From Bible Institute to Biola University:
Reminiscence on the Department of History, 1952-2009
Following World War II, Dr. Samuel H. Sutherland, then dean of the Institute, had a vision for moving the school into a college program. Discharged servicemen and women were coming to the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) in greater number. Dr. Sutherland thought that the Institute should prepare them to serve not only in church and mission-related ministries, but also in larger public spheres.
With the resignation of president Luis T. Talbot in 1952, Dr. Sutherland was elevated to president. He had been on the forefront of organizing the American Association of Bible School and Colleges (AABC). His idea was to retain the core of Biblical studies and add to this a variety of Bachelor of Arts programs.
Dr. James Christian was then Dean. His goal was to develop the curriculum with a view to gaining accreditation from WASC. The initial step was creating the Liberal Studies program, designed to prepare California elementary school teachers. The very nature of this program required a broad general education base.
This was the impetus for Dr. Christian calling James O. Henry to teach Western Civilization beginning in January 1952. Henry and his wife Bobbi were natives of Arkansas. He was born in1902 and grew up in Dover, Arkansas. The couple married in August 1930 and with the onset of the Depression made their way to California in November of the same year. Within two weeks Henry had found employment in a furniture factory in Inglewood.
The couple joined the Hawthorne Community Church and in due time became acquainted with BIOLA. Henry enrolled in the Institute and received the B.A. in Theology in 1944. Thereafter he served with the Army in the Pacific until 1946. He entered college at Westmont and was graduated with a B.A. in Greek. He continued his studies at the University of Southern California and received the M.A. in History. Subsequently he transferred to the University of Maryland and received the Ph.D. in History. His dissertation was on the United States Christian Commission in the Civil War. He tracked down the Commission records in the U.S. Archives in D.C. and found that they had been virtually untouched since they were first deposited.
Even as he started teaching at BIOLA in 1952, Dr. Henry received a commission as a chaplain and remained on active duty for twenty years with the California National Guard’s Army Reserve. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Over the years he also served in various capacities of the IFCA, (Independent Fundamental Churches of America). Following his retirement he wrote a history of the movement: For Such A Time As This: A History of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (1983).
As a freshman at Biola College in 1958, I was in the last class to begin in downtown Los Angeles. Here, the thirteen-story twin Biola towers with the red neon signs “Jesus Saves” was a recognized landmark. Thrice a day Gordon Hooker, of the music faculty, played well-known hymns and gospel songs on the carillons located on the building’s roof. The joyous strains echoed over the Pershing Square and resounded over the din of traffic.
All this changed when Biola moved to the new 80-acre campus in an unincorporated section of south Los Angeles County in 1959. The school initially purchased 160 acres of Andrew McNally’s Windermere Ranch in 1954. In order to finance building construction half the acreage was sold to developers.
Biola had planned to expand the campus downtown, but chairman of the board Ray Meyers and president Sutherland recognized that given the valuable downtown location, sale of that property would enable Biola to build a new campus in the suburbs. With a student body of around 700, Biola relocated to the new campus in the fall of 1959. The campus consisted of two residence halls, library, music building, cafeteria, science building, Sutherland Hall (used for administration and classrooms), and Talbot Seminary’s Meyers Hall. Most of the students lived downtown and were bussed between campuses. In those days nearly all classes were offered in the morning and students carried jobs in the afternoon.
In the early years the campus was almost bare with the exception of a few olive trees. In the first years, academics was mixed with workdays of planting trees, shrubs and preparing the ground for seeding lawns. As an experienced military man, Dr. Henry organized labor battalions. His optimism and good humor made these days a highlight of my undergraduate experience.
The new campus attracted a growing student body. With it came new faculty. Dr. Henry hired Mr. A.K. Wiens, a former missionary to China, to teach U.S. History. In the following years he built the entire History Department and later chaired the Social Science Division. This consisted of History, Poltical Science, Sociology, Anthropology and Business. Dr. Henry retired in 1975.
Dr. Masakasu (Maas) Iwata joined the History Department in 1961. He was born to Issei parents in 1917, studied at Waseda University in Tokyo 1940-43. While there during WWII he contracted tuberculosis and was returned to the United States for extended hospitalization. He was graduated with a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa, in History from UCLA and went on to receive the M.A. and Ph.D. in history. His academic fields were East Asia and Modern Europe. Dr. Iwata had an extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese classical texts that his wife Doreen donated to the Biola Library. These works have not yet been accessed, but could prove to be of great value to a scholar-teacher of East Asian Studies
Dr. Iwata was one of the first members of the Biola faculty to carry on systematic research and to have that translated into publications. His study of Japan’s Meiji period statesman led to the publication of Okubo Toshimichi: The Bismarck of Japan (UC press, 1964). By then he had begun research of the impact of he Japanese in California agriculture. This led to the publication of the two volume definitive study Planted in Good Soil: The History of the Issei in United States Agriculture, (Peter Lang: 1992).
Dr. Iwata chaired the History Department from 1968-77 and chaired Social Science Division 1977-78. He served as Dean of the College 1978-80 and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs 1980-81. Thereafter, he resumed full-time teaching in the History Department until his retirement in 1983. Two of his students who excelled in their respective pursuits were Linda Parker and Arlin Migliazzo. Linda was graduated from Law School in Mississippi and went to become an attorney. Arlin received the Ph.D. from Washington State and serves as a member of the history faculty at Whitworth College.
Dr. Iwata was a Free Methodist and served in many important positions in his denomination. His quiet, unassuming manner masked his ceaseless efforts to improve the quality of classroom teaching. It was through his personal example that he called us to strive for academic excellence, to model integrity, and to foster warm collegial relations. He kept before us the larger world of international affairs and global developments. His unceasing commitment to prayer made it amply clear that only through God’s enabling could we make any real progress in our efforts to build Biola into a truly Christian university. It should be noted that Dr. Iwata was the first University faculty to be given the rank of Distinguished Professor Emeritus. This came in the wake of the revised faculty rank structure that went into effect in 1981; it reflected the reorganization in moving from being a college to a university.
Both Drs. Henry and Iwata were wonderful mentors to Dr. Buss, who would ultimately teach in the department for 39 years, and serve as chair for 25. Like them, he was diligent in his responsibilities and at the same time was light-hearted, optimistic and approachable. In those days department chairs initiated faculty promotion by presenting letters of recommendation to the Faculty Personnel Committee. Dr. Buss received notice of several promotions including conferral of tenure in this way. All this changed when Edward Pauley succeeded Dean Robert Crawford as Dean of Biola College in the late 1970s. Dean Pauley initiated the practice of faculty presenting their case for promotion. The process was tightened under our first Provost, Robert Fischer. He served under president Richard Chase and shepherded the reorganization to university.
In the 1960s four full-time faculty members were added to the History Department. First came Dr. Israel Carmona a Cuban who came to the United States in connection with the work of Practical Missionary Training (PMT) directed by Dr. Oran Smith, then chair of the Missions Department (forerunner of Intercultural Studies). Carmona completed his undergraduate studies at Biola and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from USC. Dr. Henry recruited Dr. Carmona to build a Latin American emphasis in the Department and to help teach the six units of Western Civilization general education requirement. Dr. Carmona continued full-time until 1976, the year after Dr. Henry’s retirement.
In fall 1966 Dave Peters and Dietrich Buss started teaching at Biola. Peters was a native of Oklahoma and was called as the resident political scientist. He had just received the M.A. from the University of Oklahoma. They were both interviewed by Dr. Henry and Dean Christian and were immediately hired. Dr. Buss had received an M.A. in social science from CSU Los Angeles with emphasis in U.S. History and Political Philosophy. At the time Mr. A. K. Wiens was on the cusp of retirement and Dr. Buss was recruited to move into his position half time and a teach beginning German half time. After two years Dr. Buss moved full-time into teaching history and geography and continued his studies in U.S. History at Claremont Graduate University.
Dr. Peters hoped to develop a political science major, and when that did not materialize he linked up with Henry Warren, Chairman of the Business Department, to create a Public Administration major. This was a natural extension of Dr. Peters’ long-term service with the La Mirada City Council. The P.A. Program was terminated in 1988 in the wake of declining enrollment in the undergraduate program. The Council of Christian Colleges had launched the American Studies Program in Washington D.C. Since 1976 Dr. Peters has attracted some of our best students beginning with Tom Dunn, who became an attorney, to participate in this semester-long residential program. To date Biola holds the record of sending students that have participated in ASP. Many of them found employment in D.C. following successful internship. Another one of our early participants in ASP was Bruce Dorsey. He went on to receive the Ph.D. in U.S. History from Brown University, and holds a tenured history faculty position at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. . In 2007/8 the department finally succeeded in establishing a major in Political Science.
Dr. Henry also recruited Ethel Rankin a native of Canada and of Jewish heritage. She joined the History faculty in 1969 and taught here for ten years before retiring. Ethel attended UCLA where she met Sam Rankin. The two were happily married 56 years. After raising her family, Ethel completed her undergraduate studies in History at CSU Los Angeles and received the M.A. in U.S. history from Claremont Graduate University. Her interests were broad and she was instrumental in adding to the history curriculum: History of the Jewish People, The Islamic World and Developing Nations.
Ethel Rankin set high standards for her students. She gained a reputation for requiring long reading assignments. Among those who rose to the challenge were Harold Netland, a former missionary to Japan and now serving on the faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, Ethel kept up with global developments and participated in the Orange County World Affairs Council. Her contacts made it possible for her to bring to campus some exceptional people. She was responsible for a convocation featuring Abba Eban who had served as foreign minister of Israel. As the sole woman faculty in the Department, Ethel added a special touch. She was concerned about women’s issues. During her time here the Equal Rights Amendment was on the national agenda. She championed women’s rights in a spirit of moderation. She was a cultured person and a wonderful role model to our students.
The sixth full-time faculty Dr. Henry recruited was Mr. James Crawford. He held an M.A. in history from CSU Long Beach and had taught at the Brethren school there. From the early 1970s to 1980 he offered courses in the Ancient World, English History, and U.S. History Survey. Failing health led to his early retirement.
Two history graduates of these early years who have gone on to distinguish themselves in academic pursuits are Harlan Unrau and Allen Carden. Harlan received the B.A. in 1969 and received the M.A. in history from CSU Fullerton in 1971. Since 1972 he has served as historian for the National Park Service in D.C. and Denver, Colorado. He has a long list of technical studies and among his publications is Here Was the Revolution (National Park Service 1976). Harlan has won many awards and is truly an outstanding public historian.
Allen Carden was graduated in 1971 and received the Ph.D. in history from UC Irvine in 1977. He followed in the footsteps of his father and became Registrar at Biola 1974-77; then he served in a number of administrative positions. He taught in the History Department part-time until he accepted the position of president at Spring Arbor College in 1991. He served there for a decade and became president of Fresno Pacific College. In the meantime his major study on Puritan Christianity in America appeared (Baker 1990). He is currently teaching at CSU Fresno.
When Dr. Iwata became Division Chair, Dr. Buss was asked to fill that role in 1977. The understanding was that he would take responsibility for a three-year term. As it turned out, he served 25 years. In 1979 Ethel Rankin retired and Dr. Ed Wilshire, a Medievalist, joined the Department. He received a B.A. from Whitworth College in literature, the M. Div from Fuller Seminary, and Ph.D. in History from USC. Wilshire had served as pastor in South Los Angeles and for a time taught at Wagner College in New York. The Department expanded the curriculum to include Medieval History, Renaissance and Reformation, and Church History.
Year after year Ed Wilshire received NEH grants for Summer Seminars. He was an annual participant in the Medieval Association meetings at the University of Michigan. He helped our students develop research skills and motivated them to participate in the Phi Alpha Theta regional spring conferences. A good many students either won prizes or received recognition. One of his students who distinguished himself was Gus Espinosa. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in religious studies from Princeton. Dr. Espinosa is currently serving on the faculty at Westmont College.
The rapidly growing undergraduate program of the 1970s meant that the Department had a heavy load in General Education. At that time students were required to take six units in Western Civilization and six units in U.S. History. The trend at other colleges was to reduce history requirements. The Curriculum Committee followed suit leading to a then unwelcome revision of the requirements to 4 units in each field. Since then, the growing student body had less background for understanding our rapidly changing world, and the department has had difficulty staffing enough sections of the general ed courses.
Dr. Iwata’s retirement in 1983 led to a search for a Modern Europeanist. Robert Harrison who had been teaching Western Civilization since 1979 was called full-time. Harrison was a Biola graduate of 1952; he received the M. Div. In Church History from Fuller Seminary and earned an M.A. in history from CSU Los Angeles, and the Ph.D. in History from USC. From 1965-75 he served at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angles as a probation officer.
Dr. Harrison loved European history and was instrumental in expanding our offerings in British history. He was very approachable and had a special gift for connecting with students. He enjoyed teaching large survey classes. It was he who began taking students to the J. Paul Getty Museum and Huntington Library. He also organized a film series titled “History goes to the movies”. The latter attracted a good many non-history majors.
Bob Harrison was the mover for the Department joining Phi Alpha Theta. He had the joy of seeing one of his star students Cheryl Koos win a prize in Phi Alpha Theta’s regional paper reading conferences. Cheryl was graduated summa cum laude in 1988 and received a full graduate scholarship to USC. She also received a coveted Jacob Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of education. Koos received her Ph.D. from USC and is currently a full-time history professor at CSU Los Angeles.
With the departure of Dr. Harrison, the Lord sent us Dr. Mary Ann Lind in 1991. She is a native of Colorado who received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Colorado State College and the Ph.D. in Asian History from the University of Colorado. She had spent 17 years in public school teaching, and from 1985-88 served as a staff member with Youth With a Mission at Pacific and Asia Christian University, Kona, Hawaii. She was involved in training Asia-bound mission personnel in the history, religion and culture of Asia.
Dr. Lind’s academic qualifications were parallel to those of Dr. Iwata, and she taught both Asian and Modern European courses for ten years. Dr. Lind had membership in the Four Square Church and had a mission’s heart. She felt particularly called to minister to women students. She also had a large off-campus ministry speaking at women’s conferences.
In 1991 Mary Ann felt called to minister to her widowed aging mother who lived in Ft Morgan, Colorado. With Mary Ann’s departure as a full-time professor, we again had need for faculty who could teach courses in Modern Europe and Asia. (She still teaches during the Interterm and Summer Sessions in our department and also teaches courses in INCS (Intercultural Studies School)
In the early ’90s the Provost Lingenfelter recognized the need of an addition to the History faculty. That was finally realized in 1997 and we were fortunate to have Dr. Ron Morgan, a Latin Americanist join the ranks. Ron and his wife Janine have served as Church of Christ Missionaries in Brazil for six years. He had just received his Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara and was an enthusiastic teacher. We forged an alliance with ICS and Ron cross-listed three of his courses there. The course “History of the Expansion of Christianity” was initially an ICS requirement; however, when ICS made that course an elective, enrollment lagged. In 2003 the Morgans moved to London.
In 2002 the Department hired Judith Mendelsohn Rood, Ph.D. to serve as the chair of the department. Judith is married to Paul W. Rood, whose grandfather, Paul Rood, was the President of Biola in the 30’s. Judith’s training in Islamic and Middle Eastern History at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago enabled our department to add courses in Middle Eastern History The Rood family moved to the Biola area from Michigan. During her first year Dr. Rood successfully revised the general education courses offered by the department, introducing a new two semester World Civilizations course, and all of which were reduced from 4 credits to 3 in order to align with the California State Commission on Higher Education Single Subject Waiver and Elementary Education programs. General Education students could choose either HIST 107 or POSC 225 for their American History and Government requirement and either HIST 207 or 208, World Civ I or II, for their world history course, and the faculty shifted discussions and group projects into class meetings. The enrollment for these courses was dropped to 35 students from 75, and the upper division courses were limited to 25. In 2004 the department changed its name to the Department of History, Government, and Social Science, HGSS, to better communicate all that it teaches. In 2005 the department also took responsibility for teaching the principles of economics class previously offered by the business department for our secondary education students.
In 2003 Drs. Evanson Wamagatta and Marie-Claude Ford joined the department, but Dr. Ford, a geographer with a PhD from the University of Cincinnati, resigned in 2005 and returned to France. Dr. Wamagatta became a believer in Kenya while doing research on his MA. He has a PhD in African history from the University of West Virginia. Dr. Buss retired and Dr. Daniel Christensen joined the faculty in 2005. Dr. Christensen has his PhD from UC Riverside in Early Modern European History. Dr. Peters took his sabbatical in the spring semester of 2006, studying the British antecedents to the Constitution in Oxford. Mr. Paul Rood and Dr. Peters worked with Dr. J.M. Rood to reshape the Social Science: Political Science and Public Administration majors into the Political Science major. In 2006/07 Drs. Rood, Wamagatta and Christensen shared the responsibilities of the Department Chair. August 2007, Dr. Alicia Dewey joined the department as the full-time Associate Professor of American History. Drs. Wamagatta and Rood co-chaired the department during 2007/08. From 2008 to the present, Dr. George Giacumakis is part-time Chair. He recently retired from his administrative position with Cal. State Fullerton, Irvine Campus. He is also in the process of establishing the Museum of Biblical and Sacred Writings. In 2010, Dr. Daniel Christensen will begin serving as the full-time Chair of the Department of History, Government & Social Science.
Written by Dietrich Buss, and updated by Judith M. Rood