In 1943, Bennie Lee Fudge had a dream of building a Christian school, while in a cotton field outside of Athens, and as current Athens Bible School President Randall Adams puts it, the ultimate goal then and now was to “help kids reach heaven.” The school is currently located on the old Ryan family homestead and school was first held in the Ryan farmhouse; and in just a few weeks, the brand new Athens Bible School will open its doors in time to have the class of 2019 graduate in an air-conditioned gymnasium.
The City of Athens has been blessed in 2019 with the building of both a beautiful public high school as well as the nearly-completed ABS facility; and they are located right across from each other on Highway 31 near the Sportsplex. Completing both building projects has been a lesson in patience for all involved, especially due to the record level of rainfall we have had.
The Athens Bible School building project has been under the careful and loving supervision of local builder Lynn Persell, who himself attended elementary at Athens Bible School. I spoke with Gayle Hagewood, who is the Assistant Director of Development, and with Randall Adams, who attended ABS in the first through fourth grades. It’s easy to discern their love for kids, God, and making an excellent education possible for children in Athens-Limestone County. Gayle went to ABS from grades 1-12, and her four children graduated from ABS as well. Randall’s daughters attended ABS, as did his wife, Jill. These families are “all in,” and are moved by the blessing that has been unfolding all around them.
There are detailed plans already in place for the actual move, and as soon as the Certificate of Occupancy is in their hands, they will “move on down the road,” room by room. If all goes as planned, the move will be smooth and the transition will be orderly. The students will have had a hand in the process, and have already helped with the landscaping at the new location.
Before Randall Adams became the president, he was a school counselor as well as a history teacher. One of the features of the new school that is important to him will be the three historical displays which will have a new home. One has several historical documents, including a copy of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender that Japan signed when they surrendered at the end of WWII. The second display will commemorate the ABS founders: Bennie Lee Fudge, Jack Rollings, and Irven Lee. The Eisenhower Gallery includes items donated by Lucy Dawson Eisenhower, Ike’s sister-in-law and great aunt of former ABS Board Member Ross Melvin. The new school will display all three themes, and each will have a place of honor. Gayle said that “tying the old with the new” was one of their goals, and they are pleased with how it’s all coming together.
The new facility will have 42 acres, and the 13-acre present location is for sale with several entities indicating an interest in it. On the day they move from the old location to the new one, everyone is going to make the one-mile walk up Hwy 31, which Randall Adams says will be a “symbolic migration.” And, the march will be supervised by the Athens Police Department. Speaking of law enforcement, a father and son team will be serving as the school’s security force. Retired Limestone County Sheriff’s Captain Stanley McNatt and his son, Athens Police Department Sergeant Daniel McNatt, will be watching out for students and staff.
As grand as all this is -- the new school building, the history, the community support, the vision -- what is it that sets Athens Bible School apart and makes it a good choice for your children? It is the commitment to develop your child’s spiritual life, instill Biblical principles, complete a rigorous course of academic study, and have the opportunity to be part of an award-winning Class 1A athletic program, while surrounded by great peers and staff.
“We teach leadership in addition to everything else,” said Gayle. “We provide a foundation for life,” said Randall. Athens Bible School participates in the Mayor’s Youth Commission, and ABS is part of the Dual Enrollment program in cooperation with Calhoun Community College. Graduating seniors have the opportunity to finish high school with an associate degree, and Mr. Adams estimates that the potential combination of front- and back-end educational savings is somewhere near $150K; so the investment in a private Christian education is a solid one on every level. Proverbs 22:6 sums it all up: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. The staff at the “coming-soon” Athens Bible School is waiting to help you do just that!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner