Another connection with the beginnings of Anderson University nearly a century ago came to an end this month with the passing of Mona Morrison Hoffman in White Bear Lake, Minn.
Mona’s father, John Arch Morrison, came to Anderson from Missouri in 1917 to become assistant principal of the newly created Anderson Bible Training School. A year later the institution’s founder, J.T. Wilson, turned the reins over to Morrison, who became the first president of Anderson College and served as its chief executive for 39 years before retiring in 1958. Morrison’s statue stands in front of Decker Hall, affectionately known to kids on outings from the nearby Park Place Children’s Center as the “tin man.”
Mona was born soon after John and Eunice Morrison’s arrival in Anderson, 94 years ago to be exact. Her entire life would be connected with the institution her dad guided through its formative years that would grow from a small Bible training school to a widely known university.
She would grow up in the house on the hill overlooking the valley of the then-small campus, diagonally across from Old Main, which served as the school’s first building for many years and was originally constructed as a home for workers of the Gospel Trumpet Co, publishing house. Eventually other buildings were constructed and it would later be replaced by the present Decker Hall.
She had one brother, Earl “Jiggs” Morrison, a car dealer for many years in Anderson; and two sisters, Dorothy Blevins-Thomas, who operated the Dorothy Blevins Shoppes, and Vivian Caudill-Wagner. Of those, Dorothy, who still lives in Anderson, survives.
The late Dr. Robert Reardon, who succeeded Morrison as president of what would later become AU, in his memoirs recalled his years as a classmate of Mona. But it was Arthur Hoffman who would become her husband. And her lifelong interest in music led to a widely known family singing group.
Mona, Art and children Hedi, Trudi and Rudi became known as the Hoffman Family Singers, performing not only in Anderson but other widely scattered locations.
As the kids grew up and went out on their own, Mona channeled her musical interest into teaching and performing as a singer and pianist as well as working with theatrical productions including directing the Pendleton Easter Pageant. She was active in a number of civic and social organizations as well.
Always upbeat and full of life, Mona remained active in her retirement years until a fall a few years ago shattered her leg, as I recall. She then moved to Minnesota to be closer to her daughter Trudi.
In addition to Dorothy, a host of cousins, nephews and nieces remain in the Anderson area. And many other friends entertain memories of Mona Morrison Hoffman and her active life centered around Anderson University, music and civic activities in the Madison County area.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.