Announcement of John Derry’s retirement as president of Hope International University this coming August after 15 years in that office served to remind me it is the 90th anniversary of that institution, which originally was known as Pacific Bible Seminary.
Christian Standard announced the launch of that school with a front-page story Dec. 1, 1928, and also with an editorial in that same issue. Following are excerpts from the article, but some of its details open up a bit of mystery.
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Pacific Bible Seminary
New School for the Training of Loyal Christian Preachers Is Launched in Los Angeles, Calif., with Initial Gift Valued at $300,000. To Begin Sessions Jan. 3, 1929
By R. E. Elmore
Pacific Bible Seminary originated in the hearts of a few men and women of faith—sons and daughters of California. They saw the great Southwest multiplying in population more rapidly than any other part of our nation. They saw cults and pseudo-religions springing up on all sides. They saw the denominations entrenching themselves and extending their influence. They saw the cause represented by churches of Christ lagging in the rear and limping apologetically in this day of its greatest opportunity.
They saw that, if the New Testament plea is to take its proper place and prevail in this mighty Western empire, and if churches of Christ are to be established in scores of cities where the pure gospel of Christ has not been proclaimed, native sons must be trained to preach this gospel and to promote this plea.
They saw that a loyal Christian school is the only answer to the challenge of this situation. Therefore, with faith and courage, they set about this heroic undertaking, and Pacific Bible Seminary has been established to equip young men to cover the great Southwest with our plea. It will begin its sessions on Jan. 3, 1929, and will be located temporarily in Alvarado Church of Christ, Los Angeles, Calif.
An Independent Institution
Pacific Bible Seminary has been incorporated under the laws of California. It has an independent legal status and is not affiliated with any other institution or organization. It will exercise cordial relations with all other institutions of similar character and purpose.
Faculty and Trustees
The staff of instructors for the opening term will include George P. Rutledge (president), Robert E. Elmore (dean), E. R. Black and David M. Sayers. The management of the seminary is vested in a board of trustees, all of whom are members of the church of Christ, men and women of sterling ability, character and loyalty.
Character and Purpose
The following items in the constitution set forth the spirit of Pacific Bible Seminary in no uncertain terms:
Article V. Purpose and Character
The Pacific Bible Seminary is formed for the purpose of providing training without distinction as to age, sex, religious belief, or previous academic preparation, to the end that the students may be equipped for a fruitful Christian service, and particularly ministerial work. . . .
[Articles V and VI are detailed at length.]
Courses of Instruction
[“Courses of Instruction” I through VII are listed, in order, as The Department of English, The Department of Old Testament, The Department of New Testament, The Department of Church History, The Department of the Restoration Movement. The Department of Apologetics, and The Department of Practical Ministry and Local Church Administration.]
. . . While pre-eminently a preacher-training institution, this school will give special attention to the training of church workers in general.
The Bible the Standard
It is not our purpose to imitate secular educational institutions, with their diluted curricula and non-essential subjects. Least of all shall we go to the world for our policy and program.
In the fullest sense possible our endeavor shall be to make Pacific Bible Seminary a school of Christ, in which His word is supreme.
This is a standardized school in the best possible sense of the word; that is, the Bible is the standard.
Established in the Faith
Liberalism in religious teaching is rampant to-day. The virus of unbelief has poisoned the educational springs. Particularly is this true with respect to many colleges which make a pretense of training preachers. The Bible has been set aside, or admitted only to be discredited. Pacific Bible Seminary will not fleece young men of their faith, but will ground them in the faith of the gospel.
Teaching Our Plea
The churches of Christ are [e]ntrusted with a twofold ministry: First, the proclamation of the gospel to the whole creation; second, the appeal to the whole denominational world to return to Bible ground. This is our great plea: the restoration and propagation of New Testament Christianity.
To prepare young men adequately to carry forward this plea is the business of Pacific Bible Seminary. . . .
Open to All
While encouraging the matriculation of graduates of high schools and colleges, our doors are open also in hearty welcome to any young man or woman who sincerely desires a Christian education. Classes will be instituted for those whose early education has been limited.
A Magnificent Gift
The city of Burbank has made a gift of fifteen acres for our college site in Benmar Hills, its most beautiful suburb and the most desirable college site in all the metropolitan district of Southern California. This tract of land is valued at $300,000, and an additional ten acres will be donated if we meet these conditions.
Accepting the Challenge
This land is ours on condition that we raise $200,000 for the erection of a seminary building. The loyal brethren in California are rallying behind the enterprise, and will do their full part in the campaign to secure the $200,000 necessary to confirm the generous gift from the city of Burbank.
. . . We covet your prayers, and we solicit your financial help in building this loyal institution of learning. Send your offerings to . . .
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I’m not sure what became of that gift of land, but it doesn’t appear Pacific Bible Seminary ever held classes in Burbank.
Perhaps there was a snag. Perhaps the 15-acre gift valued at $300,000 was contingent on the seminary raising $200,000. (The main article doesn’t clearly indicate that that was a stipulation, but the editorial in that same issue—see below—more forcefully indicates to me that it was.) Perhaps Burbank reneged. Perhaps there was “a mass of confusion and legal tangles” that precluded a land transfer—that’s a possibility based upon what little history of the Benmar Hills area I can find online.
In the end, it may have mattered little. Keep in mind, this story was written on the eve of the Great Depression; the Wall Street crash occurred just a few months later.
It seems the university site mentioned in this article originally was offered as the site of UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), but decision-makers chose to locate that institution in Westwood; city voters approved a bond measure to pay for the Westwood site in 1925. (Check out these two links: wesclark.com and www.raremaps.com.)
A brief history of the university, along with a four-minute video, are located at www.hiu.edu/about-hiu/history/, while a much more detailed history is at www.hiu.edu/pdf/HIU_Historical_Overview-2018.pdf. Unfortunately, neither history mentions Burbank or the gift of land.
Through the years, the college has moved a few times—most recently to Fullerton in 1973—and the name has changed a few times: to Pacific Christian College in 1963 and to Hope International University in 1997 (though the Pacific Christian College of Ministry and Biblical Studies remains one of the five academic colleges within the university structure).
Growth reached 75 students in 1954 (when the university hired its first full-time president, Kenneth A. Stewart) and then 185 students in 1969 (when Medford Jones took over as president). A graduate program was added in the 1970s. Enrollment reached 398 in 1981 (Knofel Staton’s first year as president), and grew to more than 500 undergraduates during that decade. In 1990, LeRoy Lawson was called as president. Total enrollment—undergraduate and graduate students—exceeded 1,000 in 1996 and 2,000 in 2018. There are more than 13,000 alumni.
I’ll conclude this feature with the main portion of an editorial from page 8 of that 1928 issue.
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PACIFIC BIBLE SEMINARY
The loyal brethren everywhere will rejoice at the news of the project that has been launched in California for the thorough and scholarly training of preachers who are true to the gospel of Christ. This new institution will satisfy a greatly felt need, and will make possible a forward movement such as has never yet been made, not only in the Golden State, but also throughout the entire Southwest. It merits the most hearty support and co-operation of all whose sympathies are with the plea for the restoration of primitive Christianity, its doctrine, its ordinances and its fruits.
The brethren who inaugurated the movement for establishing this school have shown great wisdom, not only in specifically stating that the enterprise can never fall into the hands of the enemies of the gospel, but also in their wise and careful selection of trustees and faculty. George Rutledge, who is a former editor [1917-22] of the Christian Standard, is well known for his staunch advocacy of Christian truth. Robert E. Elmore is also known throughout the entire brotherhood as a constructive leader, clear thinker and able champion of the faith. E. R. Black and D. M. Sayers are both well-trained and scholarly men who hold firmly to the eternal verities of the faith. Young men in the Pacific Southwest, who are contemplating giving their lives to the ministry, will act wisely if they choose this school as the place for their training.
News of the conditional gift of land valued at $300,000 made by the city of Burbank, Calif., ought to arouse the brethren everywhere to respond, and to raise the required additional $200,000 for buildings and equipment. This is an investment that will prove to be increasingly profitable for the cause. . . .
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Burbank or no Burbank, we join in congratulating Hope International University on their 90th anniversary. Their investment in Christian leaders through the years has indeed been profitable for the cause of Christ.
Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard