by Mandy Crow

With nearly 120 years of history contained within its hallowed halls, Trevecca has its share of legendary tales. From supplying topsoil for landscaping around Tennessee’s Capitol in the 1940s to briefly holding classes at Ruskin Cave College in the early 1900s, Trevecca is full of mysterious tales and lasting legends. Over the next few pages, we’ll explore a few of them, separating fact from fiction.

Did stinky cheese cause chapel to be dismissed?

Claim: A student prank involving limburger cheese placed on the furnace of the McClurkan Building resulted in chapel being canceled for several days.
Rating: True

Discussed in both Dr. Homer J. Adams’ Trevecca: Folklore and Tradition and Dr. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop’s The Trevecca Story, this legend is absolutely true. In fact, Don Hastings (’69), who currently serves as Trevecca’s director of planned giving, remembers it less as a prank and more as a plan to get out of chapel for a few days. “We wanted to get out of chapel, so we put limburger cheese on the furnace,” Hastings recalls. In his book, Adams’ recounts that the maintenance crew attempted to remedy the stench by dousing the heating ducts with cheap perfume or after-shave lotion, which only made the smell worse. “The strains of ‘Beulah Land’ were lifted, and all went well until we reached the third verse. As students and faculty started singing ‘a sweet perfume upon the breeze,’ all decorum was lost. Gales of laughter ascended along with the sickly sweet odor. The song leader gave up and put his head down on the pulpit.” Needless to say, chapel was dismissed for a few days.

Did an earthquake hit campus in the 1990s?

Claim: An earthquake awakened students living in Benson Hall in the early 1990s.
Rating: Both true and false

In early 1989, climatologist Iben Browning predicted that a major earthquake would strike the New Madrid Seismic Zone, an area that stretches through southeast Missouri, west Tennessee and parts of Illinois and Arkansas, between Dec. 1-5, 1990. A major earthquake along the fault line would likely affect Nashville, so the prediction was a topic of much discussion in the city and on Trevecca’s campus. On the night regarded as most likely for an earthquake to strike, Craig Adams (’91) and his roommate threw an earthquake party in Benson Hall. Around 2 a.m., the roommates were awakened by everything in the room shaking. “All of the sudden, my roommate shoots up in the bunk above me and yells, ‘Dude, it’s the earthquake!’’ Adams says. “All at once, eight guys in our room started laughing.” After the earthquake party, several students living in Benson Hall had sneaked into Adams’ room while he and his roommate were asleep and shaken the furniture and blinds at the appointed moment.

Did a painting of Jesus once mysteriously disappear from chapel?

Claim: A painting from chapel went missing after a Circle K Capers performance in McClurkan Chapel. It was returned 10 years later, but in reality, never left campus.
Rating: True

A large painting of Jesus titled “Inspiration” used to hang in the McClurkan Chapel, but Don Hastings and Don Schrope helped it to mysteriously disappear in 1967 after a Circle K Capers performance. “There was this painting of Jesus that hung on the back wall, but it looked like a postage stamp,” Hastings remembers. “So after the performance was over, we took it down.” The pair hid the painting in the attic of the building, concealing it beneath insulation. The administration searched for the painting, but eventually let the matter drop. About a decade later at Homecoming, the pair decided to see if the painting was still hidden. They borrowed a key to the attic, uncovered the painting and presented it back to the University. “We thought it appropriate to give it back to the school, even though they had it all along and didn’t know it,” Wynkoop recounts Schrope saying in The Trevecca Story. “The picture never left McClurkan.”

Did the term “First Lady” ever refer to something other than the Trevecca president’s wife?

Claim: A bus used to transport students across the region, including choirs, athletes and more, was nicknamed “The First Lady.”
Rating: True, but the story behind this legend is, well, legendary.

In the 1970s, the wife of then-Trevecca president Mark R. Moore, Clarice, spearheaded an effort to purchase a bus for the University. Dubbed “The First Lady” in her honor, the bus was used to transport Trevecca athletics teams as well as The Encounters, a singing ensemble created by Jim Van Hook that traveled and performed professionally.

It’s how Moore purchased the bus that makes this story legendary. The 45-passenger bus was purchased with trading stamps. Moore spearheaded a trading stamp drive across the region, with more than 11,000 books of stamps being collected. The stamps were redeemed for cash, which in turn provided enough money to purchase the bus. Trevecca sold the bus in 1980, after a decade of transporting students across the region and country.