It all began in Shakespeare class. Paul “Papa” Fetters and Barbara Mull did not fall in love immediately. Yet Paul and Barbara would eventually begin a relationship that would leave behind a legacy of future Fetters family members — most of whom would one day enroll at Huntington University.
Paul heard about Huntington College from Zion United Brethren in Christ Church in Willshire, Ohio. Walter Winkler, Paul’s Sunday school teacher, frequently took his students to Huntington’s campus for college events, conventions and Christian Life Emphasis Week.
Paul never intended to enroll in college. However, during his junior year of high school, he became a follower of Jesus Christ and felt the call to Christian ministry.
“I reckoned if I wanted to be a United Brethren pastor, I should go to a United Brethren college,” Paul said.
Paul worked his way through college at Schacht’s Rubber Company in Huntington, and spent his spare time volunteering with Gospel Volunteers and Clericus, campus organizations dedicated to preparing people for ministry and missions.
Following 16 years of pastoral ministry, Bishop George Weaver of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and then-Huntington College President E. DeWitt Baker requested Paul return to direct the new Graduate School of Christian Ministries. Under his care, the program took new directions coupled with the fulfillment of requirements for accreditation. Soon, that five-year stay extended to a 25-year appointment.
“I have appreciated being a part of an institution that has remained faithful and committed to its mission,” Paul remarked. “I’ve been involved as a student, administrator or faculty at HU for over half its existence and have watched the university expand its programs, faculty, facilities and student enrollment.”
Paul (1955) and Barbara (1956) marked the start of their HU legacy with the birth of their first child, Brooks. Two more children followed along with eight grandchildren.
“We’re a very close family,” Paul said. “It is very satisfying to be a part of a university that has made an impact on my life and to feel confident that it would make a difference with my family.”
Paul’s son, Brooks, enrolled at Huntington because of the connections which he already had established from playing ice hockey on Lake SnoTip, swimming at the new athletics facility or washing the dishes while working at the HUB. At that time, Brooks’ dad, Paul, was dean of the Graduate School of Christian Ministries, so he, his brothers and friends were quite familiar with the campus.
Like his parents, Brooks also found his spouse at Huntington when he went to get in line for lunch one day at the HUB and saw Barbara Ann Deemer (1981) ahead of him in line. From that moment, he wanted to get to know her. From there, it became history. Brooks and Barbara Ann have three daughters, who all later enrolled at HU.
“Huntington University has been a place where we have invested our time and energy and the school has invested back into our family,” Brooks said.
Even though the rest of her family came to HU, granddaughter Melissa (Fetters) Wolfe decided to make a path of her own. Initially, she moved to West Lafayette, Ind., to take classes at Purdue University. However, after spending a whole summer contemplating whether or not she made the right decision, Melissa called her parents to come take her home after only nine days at Purdue. She quickly enrolled at HU for the upcoming fall semester.
“I’m the only grandchild to ever challenge coming to Huntington. The family now jokes about it and calls it my nine-day vacation to West Lafayette,” she said. “I guess I just didn’t want to be pegged as another Fetters coming to Huntington. I eventually learned to value the Christian atmosphere and discover that the university’s values matched my own. I never once looked back nor regretted my decision to come to Huntington.”
Melissa, along with her sister and cousins, never once felt pushed to attend HU, having always been encouraged to choose whichever college they wished to attend.
“By the time the sixth grandchild decided to attend HU, we realized we really had a streak going,” Melissa chuckled. “I think it speaks volumes about the kind of experiences the university provided to our parents. Each of us grandkids wants to be a part of the university.”
Despite their close-knit ties to HU, getting the entire family together is no easy feat considering most of the family serves out in the mission field. Luke and his wife, Audrey, have given 25 years to work in Hong Kong, Macau and now China. Todd and his wife, Lisa, also are on the front lines of pastoral ministry at Devonshire Church in Harrisburg, Pa.
“For the Fetters’ family address, we are ‘in Christ,’” Paul said. “Whether near or far apart, we rejoice in the privilege to be servants of Christ, gratefully remembering the influence of our Christ-centered higher education at Huntington University.