The Forgotten Missionaries

Perhaps the most meaningful event during the ongoing 113th Founders Week celebration was the launching of the book “Glimpses of Missionaries and Fraternal Workers in Silliman University, 1901- 1998”. It was written by Ligaya Magbanua Simpkins, an alumna of Silliman, who has made it her mission to write a book about the missionaries behind Silliman. In her own words, she “was spurred by the realization that the pioneers and mission workers who helped build Silliman have become a fading memory in the minds of alumni, faculty, and students over the years.”

Using Dr. Horace Silliman’s generous donation, Dr. David and Mrs. Laura Hibbard, SU’s first missionary couple, established a school for trade and agriculture for boys in Dumaguete in 1901. A succession of missionary teachers or fraternal workers followed them, including Dr. Paul Doltz, Clyde Heflin, Irving and Mary Channon, Rev. Douglas Vernon. Rev. and Mrs. Paul Lindholm, Drs. Robert and Metta Silliman, Dr. Arthur Carson, Dr. Gordon and Helen Mahy, Dr. James and Ethel Chapman, Drs. George and Jan Beran, and Drs. George and Helen Cunningham. The list goes on and on.

It was the Hibbards and the other missionaries who, according to Dr. Leonor Briones, chair of the SU board of trustees, “laid the strong foundations” and whose “continual striving for excellence” that has made Silliman an outstanding Christian university.

Today, however, these missionaries, except for those whose names are attached to buildings, streets or facilities, are largely forgotten. Worse, they and their valuable contributions to the birth, survival, and growth of Silliman might soon be completely forgotten despite the noble efforts of alumni such as Magbanua-Simpkins.

On the occasion of Silliman’s 113th anniversary, the Weekly Sillimanian pays tribute to these American missionaries. Their dedication and sacrifices should never be forgotten by today’s Sillimanians. If God had not used them, there would be no Silliman University today. It is only right that we who are now reaping the labors of the missionaries who sowed and nurtured the seeds of what is now Silliman University thank them and the God who used them for blessing countless lives in the past and present and many more in the years ahead.

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