Heritage Day: the history of Rodeheaver Auditorium


Dr. Bob Jones Jr. shakes Homer Rodeheaver’s hand outside Rodeheaver Auditorium. Rodeheaver led music and played trombone during Billy Sunday’s evangelistic campaigns. Photo: Photo Services

In 1927, Dr. Bob Jones Sr. founded Bob Jones College, and many people may not be familiar with the 86-year history of the University. For that reason, BJU has a Heritage Day Chapel each year to remind students of the University’s founding roots, core principles and ways God has provided for needs over the years.

This year’s Heritage Day Chapel will take place on Thursday, Oct. 31, at 11 a.m. Typically, Heritage Day is about the University’s founders or about others who impacted BJU, but this year, the program will tell the story of a building: Rodeheaver Auditorium.

Mr. Rich Streeter, the lighting designer for Rodeheaver Auditorium, directed this year’s Heritage Day video presentation. He wanted to focus on the history of Rodeheaver because it has such an intriguing story.

According to Streeter, the program shows how the idea of Rodeheaver came about, who was involved in the project, how the building was built and how God provided the materials and funds to build it.

“[The program] is about Rodeheaver, but it’s also a story used as a vehicle to teach us about God’s providence and provision,” Streeter said.

According to Streeter, the video will highlight some previous performances in Rodeheaver. It will also honor Mel Stratton, who was stage manager at BJU for many years, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr., who really initiated the idea and project of building Rodeheaver Auditorium.

Dr. Bob Jones Sr. desired students to receive a complete liberal arts education, which included the arts. But it was Dr. Bob Jones Jr. who took the idea and expanded it, wanting to design a building to be used specifically as a theater. Originally, Rodeheaver was also used as the main meeting place on campus for chapel and Sunday services. “[Rodeheaver is] the vision of the founder, materialized by his son,” Streeter said.

The theatre arts department has really developed over the years, as both Dr. Bob Jones Sr. and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. had envisioned, allowing the University to produce plays that are on the same level as performances done in regional theater companies. Streeter said the Heritage Day program attempts to show the progression from starting the project of building Rodeheaver Auditorium to what it has become today.

“[Building an auditorium like Rodeheaver] was an extremely ambitious thing for a small school to undertake,” Streeter said. “It’s miraculous that it happened, and I’m constantly overwhelmed when I think about it.”