ANDERSON, Ind. - Screaming fans may not have thronged the streets, but Anderson University was just as proud of the more subdued reception it gave this week to one of its most famous alumni.
Besides, Bill Gaither, the eight-time Grammy Award winner who with his wife, Gloria, wrote such spiritual classics as "He Touched Me," may be as recognizable in some places as the Fab Four.
"He is to gospel music what the Beatles are to pop music," said Jeff Wright, dean of the university's College of the Arts.
Wright presented Gaither with the university's 2012 Outstanding Music Alumni Award, honoring a 45-year career that's produced more than 700 songs, some of which have become standards of Christian hymnals.
James Edwards, president of the private Christian college of about 2,600 students, recalled times when he and Gaither have travelled together in Europe, when fans have approached to express their love for Gaither's music.
"That just blows me away," said Edwards, "because it means there's no place in the world his music has not been."
Born in Alexandria, Ind., about 10 miles north of Anderson, William J. Gaither aspired to become a musician when he founded a gospel trio in 1956, while still in college.
He started teaching English to support himself in 1959 and married Gloria - also a teacher and Anderson University alumna - three years later.
Gloria became his musical partner, collaborating with him in writing and producing. The Gaithers left teaching to devote their careers to music in 1967.
During a presentation at the university's twice-weekly chapel service, Gaither talked about his lifelong love of gospel music and the importance of establishing a habit of generosity. He said awards for music are nice, but he really wants to be remembered as a giving person.
“You honor me and you honor Gloria,” he said after receiving the award.
Details for this story were provided by The Herald-Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.