Elli Moore Townsend

Elli could easily have enjoyed the fruits of being a child of Texas "royalty" (since both her grandfather and great-grandfather had distinguished roles in the Republic of Texas) but instead determined that she needed to prepare for a life of purpose. After all, her mother always said she should not rely on her ancestors' greatness but instead use every opportunity given to her.

When she arrived, Eli's education didn't all happen in the classroom. She began to watch the college president's wife, Anne Luther.

Ms. Luther was diligent in ensuring that young women could afford to attend school. She insisted on finding them jobs so that they could have an education. Years later, when Elli was invited to return to teach at Baylor Female College and saw the struggles of young women who believed that education was their only hope for a more positive future, she was burdened by those who couldn't afford to attend.

Shortly after the college moved to Belton, Elli began making plans to help these young women. The trustees denied her first attempts to build a cooperative-living house on campus, but generous donations, along with the use of her own life savings, paid to have a small house built where students in need could live rent-free.

Elli eventually resigned from her teaching role to give full attention to the Cottage Home where 12 girls lived and worked and received a 20-percent discount in tuition. She sacrificed personally, selling many precious family possessions to ensure the continuance of the Cottage Home. Many young women learned to train their minds and character and to put their absolute faith in God by watching the living faith of Eli.

Cottage Home

Pulling onto the UMHB campus in Belton every morning, I see the library named in honor of Elli Moore Townsend and the work she began in this place to ensure that students have an opportunity to train mind and character by studying in this place.

Elli Moore Townsend once wrote, "In my efforts to help students, I have been more helped by them than they have by me….if I had many lives to live, I would ask nothing better than to help others find their God, their work, and their place in the world."

This is the work that we continue today at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. In 1 Peter 4, instructions are given to the believers that time is short, so we should be alert and clear-minded so we can pray, and that "each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."

Elli Moore Townsend did just that. She modeled for us what it is to use whatever gifts we have received. This is the legacy that we carry on as professors, resident directors, librarians, athletic coaches, electricians, deans, clerks and everything in between. We are called to speak the very words of God that our service to our students be done in the strength only God can provide so that we, too, can help our students to find "their God, their work, and their place in the world."

Next Steps

Find out more about what it means to "Live on Purpose."

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