Where There Is a Will, There Is a Way
Where there is a will, there is a way. If you could find that oft-quoted proverb in Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations," you would also find a picture of the late Cleavis and Pearl Gaw.
Well, perhaps not. But you should find their picture there because that phrase was a guiding principle in their lives. It was one of the principles by which they reared their children.
By this principle the Gaws sent all nine of their children to Lipscomb University, even when the "way" to do so seemed unclear. As a result they became successful Christian doctors, teachers, preachers, stockbrokers, business leaders and parents who instilled the principles in their own children.
To date, 38 of Cleavis and Pearl Gaw's descendants or their spouses have attended Lipscomb for a total of 227 years of study. The 39th, a great-grandson of Cleavis and Pearl Gaw, has enrolled this fall and more are on the way.
An enduring will continues to find a way.
Cleavis C. Gaw was 18 when he left his native Jackson County, Tenn., to work in the California oil fields. In 1917, at age 30, he enlisted in the military, serving 14 months in the infantry until the close of World War I. After completing his service he worked in the Texas oil fields three years before returning home to marry Hallie Pearl Wisdom, a school teacher, in 1922.
The newly married couple moved to Long Beach, Calif., where Cleavis again worked in oil fields, this time for seven years. But they decided that Tennessee would be a better place for their children.
So they bought a farm in Jackson County and moved home. The farm was relatively small, certainly not large enough to provide a lavish income or even the reasonable expectation of sending children to a private college.
But the farm was plenty big enough to teach the tough lessons of hard work. All the children - seven boys and two girls - had responsibilities. The farm was also fertile ground for the lessons of spirituality, taught unwaveringly in word and deed by their mother, and later by their father.
Neither Cleavis nor Pearl Gaw came from deeply religious families, but Pearl developed a devout faith. She began teaching Sunday school classes as a high schooler. Her faith and gentleness of spirit permeated the Gaw household, touching her children and her husband.
Pearl Gaw was strong in her beliefs, principles and motivations, but it was her Christlikeness that made the greatest impact on her family.
"She believed there was a better way, an ideal way of living and that became real for us by her example," Doyle Gaw said.
"She had great faith, not only in God, but also in people and in herself. She had an unbelievable faith in her children," said Lloyd Gaw.
Cleavis Gaw, himself strong in principle, physique and influence, became a Christian at age 45 and later became an elder and song leader for the church of Christ in the Hurricane community near Gainesboro, Tenn. "Mother became a Christian younger than dad, but together their faith became our focus in life," Doyle Gaw said.
The parents' strength produced in their children a resolve that is being handed down through the generations.
"We grew up on the principle, "Where there's a will, there's a way." If you really want to do something, there's a way to get it done. I've followed that principle in a lot of things," Lloyd Gaw said.
That principle was powerfully presented in the parents' determination to educate their children. They were determined to provide not just a quality education, but a quality Christian education.
Pearl Gaw particularly encouraed her children to become teachers. Of the nine children, three did become teachers. Three became stockbrokers, three became physicians. Some were preachers as well. Among their children are several more physicians and dentists, teachers, M.B.A.s, business owners and stockbrokers.
Cleavis and Pearl Gaw learned of Lipscomb from various preachers and teachers who held gospel meetings in their home area. After learning about Lipscomb, with its daily bible classes and Christian environment, their dream was that each of their children would someday attend. Through the years, their dream became tradition as each of the nine enrolled at Lipscomb.
To send their first two children the Gaws borrowed $700 from the bank in Gainesboro - using the farm as collateral, said Lloyd. All of the children helped bear the cost of their education by working. As they graduated, the older children helped the younger children bear the expenses of their educations.
The parents considered the sacrifices they made to send their children to Lipscomb as an investment in their futures.
"We believe that a good education is the finest investment that we can make for the future of our children," Cleavis and Pearl Gaw said in an article by Willard Collins in the Aug. 18, 1955, Gospel Advocate.
"We believe that David Lipscomb College affords a wonderful environment for young people after they leave home, because there they can receive daily instruction in the Bible, and there each teacher is a member of the church. We believe that Christian schools, like Lipscomb, will prepare our children for greater success in this life and the life to come," they said.
Lloyd Gaw said his parents wanted them to attend college with "likeminded, Christian people."
"After all these years I think that's one of the big advantages, the greatest advantage, really, of going to Lipscomb or another Christian school. A lot of us met our spouses there, and that probably ought to be emphasized more than it is," he said.
Lipscomb has been a significant factor in the success achieved by the family, he said.
"Cordell Hull said (President Franklin D.) Roosevelt always admired him very, very much because it's a whole lot further from a little log cabin in Celina, Tenn., to the halls of the Secretary of State than it is from Hyde Park to the White House.
"Whatever progress we've made from a small, rural farm to where we are now, if there is any credit, a great deal belongs to Lipscomb," Gaw said.
The legacy of Cleavis and Pearl Gaw would not be complete without a way for their influence to continue helping others in financial need know they can receive a Christian education at Lipscomb.
Because of that, the family has established the Cleavis and Pearl Gaw Scholarship, an endowed fund that will be used to help those who need financial assistance.
"I hope that it will help somebody else who feels like they probably can't do it to say, "Well, here's somebody who did do it' and give them hope and encouragement," Lloyd Gaw said.