B-I-O-L-A! B-I-O-L-A! B-I-O-L-A!
The five-lettered chant — with a force on the O — is a common student refrain in our Chase Gymnasium as they cheer on the Biola Eagles’ intercollegiate teams.
BIOLA, recognized in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report as among America’s top 10 “up and coming” national universities. BIOLA, a recent recipient of more than $5 million from the John Templeton Foundation to establish the Biola University Center for Christian Thought, attracting some of the world’s foremost Christian minds to grapple with the pressing issues of our society. BIOLA, a nationally ranked university of over 6,300 students. BIOLA, a community whose esteemed faculty hold doctoral degrees and postdoc studies from among the world’s leading research universities. Cambridge. MIT. Cornell. Stanford. UC Berkeley. USC. UCLA. Notre Dame. Georgetown. Oxford. Boston University. Penn.
BIOLA, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles that began in 1908 at the intersection of Sixth and Hope streets in downtown L.A.
A lot has changed in those five letters since the fledgling school began to take root more than 100 years ago. The L and the A for Los Angeles have changed. Though we’re still in Greater L.A., we moved in the 1950s to the suburbs to make room for our growth. The O for “of” isn’t accurate anymore. We are now near Los Angeles. The I has changed, too. We were once an institute, then a Bible college, then a college, and in the early 1980s a university. University reflects the breadth of programs from our bachelor’s degrees to our master’s degrees to our doctoral degrees.
We’ve changed the I, the O, the L and the A. But not the B.
That’s one letter in our name that hasn’t changed. The B remains at the heart of this major university, 107 years later and as strong as ever. But what does this mean to be a university that is biblically grounded?
Being a university serious about the timeless truths of God’s Word means we’re interested in creating conversations and reaching outward, engaging in the marketplace of ideas with a gentle and respectful voice that we believe needs to be heard. The risks are too high to do otherwise. We don’t want to be part of the arsenal. We need to be a part of the dialogue.
Being a university serious about the Bible means that we’re not only serious about the Bible. Though God’s Word — authoritative and true — is our foundation, we are serious about understanding God’s world. Our Torrey Honors College is among the leading Great Books curricular programs among universities today. Our Master of Arts in Philosophy program is the largest of its kind in the world, preparing graduates for leading doctoral programs and for university teaching. Our cinema and media arts program — competitive to enter and rigorous to complete — educates students for the film industry as screenwriters and producers and directors and corporate leaders. We’ve recently launched a Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts to deepen our understanding of beauty and goodness through the many expressions of the arts. Our Bible centeredness is not a Bible only-ness.
At Biola, our faithfulness to Scripture does not happen only in the 10 courses our undergraduates take in biblical studies, theology and Christian thought. We strive to “think biblically about everything.” At Biola, the truths of Scripture are integrated into the way we coach, mentor, advise, teach, research and live in community. The Bible’s not a seasoning dusted on our programs. It’s an abiding way of being for us. We don’t use the Bible to get us off the hook from a scrupulous exploration of the world of ideas. Deeply knowing the Scriptures and deeply knowing our disciplines are not mutually exclusive. They are mutually dependent.
We have not changed the B.
Preserving the soul of the university I see as our sacred trust. Advancing the strength of the university I see as our joyful duty.
This issue of Biola Magazine is themed on the launching of our most ambitious campaign — by far — in the university’s history. Our “A Soul of Conviction, A Voice of Courage” comprehensive campaign is in its final 18 months. We are striving to raise, by God’s grace, $180 million to strengthen our core convictions and to extend our reach. The simplest way I’ve been explaining the reason for this bold fundraising campaign is that we are committed to move Biola not from x to y, but from x to x2.
We are not trying to be something different from what we are. We are striving to be something stronger in who we are. We believe we can be among the world’s foremost Christ-centered universities, a community abiding in truth, abounding with grace and compelled by Christ’s love to be a relevant and redemptive voice in a changing world.
By the graciousness of God, at the time this magazine is going to press we’ve raised $152 million, realized one miracle at a time. We’ve experienced amazing stories of generosity. We’ve prayed and fasted over periods of time during this campaign, believing in faith that God’s need in God’s time will not lack God’s supply. We’ve seen the abundant kindness of God’s people, some from longstanding supporters and some from those who seemed to emerge out of the blue.
As we enter the final year and a half of the campaign, knowing we still have $28 million to raise to meet our goals, we are focusing in the homestretch on two areas.
First, we have made great progress on scholarships as part of our campaign. Biola should not be a university only for those who can afford to come, nor should we be a university that compromises our quality in order to be affordable. We must continue building our endowment, which was virtually nonexistent when Dr. Clyde Cook began as president in 1982, grew to over $43.5 million by the time he retired in 2007 and is over $113 million today. We continue to need investors who will support our scholarship programs to enable students to graduate with minimal debt and maximized impact.
Second, we will take Biola University to a new level in preparing students for the science professions — students who are extraordinarily capable, have a vision for the needs of the world, are deeply grounded in biblical thinking and ethics and who can become leaders in their fields. Unless followers of Christ are positioned to be credible voices in the sciences, the Christian intellectual and moral tradition will largely be absent from key decisions relative to science, technology and health care globally. We want to help fill this gap. We have seen wonderful progress toward our financial goal to begin construction on the Center for Science, Technology and Health. The incredible kindness of Mr. Alton Lim to contribute $12 million to this project was a boost to our faith in God’s provision. This new building will not merely be a solution to our older and smaller science building, but it will be a center for an expanding vision in the sciences.
On Dec. 31, 2016, our campaign is scheduled to be completed. When it’s all said and done, we don’t want to look back at the last five years and revel in our successes, in new buildings constructed or in programs launched. We want to look forward at what God is doing through a rising generation of students, students prepared in mind and character to influence their world for the cause of Christ.
The campaign, “A Soul of Conviction, A Voice of Courage,” is a commitment to hold us true to our deep-seated values and move us forward to our ambitious future.
We will be a university that holds high God’s Word in all that we do and all that we are. We will be a university where we invite the Spirit of God to permeate our community in real and renewing ways. We will be a university where students matter to us because we see in them the future, so investing in loving and challenging them will continue to be our hallmark.
We will be a university known far and wide as a leader in biblical integration and intellectual vigor, where mediocrity is unacceptable and we strive for the highest standards in everything we do.
We will be a university that lovingly serves the world in which we live, courageously taking on the major challenges of our day where we are most suited to do so.
We will be a university where students increasingly see in Biola the kind of higher education experience they need to be prepared for meaningful careers and exemplary service for the cause of Christ.
I believe our best days are still to come.
Barry H. Corey is the eighth president of Biola University. Visit his office online at biola.edu/president, on Facebook at facebook.com/presidentcorey and on Twitter at twitter.com/presidentcorey.