Today, I post in my honor of my dad, Gerald W. Casey, and also in tribute to my mom’s father, Andy T. Ritchie, Jr. Both men died in November: Ritchie, 25 years ago, and Casey, one year ago today.¹ Having been strongly influenced by his father-in-law, my dad would have wanted to be present for a special event last month.
In recognition of Ritchie’s influence on many Harding students, the university named an endowed chair in his honor. Here is the invitation to the ceremony:
And here is the program for the event:
The ceremony was an effective length, I thought, and it was carried out nicely.
Some might question the label “Endowed Chair for Discipleship and Church Planting.” While the term “discipleship” has acquired more meanings and significance since the 50s and 60s, and while the term “church planting” is perhaps not entirely descriptive of Granddaddy’s activities, he expended much energy in personal, relational evangelism² with individuals. He also led summer campaigns, worked in multiple Christian camps, and preached and led worship in song for evangelistic “meetings.” His influence resulted in devoted discipleship, and, by multiplication and extension, his work resulted in the planting of churches. Harding President Bruce McLarty commented, “I began to learn of who this was that I had seen by listening to people who told of the impact he had on their souls—and what he taught them about the presence of God and the holiness of God and the worship of God.”
Below is the bio that appeared in the program:
Granddaddy’s influence was experienced on the Harding campus in group devotionals and leadership in chapel; classes in New Testament, the Psalms, Prophets, and Christian worship; and for a short time, in the chorus. His book Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God was used in college courses and enjoyed a berth on many shelves. Also notable, but presumably not directly pertinent to the naming of this university chair, are my grandfather’s teachings and examples in congregational and private worship.
For those who might wish to view the event, I happily share the link to a video provided by Harding University. Toward the end of the video, in conjunction with biographical photos, my grandfather’s voice is heard saying a few things about worship. Today I am grateful for the memories of Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., and Gerald Casey.
¹ In the early morning hours of November 28, 2017, just a few hours after he had arrived in the hospice wing of Unity hospital in Searcy, my dad died. Mom had been with him just a few hours earlier. His brother, all his children, and one of his grandchildren had been with him during Thanksgiving week just prior.
² I recently learned that Granddaddy had a habit of asking the admissions department for the names of students who were not known to be Christians. He would seek them out in personal conversation.
³ I observed, in briefly reviewing a copy of the official document last week, that the word “Endowed” was replaced by “Distinguished.”