By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Walk into the average person’s home and you quickly gain a sense of their personality and style. Walk into the home of the president of Anderson University and the picture is a little cloudy.
While James and Deanna Edwards are clearly at home in the residence they’ve shared for 23 years, much of the furniture and décor actually belong to someone else — previous presidents and their families.
Enjoying the role of caretakers of the university’s property, the couple recites with pleasure the prior ownership of each donated piece. Speaking of the previous presidents as family members, they take pleasure in the rich history the home offers.
“Dr. (Robert) Reardon loved this house,” said James. Reardon was president of Anderson University from 1958-1983 and was the first to live in the home. “It is an extraordinarily well built house. This used to be cemetery property and was surrounded by farm fence when we first moved here. We used to take night-time walks in the cemetery with students.”
Built in 1968 with a donation from Donald Boyes, then general manager of General Motors, the house on University Avenue is named Boyes House on the campus map.
Constructed with entertaining in mind, the spacious rooms invite large gatherings — and are often used for such.
“The university has this wonderful house and it’s great to share it,” said Deanna, who is on the board of Alternatives, the Minnetrista Center, Silent Blessings and the Committee for the Children’s Center at Park Place. “We often have meetings here or parties or showers or practice recitals.”
“We have this lovely piano that was already here, but neither of us play,” added James. “Sometimes students come here to have a practice recital to get ready for a performance. Any time we have events here, it tends to be the centerpiece.”
Not only did the piano come with the house, but so did a great deal of the furniture and décor on the first floor. Rather than appearing dated, however, the pieces look classic and timeless.
Paintings on the walls and sculptures on the end tables were crafted by Anderson University artists. In the dining room are three lovely built-in corner cabinets featuring a china set donated by the Reardons, another donated by Phil and Phyllis Kinley (missionaries to Japan) and another that belonged to Deanna’s mother. Deanna’s own china is hidden away in the lower cupboards.
Piling into the kitchen
On display along the sideboards and buffet are a tea set from Reardon and a second tea set from Nicholson, who was AU president from 1983-1990. The beautiful inlaid wood furniture was purchased at an estate sale.
Nearby hangs a painting by Ruthven Byrum, the widely known artist who began the art department in the late ’20s and chaired it for 22 years. Adding to the value of the painting is the rarity of the form. Known for painting cities and buildings, Byrum fashioned few works featuring a natural element. This one is of a cherry blossom in bloom.
The home’s only hindrance to gatherings was the layout of the kitchen. Built during an era when hosts liked to be able to shut the working food area off from guests, the kitchen did not allow people to flow through the space. Approximately five years ago, the couple addressed this issue.
“It was a beautiful kitchen, but we found it helpful to renovate it for the times,” said Deanna. “We removed as much of a wall as possible and took out the cupboards that were over the island. We turned the windows into French doors and built a deck on the back. The cooktop was taken out of the island so that we can use it for serving.”
“When students come over, we’ve often served them in the kitchen area from the counters,” agreed James. “Students will pile in there.”
As students wander through the house, they will notice an example set by lifetime learners. Not only are the shelves of the library full but artistically stacked piles of books decorate the floor around the desk.
“One time I read that Jacqueline Kennedy had stacks of books on her floor,” said Deanna. “I figured if it’s good enough for Jacqueline Kennedy, then it’s good enough for me.”
Books are also ready to be perused in the bedroom. James is quick to recommend reading based on author and topic. Several on the top of his stacks are written by AU faculty.
While some would shudder at living so close to work — and so close to scores of college students — James and Deanna wouldn’t want life any other way.
“I love walking across the street to the office,” said James. “We have just loved it here. And the students feel comfortable coming and going but are always respectful. They don’t just knock on the door — very often.”
“The students are so nice to us,” agreed Deanna, recalling a recent wintry visitor to their lawn. “That snowman outside was a surprise. Students brought it over for us to enjoy.”
Together James and Deanna have excelled at melding their own tastes with the style left to them from former caretakers.