Hardin-Simmons University has existed since 1891 under several different names, some of which only lasted for a short time and are all but forgotten. These names are a part of the identity of the university, no matter how long they lasted, and each show a step down the path that leads to the HSU we know today.
When the Sweetwater Baptist Association began acting on their desire to have a school in West Texas, they came up with the very plain-spoken name of Abilene Baptist College, where I presume they wanted students to learn more than their ABCs. This name did not last very long, but some letterhead survived with the name.
Dr. O.C. Pope was a great Baptist fundraiser both in Texas, and nationally, and with his help, the Sweetwater Baptist Association made contact with Rev. James B. Simmons of New York City. Rev. Simmons provided the school with a generous donation of $5,000 to create the school. Rev. Simmons wanted the name to be Christlieb College, or for those of us that don’t speak German, the College of Christ’s Love, and referred to the school by that name until his death in 1905.
The board of trustees sought to honor Rev. Simmons by naming the school after him, and instead chose the name The Simmons College, but that was shortened after just a few years in 1894 to just Simmons College, which would continue for another 31 years.
In 1925, the name changed again, but only slightly to Simmons University in conjunction with the first Master’s degree being awarded in 1926. The next year brought change as well, as Simmons University was admitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. This name would last only 9 years until the final change in 1934.
Mr. and Mrs. John Hardin were great Christian philanthropists who gave money to multiple institutions across Texas, including schools, hospitals, children’s homes, and many others. In 1931, President Sandefer began contacting the Hardin’s about donating money to the university, and in 1934 the university changed its name by a vote of the board of Trustees to Hardin-Simmons University.
The name of Hardin-Simmons University has existed for 79 years, but there is a substantial history prior to that, which encompasses the whole that is Hardin-Simmons University.