Melvin Maxwell was known as a powerful man of God and prayer warrior by those who knew him. On Saturday, July 4, 2020, Dr. Maxwell graduated from this life to his eternal home and was united with his Savior whom he loved. He was born in Georgetown, Ohio, on November 15, 1921, and grew up during the Great Depression. Though his mother died at an early age, his father was a godly man and raised him and his brother Millard to follow Christ no matter how hard the situation.
On August 25, 1942, Maxwell married his wife, Laura. They had three children together: Lawrence (Larry), John, and Patricia. Despite an often-busy schedule, Maxwell always made a point to have a family mealtime with his wife and children. Taking a cue from his father, Maxwell was dedicated to teaching his children about Christ, faithfully leading his family's daily devotion time. He also invested heavily in his children's education and ensured they gained experiences outside of the church.
In 1964 Melvin Maxwell was elected the sixth president of Circleville Bible College (now Ohio Christian University) and served until 1980. Prior to serving as president, he was a pastor, church planter and district superintendent with the Churches of Christ in Christian Union. During his sixteen-year tenure, Maxwell initiated and oversaw the college's rapid growth, beginning with the construction of a new administration and academic building in 1966 on a new 40-acre campus on Route 22, east of Circleville, which is Ohio Christian's current home.
During the next three years, he supervised the construction of York Hall, the Campus Church (named Detty Chapel), Johnson Hall, Moore Hall, and the Campus Center. In 1970, the American Association of Bible Colleges granted the College applicant status and in 1976 full accreditation. In 1967, student enrollment grew to 150, and by 1978 it had reached 200. By 1980, enrollment had grown to 250. This dramatic increase in enrollment allowed Maxwell to eliminate the college's debt.
Maxwell's success in leadership and effectiveness in growing the university was rooted in his strong faith in God and a keen eye for others' giftedness. Retired Ohio Christian University Religion Professor Joe Brown recalled that "Dr. Maxwell loved students and saw potential in a wide range of them. He understood how God uses gifts and talents of each individual for His purposes and glory. He applauded the potential of academically gifted students, as well as affirmed those who were not always at the top of their class. He recognized the Creator wraps up potential in all of His children and was careful not to overlook every student's possibilities."
Maxwell and his family had great affection for the community of Circleville and fell in love with the college. He cared deeply for his students and was remembered by many he served as a compassionate leader and a man of prayer.
Janette Post '77 said, "The greatest thing I will always remember about Reverend Maxwell was his heart for prayer – and the power in which he would pray. Every morning during school, you could walk by his office and hear him calling out to the Lord, interceding on behalf of students."
Others remembered Maxwell for his commitment to quality education and mentorship. Before his passing, Stan Toler '73 reflected, "Dr. Maxwell knew the importance of a practical education – one that included more than memorizing facts. The education he espoused combined earthly knowledge, biblical knowledge, and heavenly anointing to make a difference for Christ in the trenches of life. He is the most exuberant and enthusiastic person I have ever met. I always had a better day when I heard his booming voice calling me with a positive word for my life."
Maxwell's presidency was filled with challenges and triumphs. However, three accomplishments stand out as part of his legacy:
First, through his vision of what a Bible college should be, he led the school in self-studies that resulted in its full accreditation with the American Association of Bible Colleges.
Second, keenly interested in connecting the college to the Circleville community, he promoted the need for a library building and sought community support to build it. Inspired by his enthusiasm, the community gave thousands towards this capital project. Today, the Melvin and Laura Maxwell Library sits at the center of the university's beautiful campus.
Third, Maxwell recognized the importance of faculty with advanced higher education. Today's faculty all hold master's or doctorate degrees and are the foundation of the university's academic excellence.
In 1980, Maxwell stepped down from the presidency and joined the advancement department for World Gospel Mission in Marion, Indiana, serving there for a number of years. After suffering a heart attack in 1985, he retired to central Florida. However, always being one to see opportunities for ministry wherever he went, soon established a successful ministry and chaplaincy for residents of mobile home parks near Winter Haven, Florida. Even after the passing of his wife Laura in 2009, he remained a dedicated evangelist, continuing his ministry into his 90's.
While we mourn the passing of such a great man of God, we celebrate the fruits of his decades of labor as a faithful minister and leader in Christ. It is with great joy that we consider that he is now with Christ receiving the accolade, "well done, my good and faithful servant."
Dr. Jon Kulaga, Ohio Christian University President, said this of Dr. Maxwell, “When I arrived in the summer of 2017, as the new president of Ohio Christian University, one of the first visits I was told I “had to make” was to see Dr. Maxwell. He was spoken of with such reverence and deep appreciation that I couldn’t wait to meet him. When I visited him in Winter Haven, FL a few weeks later, the first thing he told me was that he was praying for me and OCU. I came away from that time of conversation and prayer with a great appreciation for the depth of his love for God, and for the university. And why he is referred to as a “Leader of Leaders” on our campus.”
In closing, we would like to share one final story of Maxwell's faithfulness. Mike Holbrook '78, General Superintendent of the Churches of Christ in Christian Union, recalled this encounter with Maxwell: "I heard him praying in his office. When he opened the door, I entered and told him I wanted to let him know how much I loved and appreciated him. As we were talking, I asked when he had come to his office that day. He said he had come in a couple of hours earlier to pray. As we shared, I realized that he had been to every building on campus and had prayed at each for every past, present, and future student. He had tears in his eyes as he shared how he prayed for the CBC family. After our conversation, he stepped out. I took the liberty of going into his office to look where he had been kneeling. I was moved to tears as I saw two worn-out holes in the carpet where he knelt. I realized the impact he had on my life, and I knew what truly made him a great man – a powerful man of God."
President of Circleville Bible College
*Information and quotations are taken from "Melvin M. Maxwell: A Tribute" (2012).
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