In 1972, Hyles–Anderson College was founded by Jack Hyles with financial support from Russell Anderson. The school was originally located on a campus known as Baptist City in Schererville, Indiana. HAC's former campus was turned into Hammond Baptist K-12 school. This school is also operated by the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
The college's first president was Robert J. Billings, who later served as Ronald Reagan's "liaison to the fundamentalist Christian movement in the 1980 presidential campaign" and then spent six years in the U.S. Education Department as well as was a founding member of the Moral Majority.
Hyles-Anderson alumni have pastored over 572 churches within the US and Guam. Over 123 alumni compose missionary families, church planters, and mission teams around the world with Fundamental Baptist Missions International and many hundreds have teamed up with other mission boards as well. One graduate, Jon Nelms, started the Final Frontiers Foundation mission board, which has led to the creation of over 44,000 churches world-wide.
When Hyles died in 2001, his son-in-law Jack Schaap, a 1979 graduate and former vice president of the school since 1996, became chancellor. That same year Hyles' boyhood home, a 384 square foot (36 square meter) shack in Italy, Texas was purchased to create a museum to honor Hyles and was shipped from Texas to Hyles–Anderson College. Schaap was removed as chancellor in 2012 after federal officials began looking into child abuse allegations, which Schaap later pleaded guilty to.
In 2012, Chicago Magazine reported that the school "appears to be struggling" with only 1,000 students enrolled, down from 2,700 in its peak. Schaap noted that donations dropped and staff lay-offs occurred before his arrest.
In 2015 Stuart Mason , the former President of Hyles–Anderson College, resigned to Pastor the Timberline Baptist Church in Sherwood, Oregon. Stuart Mason had a heart for the college students to succeed, to finish, and not to quit nor compromise. He was known for quoting phrases like, "I'm not mad, but i'm just down the street", when students would talk during chapel. He was very instrumental in keeping the college students focused on the ultimate goal, reaching the world with the gospel, even after the former Pastor Jack Schaap's scandal. The next President will be John Wilkersom
Hyles–Anderson College is not accredited by any recognized accreditation body. An essay on Jack Hyles' website presents several arguments against accreditation. However, the U.S. armed services and public schools do not recognize unaccredited degrees, while several states restrict the use of degrees from unaccredited institutions.
All faculty, staff, and students are required to go "soul winning" weekly, by participating in the evangelistic ministry of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. The 2008 college catalog claimed that 10,000 new baptisms are performed each year at the Church.
There are separate requirements for male and female students for the same degree. For example, the Bachelor of Science Degree program has a "Curriculum for Ladies" that requires classes including "Home Decorating," "Clothing Design" and "Understanding Your Husband."
For school year 2010-2011, HAC's catalog listed policies that "maybe you wouldn't like," including prohibiting male long hair, the use of alcohol, cigarettes, dance, Hollywood movies, playing cards, having "fellowship with liberals," or participating in "other questionable amusements" as well as requiring "young ladies" to be chaperoned if they go off-campus.
Pastor Joseph Combs and his wife, Evangeline Lopez Combs were members of First Baptist Church of Hammond and Combs was also a professor at Hyles–Anderson College, even described as "the foremost Bible instructor at Hyles Anderson". In 1998, they were charged "with kidnapping, aggravated assault, perjury and seven counts of rape". The two adopted Esther Combs, who experts say was tortured by the couple for nearly 20 years. She had 410 scars covering her body, allegedly from curling iron burns, baseball bat beatings and other abuse that was undetected. One babysitter, who was a Hyles Anderson College student, testified that she and others "suspected Esther was mistreated but didn't want to contradict Combs, who had been their Bible professor at Hyles Anderson College." Another babysitter testified she "reported her suspicions to the college president, but apparently nothing was done", she said. In 1986, Combs moved to Florida to start a church, but after accusations of abuse, they moved to Tennessee. They were convicted in 2000 of kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated assault. They were sentenced to 179 years for the rape and torture of their daughter. The story was featured on national television with ABC television's PrimeTime.
In 2012, school chancellor and graduate Jack Schaap was removed from his pastorate position at First Baptist Church of Hammond for having sex with a member of the church when she was 16. The girl, who has not been named, was taking classes at Hyles–Anderson College. As a result, Lake County law enforcement began a criminal investigation into the church and its Hyles–Anderson College. Schaap was charged in a U.S. District Court for taking a minor across state lines to have sex with her and signed a plea agreement. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecuters alleged that Schaap "groomed" the girl, including kissing the victim during counseling and had sex with her in his office. In March 2013, Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for having sex with an underage girl. After the affair was revealed, First Baptist Church expelled the girl, an honor student, from the church-operated school and asked her family to leave the congregation.
Former Hyles supporter Robert Sumner published an article titled "The Saddest Story We Ever Published" in The Biblical Evangelist, arguing that Hyles had strayed from biblical teaching and into cultlike mind control, made improper financial transactions and committed several sins, including adultery. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sumner saying "Jack Hyles, runs his church in an authoritarian, almost 'cultist,' manner." Hyles, then president of the college, was accused of having "sex satellites" throughout the US and having a decades long affair with Jennie Nischik, wife of Hammond deacon Vic Nischik. Hyles said the allegations were "false" spawned by Satan and "he has given 'hundreds of thousands' of dollars to needy friends over many years but has kept no records of the transactions."
A few years later in 1993 WJBK, a Detroit, Michigan news channel, produced a 30-minute documentary called Preying from the Pulpit that examined fresh claims of sex abuse in five different fundamentalist churches where church workers who molested children were traced back to Hyles–Anderson College. Besides the abuse, the program examined Hyles' teaching, including a 1990 sermon where "Hyles pretended to pour poison into a glass and asked an associate pastor, Johnny Colsten, to drink from it. Colsten said he would." The report said, "the sermon has the 'ring of Jonestown' to it—the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978 by followers of cult leader Jim Jones." Hyles called the program "poor journalism" and organized a national campaign to respond.