Remembering Dr. Vinson Synan: Beloved Alumnus and History Professor

Dr. Vincent Synan

Many of those who were influenced by Dr. Vinson Synan, beloved historian, author and teacher, will gather in Virginia on June 20, 2020 to honor his legacy.  

Vinson Synan began his academic career at Emmanuel College where he earned a two-year, liberal arts degree which was the beginning of his long and distinguished career.  After completing degrees at the University of Georgia, he returned to Emmanuel to serve as a history professor from 1963-1975 and became one of the most well-loved and popular teachers. 

One of his students was Dr. A.D. Beacham, General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church who stated, “Dr. Synan made an impact on my life and the lives of so many others. He was an inspiring and engaging teacher.”

Beacham continued, “Dr. Vinson Synan was the foremost historian of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church and one of the top historians in global Pentecostalism. His contributions to the global body of Christ, as well as to the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, are incalculable. His intellect, humor, and commitment to Christ remain an inspiration to all of us. I am personally honored to have been one of his students when he taught at Emmanuel College.”

Several of Dr. Synan’s former students shared their favorite memories of him. 

Marty Airhart: “Several occasions I accompanied Dr. Synan to various local meetings he conducted. I played keys for him. The travel time and breaks were the most fun. One of his favorite stories was being at Canterbury Cathedral for a charismatic style meeting with several Anglican ministers and others. He said he honestly thought he would never see the day that Anglican priests would be dancing in the Spirit around the high altar, only feet away from where Thomas A’Becket was slain. But witness it he did!” 

Dr. A. D. Beacham: “On one exam, I missed a question. I went back to my notes and the textbook and could not find the answer. I went to Dr. Synan and told him that I could not find the correct answer. He looked at the question and said, ’Doug, it’s in the footnotes.’ I realized I had not read the footnotes. From that day to this day, I read footnotes! 

Mike Bona: “I had Dr Synan for my first history class at Emmanuel College. He brought the study of history to life for me. It was obvious that history was a real passion for him, and he made that class a joy to attend. I considered majoring in history after being in his class. After I got saved at Emmanuel at the end of my freshman year, I took his class on the Holiness Pentecostal Movement in America from the book he wrote with the same title. We had some very good conversations about Pentecostalism, and he gave me a new perspective on it and its history. Coming from a Catholic background and having no experience in the Pentecostal faith, his class really enhanced my understanding as I moved forward in my faith. I honor him for his dedication to our Lord and taking time to mentor his students in the kingdom!”

Phil Mooring: “I was sitting in Dr. Synan’s economics class one day when he posed a question to the class and called on a student for the answer. The student answered the question in her soft-spoken way but Dr. Synan did not hear her. He said to her, ’Are you going to answer the question’? She replied, ’I did answer. Is it that I’m not speaking loudly enough or is it that you don’t hear very well?’  That made him laugh. Her polite but spunky answer caught my attention and that was my introduction to my wife of fifty-two years, Avis Jordan Mooring. Thank you, Dr. Synan. Thank you, Emmanuel College.”

Avis Jordan Mooring: “Dr. Synan and his wife were newlyweds when I first met them during the summer of 1960. Both were ministering as youth camp leaders in the Eastern Virginia conference that year where I was a camper. I shall never forget Dr. Synan playing his guitar and singing. Even at a young age his ministry touched my life. A few years later our paths crossed again when, as a student at Emmanuel College, I had Dr. Synan for an economics class. Additionally, having such love for Emmanuel, I thoroughly enjoyed his book on the first fifty years of Emmanuel College. When my son, David, graduated from Regent University in 2005, Dr. Synan and his wife were in attendance at the commencement, and Dr. Synan invited us up to his office where we enjoyed a delightful visit. I shall miss Dr. Synan.”

Rev. Rick Haug: “I was richly blessed to be in Dr. Synan’s first class on the Holiness-Pentecostal movement. It was a dynamic class, and we students sat in rapt attention as Dr. Synan unfolded history before our eyes. I still have and cherish the textbook from that class. In later years I had the distinct privilege of pastoring Dr. and Mrs. Synan in Oklahoma City. Vinson Synan was the preeminent historian of the Pentecostal-charismatic movement in his era. His legacy includes multiple students who went on to be historians and academics themselves!!”

Dr. Ron White, president of Emmanuel College, recalls: “When I was a student at Emmanuel in the late 1960s, Dr. Synan was a favorite of all the young, aspiring preachers. He was youthful and energetic. He played the guitar and sang modern praise tunes. He pastored a local church and involved us in his work. To us, he was so cool.”

“Fast forward a few decades,” Dr. White continues, “and he was still cool – leading conferences where tens of thousands attended, writing great books, having audiences with the Pope. When I step into my office, I often think of Dr. Synan. The remarkably crafted desk he generously gave to the president’s office serves as a reminder of his legacy throughout Christendom. The Emmanuel College family is so proud to call him one of us. We are blessed that part of his legacy lingers here through his years of teaching and ministry at Emmanuel College and in our local area.”

As a noted historian, Dr. Synan authored more than 20 books including a history of Emmanuel College commemorating its 50th anniversary entitled Emmanuel College: The First Fifty Years and his seminal work on the Holy Spirit entitled The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal.