ACU professor, Dr. James Thompson, describes his personal connection to HCC’s president, Dr. Sam Twumasi-Ankrah, and his perspective on HCC’s beginnings.
ABILENE, TEXAS—The road that has taken Heritage Christian College to its current, more-than-promising standing is a road that has been filled with twists, turns, blessed moments, and inspiring demonstrations of faith. It’s also been a road that has been walked by some true believers. Not just its president, Dr. Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah, or other leaders and establishers of the college, but people from far away as well. Some of those believers have been faculty, leaders, and graduates of Abilene Christian University, in Abilene, Texas. One such individual is Dr. James Thompson, professor in the Graduate School of Theology at ACU. The social media team for Heritage Christian College Foundation recently sat down with Dr. Thompson in his home city and discussed his connection to HCC and to Dr. Twumasi-Ankrah.
Thompson first met Twumasi-Ankrah in 1998, when Thompson was teaching a course in Kenya for Abilene Christian. Twumasi-Ankrah, who traveled to Kenya from Ghana for studies offered there, was in attendance.
“We only taught six [credit] hours that summer,” Thompson says. “That [classwork] whetted his appetite, in Kenya, and the next thing we knew he was inviting us to Ghana. So we ceased to teach in Kenya and began teaching courses in Ghana.”
Thompson remembers the Ghanaian student as “a very bright young man.”
Said Thompson: “As I recall, Sam had a Masters in accounting. He was a very intense, intelligent, articulate young man and someone for whom this discipline of advanced study in Bible was very new. But he really took to it and next thing I knew, he had ambitions.”
Just how ambitious was Twumasi-Ankrah? Thompson relates, with a chuckle, that eventually the young man “got the president of ACU (at that time, Dr. Royce Money) and a whole delegation from the college to go there [to Ghana] to get them on board.” Twumasi-Ankrah was anxious to get his dreams in gear.
This was years before the launch of Heritage Christian College, but many of the same individuals who would eventually create the college were already at work in Heritage Bible Institute, Twumasi-Ankrah among them.
Their original idea was to get the Bible Institute accredited, Thompson says. And yet that was not the direction that things took. “The accrediting people were not that enthusiastic about the idea of another Bible college,” Thompson continued. “But they said, ‘If you do something for the public good, then we are interested.’ And so, that was the beginning of branching out from being a Bible college to doing something for the society. Not to say that the Bible college is not for the society—but rather it’s to say that the public there would be well served [by an broader educational institution] because there was a surplus of students in Ghana qualified for college—but the system could not take them in.”
So the feeling emerged that there was room, and opportunity, for a school that offered something more than just a Bible curriculum. For some 2-3 years, Ghanaian officials and the school’s organizers debated what disciplines would be best for serving the public’s good.
Business and computer technology were subjects that came to the fore. And so those two disciplines became the core of what would be a Christian college.
Eventually, Thompson introduced Twumasi-Ankrah to Deon Fair, an ACU board member who is the son of ACU emeritus professor Dr. Ian Fair and himself a successful businessman who had been a partner in the accounting firm Accenture. “And from there the story really takes off,” Thompson says with a smile. “Because Deon had not only the interest and the vision, but he had the resources to help them develop. And Deon has been a marvel at giving them expertise as they developed their Center for Entrepreneurism, Philanthropy, and Ethics. Deon has really been marvelous.”
Thompson is no less impressed with Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah.
“I’ve stayed at the home of Sam quite a number of times, and I have always been impressed that he was not going to be intimidated by the obstacles that they face,” Thompson said. “Much of what he is doing now I didn’t think was possible, because at the time I didn’t think the resources—the intellectual resources—were sufficient in Ghana. I thought of Sam, as well as Fred Asare (director of Village of Hope orphanage, and a minister, and someone connected to HCC), as being really bright young men and they were kind of without peer in Ghana, as I met people. However, having been at church there many times, I’ve come across quite a bit of intellectual talent. Lawyers, accountants, and others—a good middle class. And I think the institution will serve well for people who are prepared to do tertiary education.”
Thompson has been to the HCC campus numerous times. In the early going, the campus “was just a dream,” as he put it.
“We taught in a busy part of town, with a lot of noise outside,” he said. “They showed me the property, and it was just property at that point. I think they had begun to build the foundation of the building. I was so amazed at how they build in Ghana. They don’t borrow money from the bank. They build a little at a time. Volunteers come out and they make mortar and bricks and do the basic work. And so, year by year, I would go out there, and the foundation and the building was going up, and they finished one floor, and then another floor. The last time I was there, which was about two years ago, this really huge building was there in place.”
Thompson said that Samuel deserved the credit for his ability to rally support to the cause.
“He has some international people who have supported it, but there are also some pretty resourceful people in Ghana who have put considerable money into the construction of the building,” Thompson said. “One thing that I have noticed with the Ghanaians is their absolute transparency in the use of resources. These are people of integrity, intelligence, and vision, who have proven they are taking the long view, as to where things are going. So I believe their cause is a good investment.”