Years before corporate daycare became popular in the U.S., BJU established a nursery during the 1948-49 academic year to make teaching easier for mothers on faculty. It was first located in one of the Faculty Court units, which stood where the parking lot behind the dining common is now.
In 1955 BJU built a nursery building next to Faculty Court along North Pleasantburg Drive. It included four rooms and a large fenced-in play area. Each room had a specific function:
- Baby room — newborns until age 1 and walking well
- Toddler room — 1-year-old children until their third birthday
- Big room — 3-year-old children until they began first grade
- Sleeping room
When school was not in session, the nursery also cared for children through sixth grade.
Changes to the Nursery
Some aspects of BJU’s child care have stayed relatively the same. For example, even though the nursery’s structure developed in conjunction with the field of early childhood, it has always included time for the Bible, stories and outdoor play. However, other aspects have experienced major change.
One significant change to the nursery was its name. Families from across the country attended the Home Education Leadership Program (HELP) Family Camp and Conference — an opportunity for young homeschool students and their families to visit BJU — and the Sword of the Lord conference on revival and soul winning. When BJU first hosted the HELP Conference in 1990, parents did not want to send their children to a nursery, so the name was changed to the Child Development Center.
The size of the CDC has also changed. At times the original building did not provide enough space for the children. In 1961, the baby room could not hold all of the babies, so they were relocated back to Faculty Court for a time. In 1999 the CDC expanded into the former speech department rooms — originally the Bob Jones Elementary School, built in 1970 — when the department moved into its new wing of the Gustafson Fine Arts Center. At one point expanding the CDC to include locations off campus was discussed, but that idea fell through.
While the square footage of the CDC has increased, the age groups included in the CDC have been reduced through the years. Once Bob Jones Elementary School added kindergarten in the ’70s, the nursery cared for children up through K4. The K4 was reserved for children of faculty and staff, but soon people in the community wanted to send their children to K4 at BJU. In 1988 K4 moved from the CDC to the Primary Center, a newly renovated part of the Wade Hampton Mall. By 2010, K3 was also integrated into the Primary Center, leaving the CDC in charge of 2 year olds and under.
By 2008 the children were divided into the 11 rooms. The state required a fire exit for every 12 children plus 35 sq. ft. per child, so children three to five months apart were grouped in each room.
The nursery originally provided care only to children of faculty and staff. By the ’60s two families considered off-campus but connected to BJU sent their children to the nursery: Ken Hay’s children attended when he left to start The Wilds Christian Camp & Conference Center, and two other children whose father did not teach on campus attended because their mother was faculty. The CDC officially opened to the public in 2000.
In 2008, the building was renamed the Pennington Child Development Center to honor Aline Pennington for managing the CDC for 43 years.
Aline Pennington was born in 1941 in Mobile, Alabama. She was the second of what would be 10 children. Her father William Pennington owned a dairy farm, and he also played bass fiddle in a dance band, often traveling to New Orleans to play Saturday night and then lead music at a church on Sunday.
Moving to Greenville
While Pennington’s father was clearing a lot in the spring of 1947, a large section of a burning oak tree fell on him, putting him in the hospital. Henry Grube (’31), who planted Greystone Bible Church in Mobile in 1941, spent time with him as he recovered. Influenced by talking with Grube, Pennington’s father decided to attend BJU to take music and Bible classes. He sold the farm, and that fall — BJU’s first year in Greenville — the Penningtons with their then five children moved to a house at the end of the Greenville Downtown Airport runway. Before Pennington’s father finished studying at BJU, the family also lived in Easley.
In Greenville Pennington attended school at Laurel Elementary School, which used to be where the Burlington outlet now stands at the corner of Haywood and Laurens roads. When the Penningtons first moved to Greenville, they attended Laurel Baptist Church across the street from the school, and Pennington’s father led singing there.
Pennington was saved and baptized while her family attended that church. Said Pennington,
“We had gone to church since I was little. … By the time we moved to Greenville, there were five kids, and there were two more kids born while we were here, so there were lots of kids. Whenever we had to miss church because somebody was sick, then we always had church at home. … On a Wednesday night … — I don’t remember who was sick, but somebody was because we didn’t go to church — when we were having devotions that night at home, afterwards I remember talking to my mom and wanted to be saved, and she led me to the Lord.”
Moving Back to Mobile
Once Pennington’s father finished at BJU in 1951, the family moved back to Mobile. Pennington went to Greystone Christian School, founded in 1947, for a few years. When she was in seventh grade, her father, who had an insurance job and still led singing at churches, moved the family to Whistler, just outside of Mobile. He led singing at Whistler Baptist Church, pastored by another BJU graduate.
Returning to BJU
Pennington’s father’s decision impacted the course of her life. “From the time we moved to Greenville in ’47 and I knew about Bob Jones, … I was going to come to Bob Jones,” said Pennington. “It’s just the way it was. I never thought about going anywhere else.”
Pennington came to BJU in 1960. “I was very shy, and some of my family did not think I would survive ’til Christmas,” she said. She decided to study education but eventually switched to practical Christian teaching. “I had no desire to teach,” she said. “That wasn’t my thing. All I ever wanted to do was work with little children. I always said I was going to go to Africa and start an orphanage. Child care centers were unheard of where I was from. I would never have dreamed of that.” Taking care of her younger siblings had cultivated that desire. “They’d always been around, and I enjoyed doing it,” she said.
Beginning of Service at the CDC
One of Pennington’s priorities upon coming to BJU was to find a job. “We didn’t have any money,” she explained. “So, when I came, I had no idea what I would do. I just knew I had to work.”
After driving 18 hours from Mobile, leaving her luggage at the residence hall and going to The Clock Drive-In with her father for dinner, she had her father drop her off in front of Rodeheaver Auditorium for a meeting to connect students to on-campus jobs. Department managers would stand up, and students who were interested in their jobs would follow them out of the building. But the auditorium was locked. “I tried every door,” Pennington said. “It was not open, and we were not running early.”
As it began to rain, she walked back to her residence hall Nell Sunday. “We had been here when I was a child, but I knew nothing — I knew no one,” she said. However, the monitor redirected her to the Concert Center (now Stratton Hall) for the meeting. “I went in and sat at the back because obviously I was late — about missed it all — and I only heard about two or three things.”
But she was not too late to hear about the nursery. “I was sitting in the same row with Mrs. Davis, who was the director then, and so when they asked for those interested in the nursery, I followed her out,” she said. “I was the first one in the door, and I got the job.”
Pennington began her freshman year working in the baby room, easing her homesickness since those children were the same age as one of her brothers, born soon after she left for college. “I kind of latched onto them as my babies because I didn’t see my brother until Christmas,” she explained.
Her fondness for those children opened opportunities to babysit them outside of work. “I babysat for a lot of people,” she said. “I didn’t have any money, so to get money for other things, I ironed for people and babysat.”
She worked in the nursery until her senior year when she became a monitor in Georgia Creel residence hall.
Transitioning to Supervisor
In the fall of her senior year, Pennington was asked to become the nursery supervisor after she graduated in 1964. After returning from summer break in the fall, she moved into Grace Haight, her home for the next three years, and began working that fall as the first full-time employee at the nursery.
For the next 43 years, she devoted herself to caring for the children of BJU. She considered them her hobby when her desk work dwindled. Pennington said, “When I didn’t have stuff to do, I took care of the kids.”
In the earlier years, there were not many children in the afternoons because the mothers worked only 20 hours a week. But Pennington kept busy then making the facility better for the children. “I used to make bibs and blankets and paint tricycles and all kinds of stuff,” she said.
For over 30 years she was also active in attending meetings and giving input on child care regulations pertaining to church child care centers, which BJU was categorized under.
She served tirelessly, starting each 10-hour workday at 6:30 a.m. once the CDC opened to the public in 2000. Even before that transition, she received the staff appreciation award in January 1991 for her faithful service.
God allowed her to continue working at the CDC even as she fought cancer in the ’90s. Said Pennington: “It was small, detected and everything was preventive. But it’s still six months of chemo and radiation. … And then I worked the whole time. Dr. Saito said if I started getting sick that she would make me leave, but I let the parents all know what was happening.” That way they wouldn’t bring their children to her to diagnose their sicknesses. “I thought, ‘Don’t do this. I don’t want to get sick,’” she said. “But the Lord was very good. He has given me a wonderful immune system, and even after chemo.”
Life after Retiring from the CDC
After Pennington retired from the CDC in 2008, she became the property manager of Campus View Apartments, where she has lived since it was built in 1968. She took a class to be certified and managed the building until she retired in 2016.
Time with Friends and Family
As she did while working at the CDC, she has continued to be involved with her family. Said Jean Kern, one of Pennington’s close friends: “Four of her five brothers live here in Greenville. … Regardless of where anyone lives, Aline is very close to all of (her siblings), keeping up with everything that’s going on in their lives. She had nieces and nephews who were BJU students. They spend much time at her apartment, cooking, watching movies and just relaxing. Of course, she took them shopping or anyplace they wanted to go and loved every minute of it.”
She also loves to spend time with friends. “Although the majority of her activities involve her family, she and five other friends have gotten together for many years for each of their birthdays as well as holidays,” said Kern. “Aline enjoys playing board games — plan on losing when you play with her — and gets together with friends for a game night.”
She still helps others when she can, as well. “Aline has always cared for people needing help, visiting with them, taking them to appointments, shopping for them, cleaning house for them,” said Kern. “When Stephen and Erin Jones were away due to Stephen’s medical treatments, she lived at their home, keeping everything running smoothly. She has looked after many people through the years.”
Since retiring, Pennington has enjoyed traveling. “I think the first special event after her retirement after 50 years of service at the University was a trip to the Holy Land with her church, Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, in January 2016,” said Kern. “At the end of that year, she and I visited the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and then the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In addition, she has been able to enjoy many of the BJU retirees’ bus trips as well as trips and activities with her Sunday school class.”
Kern added, “Recently, the five sisters had a vacation together at Gulf Shores, Alabama, a favorite place for all of them.”
Upon retiring from the CDC, Pennington looked back on her life, thankful for how God led her. “I came to BJU not knowing what I would do, not knowing there was a nursery,” she said. “The Lord’s been very, very good. I’ve loved it.”