1944 Prospectus for the Fireside Correspondence School

Photo courtesy of South Pacific Division Heritage Centre.

Advent Correspondence School, South Pacific Division

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

Correspondence courses were available through the Church in the South Pacific between 1925 and the mid-1990s. These courses were delivered by a number of means including the Fireside Correspondence School and the Advent Correspondence School.

Fireside Correspondence School

When Lynn Wood was principal of the Australasian Missionary College (AMC), he suggested that a branch of the American Fireside Correspondence School should be set up in Australia. The time taken for lessons to be mailed across the Pacific Ocean was too long and impractical. He argued that a branch office located in Australia would reduce postage and quicken the pace of any unit of study. Facilities were accordingly made available in 1925 at the South Pacific Division headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales. Mabel White was appointed to operate the school. Among the courses of studies offered were English, Bible, mathematics, history, and home nursing. The lessons were the same as those used by the American Fireside Correspondence School, and the successful completion of any unit could be transferred as credit toward a graduate course at AMC. Each course was divided into 40 lessons that took, on average, approximately nine months to complete. The student paid £4 for the correction of the lessons and return postage.1

White’s first news report of the school spoke of a number of students enjoying their studies.2 Her tenure, however, was cut short at the end of the year when she followed her husband to an appointment in Western Australia. Charles Bell, a tutor at AMC, supervised the correspondence school from 1926 through early 1938.3 He was kept busy. It was reported in 1930 that 188 students scattered throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Isles were enrolled in a growing variety of 21 different subjects.4

The Australian Version

In 1938 Harold O’Hara, a trained teacher, was appointed as the principal of the school. Rather than supervision being centered at Cooranbong, an Australasian Union Conference (AUC) board of management was selected, mainly from church officials at Wahroonga, and an office for O’Hara was rented in the Royal Exchange Assurance Building, 75-77 Pitt Street, Sydney.5 Instruction booklets printed in O’Hara’s era carried the title Australasian Fireside Correspondence School.6 A few years later, in 1945, the enterprise was referred to as the Australian Correspondence School,7 and by 1948 it was named the Advent Correspondence School.8

O’Hara initiated a small student newspaper titled Flashes.9 He was granted permission to visit the church camp meetings in New South Wales to promote the school.10 O’Hara held the position for five years, and then Hans Vetter replaced him as principal in 1943. Vetter worked from an office associated with the health food cafe in Hardy’s Chambers, 5 Hunter Street, Sydney.11 In an AUC Education Department report of 1945, figures revealed that enrollment had risen from 86 (1941) to 120 (1944).12

One prospectus of the school from Vetter’s era offers a comprehensive list of courses. They included four different Bible units, four mathematics units to the Leaving Certificate standard, three units of Latin, three units of English, New Testament Greek, Seventh-day Adventist denominational history, modern European history, typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, physiology, and a unit to tutor candidates for the New South Wales nurses entrance exam.13 Vetter himself was not versed in all of these subjects, so from 1946 onward, AMC departmental heads were given the responsibility to mark and grade some of the papers.14

Vetter served as principal until the beginning of 1947 when Edward Rosendahl, the temporary principal at AMC, was invited to supervise the correspondence school. He remained at Cooranbong, and AMC resident tutors continued their assistance. Rosendahl reported at the time that 156 students were taking studies.15 Returned missionary George Masters was appointed to the role in 1948.16 The school’s office was still located at Cooranbong and managed by a board of nine members.17 The following year, 1949, the enterprise moved back to Hunter Street in Sydney.18 Two years later, the board had shrunk to only two members, including Masters as principal.19

The Advent Correspondence School was listed for the last time in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1953.20 That did not mean correspondence courses ceased to operate. The board was disbanded, and no further advertising took place, but units of study could still be completed through the Australasian Division Education Department.21

Return to American Units

By arrangement in 1953 with the Home Study Institute in Washington, D.C., students in Australia could complete courses of study and use them as credit at AMC.22 However, as academic standards lifted, educators preferred graduates who had completed all their studies on campus. The exceptions they allowed were prerequisite units for a course of study or times when a boarding student had failed a single subject and needed a second opportunity by attempting the equivalent correspondence unit.

Successive office secretaries, such as Margaret Goldspink and Ngaire Colquhoun in the Australasian Division Education Department, supervised correspondence courses during the 1980s and early 1990s.23 The marking and grading of papers were delegated under contract to various church employees.24 A Home Study Institute Board monitored the enterprise.25 As the government required colleges of higher education, such as Avondale College (formerly AMC), to further lift their standards, correspondence courses fell into disfavor and were phased out in the mid-1990s.

Sources

“Appointments and Transfers Made at the Annual Meeting, 1948—Final List,” Australasian Record, January 24, 1949.

Australasian Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus. South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW. Box: 51. Folder: “Australasian Fireside Correspondence School.”

Faulkner, N. H. “The Educational Department.” Australasian Record, October 6, 1930.

Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus. South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW. Box: 51. Folder: “Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus.”

Flashes. South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW. Box: 51. Folder: “Flashes.”

Lawson, T. C. “Report of the Education Department.” Australasian Record, October 1, 1945.

Masters, G. M. “The Advent Correspondence School.” Australasian Record, April 25, 1949.

Minutes of the Australasian Division Executive Committee, July 15, 1980. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW. Shelf Records. Volume: “Australasian Division Executive Committee Minutes, 1980.”

Minutes of the Fireside Correspondence School, 1938–1940. South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW. Box: 51. Folder: “Fireside Correspondence School Minutes, 1938–1940.

Rosendahl, E. “The Advent Correspondence School: An Historical Sketch.” Australasian Record, April 12, 1948.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948–1953.

“The Home Study Institute, Washington, D.C.” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, October 19, 1953.

White, Mabel V. “Fireside Correspondence School.” Australasian Record, February 15, 1926.

Wood, L. H. “Fireside Correspondence School.” Australasian Record, August 10, 1925.

Notes

  1. L. H. Wood, “Fireside Correspondence School,” Australasian Record, August 10, 1925, 4.

  2. Mabel V. White, “Fireside Correspondence School,” Australasian Record, February 15, 1926, 5.

  3. E. Rosendahl, “The Advent Correspondence School,” Australasian Record, April 12, 1948, 8.

  4. N. H. Faulkner, “The Educational Department,” Australasian Record, October 6, 1930, 22–24.

  5. Minutes of the Fireside Correspondence School, May 11, 1938, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Box: 51 Folder: “Fireside Correspondence School Minutes 1938–1940.”

  6. Australasian Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Box: 51, Folder: “Australasian Fireside Correspondence School.”

  7. T. C. Lawson, “Report of the Education Department,” Australasian Record, October 1, 1945, 3–4.

  8. E. Rosendahl, “The Advent Correspondence School: An Historical Sketch,” Australasian Record, February 15, 1948, 8.

  9. Flashes, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Box: 51, Folder: “Flashes.”

  10. Minutes of the Fireside Correspondence School, August 25, 1938, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Box: 51, Folder: “Fireside Correspondence School Minutes 1938–1940.”

  11. Fireside Correspondence Course Prospectus, South Pacific Division Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Box: 51, Folder: “Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus.”

  12. T. C. Lawson, “Report of the Education Department,” Australasian Record, October 1, 1945, 3–4.

  13. Fireside Correspondence School Prospectus.

  14. Rosendahl, “The Advent Correspondence School.”

  15. Ibid.

  16. “Appointments and Transfers Made at the Annual Meeting, 1948—Final List,” Australasian Record, January 24, 1949.

  17. “Advent Correspondence School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1949 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1949), 239.

  18. “Advent Correspondence School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1950 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950), 242; G. M. Masters, “The Advent Correspondence School,” Australasian Record, April 25, 1949.

  19. “Advent Correspondence School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1952 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952), 223.

  20. “Advent Correspondence School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1953 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1953), 228.

  21. Personal knowledge of the author from studies taken from the Advent Correspondence School, 1958–1959.

  22. “The Home Study Institute, Washington, D.C.,” Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, October 19, 1953, 15.

  23. Ngaire Colquhoun, interview by author, Wahroonga, NSW, December 2, 2017.

  24. Personal knowledge of the author as a marker of lessons, 1985–1993.

  25. E.g., Minutes of the Australasian Division Executive Committee, July 15, 1980, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, NSW, Shelf Records, Volume: “Australasian Division Executive Committee Minutes, 1980.”

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Hook, Milton. "Advent Correspondence School, South Pacific Division." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed September 23, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=57RH.

Hook, Milton. "Advent Correspondence School, South Pacific Division." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=57RH.

Hook, Milton (2021, January 09). Advent Correspondence School, South Pacific Division. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=57RH.