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When Southwestern Adventist was founded in 1893, one structure existed on campus: a simple two-story building with fish-scale shingles on the two gable ends and knee braces under the eaves. The next two buildings, designed by Seventh Day Adventist architect, W.S. Sisley of Battle Creek, Michigan, featured turned posts on the large porch of a simple, symmetrical four-story frame structure, and an asymmetrical four-story structure with fish-scale shingles and no porches. Both featured projections.
A fourth building, three-stories high, pulled onto the campus by mules in 1907, featured both a fish-scale mansard roof and turned posts on first and second floor porches. The next decade brought American Foursquare buildings and a Bungalow. A three-story red-brick administration/classroom building defined the campus in the 1920's to the early 1960's, only to be razed due to weak construction. By the 1940's, as fires had destroyed several of the wood frame buildings, cream colored brick came into use as the primary building material for two and three story structures. The result was an irregular, enlarged campus, united by a central mall. The 1980s focused on the construction of ancillary buildings. By the 1990s, a perceived need for campus architecture befitting a university resulted in the construction of two cream brick structures, rising majestically from the crest of the highest point in the county, roofed in copper. The first, the Chan Shun Centennial Library, built in celebration of 100 years, is the school's signature building. Second is a men's residence hall. Plans for a third university structure are underway. Meanwhile, older brick buildings are being re-roofed in copper, one by one. The only excepted building is the American Foursquare described elsewhere in this report.
Keene Industrial Academy was established in 1893 as an industrial training school for children of Seventh-Day Adventists in Texas. The founders believed that each student should learn a trade to fall back on if necessary, while obtaining an education that would aid in denominational serve - pastor, missionary, church administrator, educator, nurse or other medical career, etc. Students employed in local industries would also be able to finance their private education. The institution's third and fourth reasons for existence were to teach the sciences from a creationist's point of view and to conduct worship services appropriate to their understanding of the mind of the Creator. Therefore, it was preferable that the campus be located in a rural setting with opportunity for industries ranging from agricultural to broom making, printing, woodworking, tent-making and numerous other enterprises. Numerous small buildings on campus were constructed for industrial purposes for the larger part of the school's first century of existence. The first two assembly halls, located in early classroom buildings, served as worship centers on weekends for the student body, faculty and nearby residents. A planned community soon surrounded the campus, largely comprised of individual families who had moved adjacent to the school in order to educate their children or teach or operate industries. With the exception of radio and television facilities, the buildings devoted to "hands on" training have disappeared from campus. The University owns a large printing industry adjacent to campus, but few students are employed there.
While retaining strong work, service and worship ethics, Southwestern Adventist has matured to university status, offering a full range of liberal arts courses. Students still prepare for the ministry and for medical careers, as well as many other fields. Masters level programs are offered in business and education. Tucked into the campus scheme are several pieces of sacred-themed sculpture and art.
The city of Keene, spawned by the school's existence, is its own entity, and while the only churches in town are Seventh-day Adventist, their membership includes approximately 50% of the city's population. Public and private elementary and secondary schools, once a part of the original campus, became separate entities decades ago.
Southwestern Adventist University serves a church constituency in five states: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. It is part of the large world-wide educational program of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While the student body at Southwestern is increasingly international, the effect of an Adventist subculture, or lifestyle, pervades Johnson County. The campus, possibly more so than the graduates, stands as a symbol of a Bible-based, Creator-centered, service-oriented way of life.