus and adopted a resolution commending him for his long service to Lipscomb. In connection with the announcement of then President Pullias' retirement, he made the following statement:
Former Vice President Willard Collins was named by the Board of Directors to assume the presidency September 1, 1977. His statement on being informed of this action follows:
Excerpts from the resolution of commendation unanimously adopted by the Board expressing "profound gratitude for the forty-three years of Pullias' dedicated service to David Lipscomb College and his lifetime consecration and devotion to our Lord and to Christian education," follow:
All members of the Board of Directors signed the resolution, including the following: William Dalton chairman; Thomas J. McMeen, vice president; James E. Adams, Claude Bennett, Word B. Bennett, Jr. David L. Boyd, Bryan A. Crisman, Joe L. Evins: W. R. Gray, John W. High, Charlie G. Morris, Thomas A. Noah, Jr., Mrs. Emmett H. Roberson, Harris C. Smith and Newton Y. Walker, Jr.
The esteem with which former President Pullias is regarded throughout his home state of Tennessee is evident from editorials that appeared in The Tennessean and The Nashville Banner following the announcement of his retirement.
Copies of these editorials as they appeared in these newspapers are included in this announcement to the readers of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE.
A full announcement of the appointment of President Willard Collins to succeed former President Pullias will appear in an early issue of the Advocate.
-Gospel Advocate, 6 October 1977, page 626,630
Retirement For Dr. Pullias
Dr. Athens Clay Pullias has been identified with David Lipscomb College for so many years that even in his retirement both names will remain linked together. Dr. Pullias will retire Wednesday as president of the college. In terms of longevity, the years are impressive: more than forty-three years of service to Lipscomb, thirty-one as its president. But a record is better measured by accomplishments. Under his leadership, beginning in 1944 and continuing when he became president two years later, the Lipscomb Expansion Program has raised a total of more than $22 million. This has seen Lipscomb rise to senior college status, achieving accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and other educational associations.
Those accomplishments also have seen Dr. Pullias as uniquely qualified to serve his fellow citizens: he was chairman of the Tennessee Tax Study Commission and chairman of the Statewide Citizens Committee for Question 3. Fellow educators have honored him as he is past president of the Tennessee College Association and past chairman of the Tennessee Independent Colleges Fund.
-Gospel Advocate, 6 October 1977, page 630
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