For the decade of the Great Depression and the years of World War II, Americans deferred their dreams. As news of the climactic battles of 1944 crackled over their radios, for the first time in years people began wondering what dreams they would have left “after the war.”
Two Adventists living in Nashville, Tennessee, thought and prayed about the future. James, an outgoing, likable man in his late 20s, baked for the Wade cookie shop, supplying vanilla wafers and other treats to troops stationed around central Tennessee. He organized the factory’s baseball team. He and his wife had three preschool children and no savings.
James’s father farmed and ran a country store in northwest Tennessee, but he had contracted tuberculosis and supported seven grandchildren, so no inheritance would ever materialize. James had no GI bill scholarships, nor would any bank lend him money. Although he felt God calling him “to make a dentist,” no earthly means seemed available to make this a reality.
Paul, a hardworking, genial businessman, co-owned the bakery. He had previously managed several self-supporting institutions during the Depression. A previous bakery he had owned had failed at the beginning of the Depression.
Paul’s teenage son, William, played center field on the factory baseball team. William hoped to go to college, then attend the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California. Through the economic tumult the family had scrimped and saved enough to pay for medical school.
Paul knew firsthand the vagaries of economic cycles. What would happen when government war contracts ended? Would anyone buy the bakery’s products? Would his savings prove sufficient?
One day Paul called James into his office to make an audacious proposal.
“James,” he said, “my son will not need tuition money for medical school until after college. Let me pay for your dental school, and when you become a dentist, you pay for William’s medical school.”
Paul was essentially investing his savings in the education of a person rather than in banks or stocks. Plenty of things could have gone wrong. Paul’s savings could have dried up before James graduated. James could have failed dental school, died of tuberculosis, or proven an inept dentist. Nevertheless, they shook hands on what was basically a covenant between two men who trusted each other. As far as we know, they never signed a contract.
Based on this promise, James quit his job and rented a refurbished chicken house in Kansas City to start dental school. William drove a farm truck loaded with his teammate’s furniture. A check arrived each time the dental school tuition was due.
Four years later James graduated and moved to Richton, Mississippi, to begin his practice. At the end of two months he sat down to write a check: “Pay to the order of Paul Dysinger . . . ” He signed it “James Roddy.”
The checks arrived each month until Paul notified James that they were no longer necessary. Apparently neither Paul nor James ever kept track of how much money each of them paid.
It has been seven decades since Paul made his audacious investment in education. Has it paid dividends? Paul’s son, P. William Dysinger, graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda University) in 1955 and received his Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University. He taught at Loma Linda University for his entire career, and helped establish its School of Public Health in 1964.
In turn, many schools of public health developed around the globe. Even in retirement, Dysinger remains active in designing health evangelism campaigns.
Paul’s grandson, Wayne Dysinger, chaired the Department of Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University, and oversees the popular Complete Health Improvement Programs (CHIP) worldwide.
James Roddy practiced dentistry in Richton, Mississippi, for his entire career, and his grandson continues to practice there.
James’s descendants have included James Allen Roddy, who taught physical education at Oakwood University for 50 years, as well as grandchildren who became physicians, dentists, educators, an aerospace engineer, and, to bring the story full circle, the owner of a successful bakery.
You never know what you’ll start when you invest in education. “Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back” (Eccl. 11:1, NRSV).*
*Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
Daniel Giang is vice president for graduate medical education at Loma Linda University Medical Center.