The Dambach Clock

Dambach_hall_small Written By: Amy Bodenheimer Watson, Clearwater Christian College Class of 94 It is a defining fixture that every graduate of Clearwater Christian College recognizes; and at times, perhaps wished would not work so well.  The clock, the one that kept time for almost 40 years, was the official clock to the Resident Advisors, and most of us found ourselves on the wrong side of the big hand on that clock so many times.  It then became a game of sweet talking the security guys–also students–and ask them if they could, perhaps, look the other way.  As a commuter, it was my indication that I was late, again, for class.  After graduation, we all took pictures in front of Dambach Hall, a staple and one of the original buildings of the college.  Over the last 20 years, it has remained a clock for all the students who came behind and for me, when I would drive on campus to meet my friend for lunch, late, again.  If that clock could speak. If that clock could speak it would tell you stories of the men that built the school with their integrity, faith and desire to evangelize the world.  It would tell you a stories of Dr. Steele, Dr. Spots, Dr. Brown, Coach Carver, Kris DeWitt, Vicky Denny, “Mama J”, “Aunt Bea” and so many others. It would tell you part of my story, and how I came to the decision to attend college at this small school nestled on the Gulf of Mexico in one of the countries most beautiful cities. My senior year at the children’s home was really just a time where I waited to turn 18 as I finished high school in my junior year.  It was never a question as to if I would go to college, it was just a matter of where.  In 1990,  there were no Bright Future scholarships, there was very little financial aid for college in general; but there was some, I was eligible for it because no one could claim me as a dependent.  I knew I wanted to major in pre-med, so the only decision that made sense to me was another college located in the panhandle-who had a great pre-med program and a good reputation.  I had been accepted there and Mom McGowan and I were trying to figure out money and how we could make it happen.  No matter which way we crunched the numbers there was not going to be enough money to go to that school.  Then, one random day, she asked me if I would consider staying in Tampa, working at the home and going to Clearwater.  She set up a meeting for me with Ben Puckett. The drive from Tampa to Clearwater was about 45 minutes and I hadn’t been driving long; but when I got to the beginning of the Courtney Campbell Causeway, I am pretty sure my college decision was made.  The drive over that bridge is still one of my favorite.  The Gulf of Mexico is on one side and Tampa Bay on the other.  Some people say there are pretty sunrises when you are driving over that bridge.  I wouldn’t know anything about that. My meeting with Mr. Puckett was awesome and he explained to me that the college would offer me a full ride scholarship if there were any expenses after grants I could get.  So, the decision to attend CCC was a no brainer.  I left campus excited for what lay ahead for me, but I really had no idea that the 4 years I would spend there would shape me.  It would give me friends that last a lifetime, it would give me an opportunity to own my faith, and it would be a soft place to land when I lost my mom.  Perhaps I should mention that it would also give me a stellar education with a valuable piece of paper with my name on it.  Although I have to admit, that warm May day when we were in rehearsals for graduation and the academic dean walked in the gym, I was pretty sure I was going to be one of the ones pulled because of grades.  Waiting to take Organic Chemistry until my senior year was not one of my finer moments; but the dean walked out of the gym with some students and I wasn’t one of them! It was the place that I read and studied any other version of the Bible.  It was the place where I got into a theological discussion regarding pre-destination with a Bible professor who had been teaching longer than I had been alive. It was the place my Western Civ teacher stood on top of a desk singing something about Istanbul.  It was the place I learned to write because the English department was, probably at the time, the strongest department at the college and certainly better than any other college like it.  It was the place that I studied under Dr. Parker, still to this day a renowned authority on the creation-evolution debate.   It was place that I learned “to give a reason for the Hope that is within you”. It was a place where we had dorm meetings with Kris DeWitt, the main Resident Advisor.  That clock would strike 10:00 and we would all cram into one big class room and sing songs and laugh and sometimes cry.  Kris had an event that threatened to take her vision and so we always sang: “He’s able He’s able, I know He’s able I know my Lord is able to carry me through (that’s Kris!). It was the place where I stood at the pay phone at Emmons on the cold December day when I found out that my sister and I had to pull my mom off of life support.  I still remember the time on that clock.  It was 10:30 in the morning on the Friday before finals my sophomore year.  It was at the place that I met Pam Woolfrey, who we lost this year; she had remained one of my best friends in the world. It was a place where I found out who I was.  It was a place where my faith became deep rooted as the heart of the college was always to reach the heart of the students.  It was a place where, it seemed time stood still.  Except it didn’t and the clock atop Dambach Hall told us so. The day I graduated, I sped past that building, and that clock with my radio jamming and the happiness in my heart is still a feeling I can visit a today.  An orphan, a throw away kid, somebody that should not be alive had earned a degree from THE Clearwater Christian College.  I would learn later how valuable that accredited piece of paper was as many of my friends decided to go to other schools who felt like it was not good for them to get and remain accredited. So, yesterday when I found out about the closing of the school I had several “first thoughts” one of them being a very close friend who still works there.  But, mainly I felt in shock, like somebody died.  And I wondered, if for just a second, that clock stopped ticking; stopped keeping time; because the time now was one of monumental heart break.  With the click of a mouse thousands of people learned of the closing.  And I am almost sure the afternoon rain storm matched the tears that were being shed across the world. If that clock could speak, it would say to us, to walk on. It would say to us that we have to continue to give a reason for the Hope that is within us.  It would say to us that to everything there is a season, a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to build up and yes, a time to tear down.  If that clock could speak it would remind us that time doesn’t stand still and that it is incumbent on us, the graduates of the institution to live time out loud in front of a world that does not know the reason for the Hope that is within us. It is at the place we all learned that.  It is our houses, churches, homes and lives we must be the face of the Dambach Hall clock.  Time continues, and so must we.  And I can’t help but remember those dorm meetings where we sang: He’s Able, He’s Able, I know He’s Able, I know my Lord is able to carry me through”. I don’t know what will happen to the campus, to the buildings or to the clock, but nobody can take the memories that we had or the lessons we learned as time flew by too fast.  And maybe, just maybe it would be appropriate for that clock to stop, and pass the torch to all of us–to remind the world to love deeper, laugh harder and live out loud the faith that became secure for so many of us. The clock may get torn down and become broken, but we won’t be.  That is the best way for us to give honor to our school.  It will be hard, it is hard, but time will not stand still and we must continue to give a reason for the Hope that is within us.

If you have stumbled on this page because you are following my blog, don’t be confused, we will pick up where we left off soon. 🙂