LA MIRADA, CALIF. --- “Life is not linear,” said Glen Thomas, California’s Secretary of Education, at Biola University, his alma mater, Wednesday, April 29, 2009. Biola’s School of Education and Associated Students hosted the event, “A Conversation with California Secretary of Education, Glen Thomas,” and invited the 1968 graduate to address the Biola community and local area school administrators.

“A good part of life, we cannot predict. The more we acknowledge that, the more we can rely on God’s purposes,” said Thomas.

The secretary of education emphasized this statement throughout the evening giving examples from his own journey to the current position he is in — a position he had actually been campaigning someone else for.  As he spoke in the hall he once sat in as a student, he reflected on his time at Biola, living in Stewart Residence Hall and participating in college pranks.

June Hetzel, school of education dean, introduced Thomas as well as moderated the panel discussion after Thomas’ speech. Michael Long [2008 California Teacher of the Year and Biola alumnus], Charlotte Evensen [Warren High School Teacher and Biola alumnus], Pete Menjares [Associate Provost of Diversity Leadership], Eric Weaver [AS President] and Cami Cress [AS Senior Vice President] participated in the panel discussion each asking Thomas education based questions. He was able to offer insight into the current education issues, including California’s education crisis.

“I’m from the school of thought that where there’s a crisis, there is opportunity,” said Thomas. “We can take advantage of (the crisis), refocusing what is most important. When you come to a real crisis, it energizes many people to do things.”

Thomas’ passion for public education emanated from his words. He stated that being engaged civically is very important for a Christian, which public education is an integral part.

“That’s how we work ourselves out of an economic crisis because that is the future of our society — those that will have the skills and knowledge to lead us out,” he said.

He explained public education and society like California highways — if you don’t tend to them, cracks and potholes form and the bridges are not retrofitted for earthquakes. California needs to continue to invest in public education and not just financially.

Thomas admitted he didn’t fully appreciate his Biola education until after he left. However, he is still using his education now — general and biblical, referencing that he still has many of his notes from Bible classes. He also walked away with learned Christian values.

“Biola is a treasure,” he said.

Thomas encouraged the audience to be fair, honest, and to speak up about their values rather than sit quietly.

“As Christians we should be upbeat, we should be hopeful, we should be reaching out to other people, and we need to be strategic with the things that we do. Not everything is worth our investment or time but many things are, and I think public education is,” Thomas said.

At the close of the event, Hetzel presented Thomas with a Career Achievement Award from the school of education on behalf of the university and Biola University President Barry H. Corey prayed over Thomas.

Thomas charged Biola to continue their work in training educators and investing in public education.