Often times, it’s the college or university that chooses you, and Martin just felt right at home. It’s just a place where I could be comfortable but not comfortable enough. It’s a place that pushed me, but it’s also a place that felt like home… that felt like peace.” – Zach Moffatt ‘15
For Bob Lewis, Martin College was a small, two-year institution. It was a time where students could cheer on the Martin Indians during basketball games in the gym located at the center of campus. It was a time to lie at the top of Reservoir Hill and contemplate all that life has to offer. It was a time of fear and mourning when Martin Hall was taken down by a roaring fire, but it was also a time of determination, regrowth, and faith.
For Bob’s grandson Zach Moffatt, Martin Methodist College was a four-year institution. It was a time to support the Martin Methodist RedHawks at the gym in the new Curry Christian Life Center or attend a choir concert where the gym once sat in the new Gault Fine Arts building. It was a time to lay in a hammock tied to trees that frame one side of the Campus Green or a time to see a movie in the Martin Hall Theater. It was a time of friendship and new beginnings.
But for both, Martin was family, and their Martin stories, despite being almost 60 years apart, run parallel to one another.
In high school, Bob was, what he considered, an average student, making B’s and C’s. Yet despite being told he wasn’t smart enough to attend college and despite being well into his senior year and not knowing what he wanted to do, he still went with his pastor and a few others to visit Martin College when his pastor proposed the idea.
“I sort of liked it,” said Bob. “But then the dean of students stopped by to talk to us, and he could talk Martin up like it was the Garden of Eden. I signed up to attend that day.”
“It was there I met my best friends,” Bob added. He first met Garie Taylor during a game of touch football. “I thought he was a smart aleck,” said Bob. “He put me on my behind in football; I was so mad at him.” But after meeting Garie at church and being put in the same group as him, he quickly realized that Garie was a good guy. He and Garie met Ben Alford along the way, and the three became, what the campus referred to them as, the “Three Musketeers.”
While his friendships were sky-rocketing, his grades were also reflecting the support from his teachers through consistent A’s and B’s. He was excelling socially and academically, and in doing so, he also discovered his true calling.
“I remember young Sam Dawson with the flat top and the sport coat and the white buck shoes,” said Bob, referring to a minister who often preached on campus. “His services fit the social issues of the day, and he came on campus a lot. Seeing him… that’s when I decided I would go into ministry.”
As a 1956 graduate, Bob wasn’t ready to leave. He kept going back to Martin because it was a home to him, but he was eventually encouraged to turn to the next chapter in his journey and attend divinity school. That journey grew in size until he found himself with a family of his own and preaching as an established minister. Through his journey, he still kept contact with Garie and Ben—the two becoming so close to Bob’s family that Bob’s grandson Zach didn’t know Garie and Ben weren’t his uncles until he was ten.
Zach often heard his granddad, Garie, and Ben reminisce about Martin, and these stories of a college so close-knit and personal intrigued Zach to check it out. Several years before Zach would be ready to go to college, he and Bob took a visit to Martin, and when they arrived, they were greeted by Dr. Ted Brown, the president of the college at the time. Dr. Brown went with Zach and Bob on a tour of the campus and even took them to eat after.
“That was the day I decided I was going to attend Martin Methodist,” said Zach. “I didn’t look at any other colleges.”
After winning the Church Leadership Scholarship, Zach began his own journey at Martin Methodist College, already knowing that he wanted to pursue ministry thanks to the exposure he got during his childhood because of his granddad.
“At Martin, my world view was broadened,” said Zach. “My professors challenged me and pushed me, but they were also very gentle and caring. All of the professors at Martin, I think, view it as their calling to not only teach, but to also foster an atmosphere of nurture and love.”
Similar to his granddad, Zach excelled in his studies while he made lifelong friends and even met the love of his life on the first day of college. “My wife Kara and I are both indebted to Martin because it brought us together, and it helped us grow, learn, and deepen our faith,” said Zach.
Now, after graduating from Candler School of Theology and being freshly-appointed as minister at Adams United Methodist Church in Adams, TN, Zach and his family are following in his granddad’s footsteps.
Zach and Bob share a Martin Connection. While there’s a generational gap stretching almost 60 years apart, their two Martin stories show that whether it was 1956 Martin College or 2015 Martin Methodist College, Martin was, and still is, a second home to them.