NASHVILLE, TENN. — Homer J. Adams, Ph.D, the ninth president of Trevecca Nazarene University (1979-1991) and the school’s last living president emeritus, has passed away.
Born July 2, 1921, in Covington County, Al., Adams lived a life of service – to the Lord, to the Church of the Nazarene of which he was a member, and to Trevecca Nazarene University. Adams’ legacy and heritage are steeped in Trevecca’s history. A member of his family has attended Trevecca in every decade since 1913, when his parents sold their farm in Alabama and came to study with Trevecca’s founder, Reverend J.O. McClurkan.
Adams himself began attending Trevecca High School in 1939, then attended Trevecca College from 1940-1943. He entered the U.S. Navy, married the love of his life, Beatrice Brake, in 1944, and returned to Trevecca College to graduate in the class of 1947. His senior picture in the school’s yearbook, the Darda, described him as a “gentleman of the finest quality” who sang second tenor in the college quartet, read much, was quick-witted and possessed “a smile that was always accompanied by his unthinkable vocabulary.”
Adams studied at Peabody College until 1953, eventually earning a master’s and a doctoral degree in history, the intellectual passion of his life. He was the first Trevecca graduate to earn a Ph.D. During his time at Peabody, he served as principal at Trevecca High School and taught social studies there. He was named to the Trevecca College faculty as a professor of history in 1954, and quickly assumed duties as dean of the faculty, serving in that role for a decade.
Adams taught history at Trevecca from 1964-1966. In 1967, he was appointed dean of DeKalb College in Atlanta. During his tenure at DeKalb, the school’s enrollment grew from 4,500 to 11,000 students. He was also a member of the Trevecca Board of Trustees throughout that 12-year period.
When Adams served as Trevecca’s ninth president from 1979-1991, achievement and advancement were hallmarks of his administration. Upon assuming the office, he secured the school’s future and reputation with the Southern Accreditation Association by leading a “Wipe Out the Debt” campaign to pay off a million dollars in short-term debts. The educational reputation of Trevecca was strengthened and new buildings brought new life to the campus. Master’s programs in education and religion were established. The management and human relations degree completion program was launched, an innovative option in its time that allowed non-traditional students to return to college to finish their bachelor’s degrees. The Jernigan Student Center was constructed, as were the Tartar Student Activity Center and the Martin Building. Adams also renovated the Marks Guest House for Trevecca’s visitors and completed a major restoration of the McClurkan Building, which housed the Religion Department, the bookstore, the mailroom and the college chapel. Upon Adams’ retirement as Trevecca’s president, the school named one of its three original buildings the “Homer J. Adams Administration Building” in honor of his achievements and 30 years of service to the school as professor, dean and president.
A lifelong Nazarene, Adams was an active member of the Trevecca Community Church of the Nazarene on campus throughout his adult life. He served on the church board for many years. He also served as a member of district and denominational boards for the Church of the Nazarene, advising and leading, and was a long-term member of the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene that guides the church’s work internationally.
Adams’ love for Trevecca and his work documenting history continued during his retirement years. In the words of longtime professor H. Ray Dunning, his blood “ran Trevecca purple.” Adams was named university historian and wrote several books and historical Trevecca pamphlets, most notably Trevecca Folklore and Tradition (1999), a contribution to celebration of the school’s centennial. He continued his service on the board of Trevecca Towers, a position he’d held since its inception in the late 1960s. Adams led alumni at gatherings across the Southeast, raising money for the school and often performing with the “Old-Timers Quartet” he created to entertain the crowds. In 2012, Adams was instrumental in having the campus named a National Arboretum by the Arbor Day Foundation, and he assisted in mapping the trees and plants that adorn the campus.
“While his earned degree is in history, Dr. Adams possessed a high familiarity with common sense,” said Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca’s current president. “He was a leader grounded in God, gracious among people, and wise in guiding an institution. The consummate churchman, he served God through education. I miss my friend. He always seemed to know what it was like to walk in my shoes.”
Adams and his wife established the Homer and Bea Adams Scholarship in 2001 to assist students attending Trevecca. In 2018, TNU recognized the couple by establishing the Adams League of Loyal Donors, a society honoring those who have given to the school for at least five consecutive years.
Adams died in the peace of Christ and the presence of family in the early hours of May 25, at 99 years of age. He is survived by his wife of 76 years, Beatrice Brake Adams, and their children, Homer James Adams, Jr. (Atlanta) and Sarah Adams Johnson (Old Hickory, Tenn.) and their families. The family will receive friends at the Mount Olivet Funeral Home, 1101 Lebanon Road, Nashville, on Saturday May 29, from 4-6 p.m. A visitation will be held at Trevecca Community Church of the Nazarene, 335 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, on Sunday, May 30, from 12:30-2 p.m. A memorial service for Dr. Adams will follow, beginning at 2 p.m.
For those interested, gifts given in memory of Dr. Homer Adams can be made to the Adams Scholarship Fund at Trevecca Nazarene University.