Remembering Dr. Elwood Sanner, a Centennial look-ahead

July 1, 2013, 11:48 am

Twenty-eight years after Elwood Sanner officially retired and over a decade after his death, the Sanner name is still remembered for excellence in service and mentoring.

Elwood Sanner moved from Colorado to Nampa in 1922 where his father was a professor and administrator at NNC; Sanner’s mother was an elementary school teacher. He enrolled at Pasadena College eight years later, at age 15, where he was mentored by both H. Orton Wiley and Olive Winchester. Elwood and Ruby were married in 1937. The couple pastored churches in Chico and San Francisco for 13 years during the World War II era.

In 1950 Elwood was hired by President Corlett to teach Bible, theology and religious education at NNC. He then served as the chair of the religion department during much of President Riley’s tenure. Ralph Neil, also an NNC religion professor, remembers working as a teaching assistant for Sanner in the late 1950s. Neil said that NNC and its students were Sanner’s life. “He was a mentor and teacher and trained three generations of ministers,” Neil said. “He was an excellent scholar and a godly man. He was a person who loved working with college-age students.”

His love of teaching never diminished; he loved his students and they him. Each morning he could hardly wait to get to class. He declined several offers to teach at Nazarene Theological Seminary believing his influence would be greater at NNC.

“A devout man with an intellectual bent, Sanner was a superb teacher and preacher, a scholar, and perhaps most important of all, a balanced person. In the midst of controversy, Sanner could protect his faculty and speak for the religious and academic missions of the college without alienating those whose agendas were different,” said emeritus English professor and author of “Seeking First the Kingdom” Gaymon Bennett.

Elwood retired in 1985. “He was very passionate about theology, and even after his retirement we continued to hold conversations about papers we’d both written,” Ralph Neil commented.

Sanner was awarded NNC’s Teacher of the Decade accolade for the 1950s; in 1961 he was presented an honorary doctorate by Pasadena College, his alma mater; in 1993 he received the Quadrennial Citation of Merit and Medallion; and, in 1997 he was again honored by NNC with a Doctor of Divinity degree. In Elwood Sanner’s obituary, then NNC President Richard Hagood, said, “Dr. Sanner was one of the major historical figures at NNC during the past century. He molded and shaped the character of the institution, as he also molded and shaped the character of NNC students.”

Saturday morning, Nov. 9, alumni from each academic discipline will gather for a fellowship breakfast. Not separated by year or decade, these departmental reunions will bring together the rich legacy of NNU academics. This event will be an opportunity to connect with friends, former professors, current faculty; and to remember and pass on stories of influential individuals like Dr. Sanner.

Visit for more information and the full schedule for Homecoming & Family Weekend 2013.

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