In addition to financially supporting the founding of the Yale Hope Mission…Borden was actively involved in the carrying out of its ministry. He regularly took part in helping to conduct the Gospel services that were held at the mission. A foreign visitor at Yale said that what had impressed him the most during his time in New Haven was seeing “William, this wealthy undergraduate, with his arm around a ‘down-and-outer,’ kneeling with him as he sought forgiveness and prayed the prayer of the publican: ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’.”
William Borden’s example during his years as a student at Yale University (1905-1909) serves as a reminder that a young person whose life is fully dedicated to Christ Jesus can have a tremendous spiritual impact on others. May many consecrated Christian teens and young adults be encouraged in their own spiritual life and service by Borden’s outstanding example.
Borden’s years at Yale were active and well-rounded. As a sports enthusiast, he participated in football, baseball, wrestling, crew (rowing), and track. He excelled academically and as a senior was elected as president of Yale’s Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. As an elected Class Deacon he was responsible for helping to encourage the spiritual wellbeing and service opportunities of his fellow classmen. His final year at Yale he was also a member of the Senior [Student Government] Council and served on the committee that produced the Class Book of the graduating class.
Borden was seventeen years old when he entered Yale as a freshman. One of his classmates wrote of him: “I first met Bill Borden in the fall of 1905, at the beginning of my freshman year in Yale. What struck me then and during my entire acquaintance with him, was the amazing maturity of his character. Though almost a year older than he was, I felt that in character, self-control, and measure of purpose, he was many years my senior. In many ways, I should say, he was the most mature man of his class.
I do not mean to imply that he was ‘oldmannish’ in the least. He had a keen sense of humor, could let out a most uproarious war whoop of a laugh, and was a famous ‘rough-houser’.
Another classmate of Borden’s testified of him: “He served on the committee in charge of the religious work of our class, and soon stamped himself as a leader in the Christian activities of the college. In spite of his younger age, he was far more mature in faith than many considerably older. His grasp of the essentials of faith was, even at this time, firm and assured.
“He had already decided to become a foreign missionary. A fixed purpose of this sort gives a man a great singleness of aim that steadies not only himself, but those he meets; and Bill’s character had a solidity about it, directly traceable to his surrender to Christ for a life of service. Interested as he was in football and many other activities, Bill let it be known that his heart was first in the service of the Savior, ever watching for opportunities for spreading the faith he believed so firmly himself.”
Shortly after arriving at Yale, Borden became involved with the university’s chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association. At that time Yale’s YMCA enjoyed great importance and effectiveness on campus, promoting a high standard of scholarship and Christian endeavor. Often hundreds gathered for its Sunday evening services.
But many students did not attend the YMCA meetings, and Borden became burdened to reach them as well. As the first school term progressed, he and a likeminded friend began meeting each morning for prayer before going to breakfast. Soon two other students joined them.