J. Richard Chase, a leading figure in Christian higher education who served as Biola’s sixth president from 1970 to 1982, died Aug. 20 at Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Ill. He was 79.
Dr. Chase, who faithfully served Biola for nearly three decades in various capacities, was known nationally for his leadership as an effective college president, first at Biola and later at Wheaton College in Illinois.
“The strength and position of Biola University today is in large part indebted to Richard and Mary Chase and their unwavering, inspiring commitment to godly living and Christ-honoring education,” said Biola President Barry H. Corey. “Biola University extends our prayers and sympathy for the loss of such a wonderful father, husband and Christian leader.”
Chase’s ties to Biola ran deep. He enrolled at Biola in 1948, and while still a student married his high school sweetheart, Mary — the daughter of the man who would soon become Biola’s fifth president, Dr. Sam Sutherland. After graduating from Biola with a Bachelor of Theology degree in 1951, Chase went on to earn a B.A. in speech education and an M.A. in speech from Pepperdine University. During this time, he taught classes in Biola’s speech department, and eventually became a full-time professor.
After taking a leave of absence to earn his Ph.D in speech from Cornell University in 1961, Dr. Chase returned to Biola, where he was instrumental in developing the forensics program and debate teams. He served as chairman of the speech department and chairman of the humanities division, and in 1965, was appointed vice president for academic affairs. In 1970, he became the sixth and youngest president of Biola College, succeeding his father-in-law.
During his 12-year tenure as president, Dr. Chase initiated several new programs, oversaw the acquisition of Rosemead School of Psychology and ultimately transitioned Biola from a college to university. Dr. Chase served as a strong academic navigator, who cultivated and maintained Biola’s commitments to academic excellence and sound Christian teaching.
After his departure from Biola in 1982 to serve as president of Wheaton College, Dr. Chase continued his stellar academic career until his retirement in 1993. In 1986, the Religious Heritage of America Foundation named Chase “America’s Outstanding Educator.” In the same year, he was listed among the 100 most effective college presidents in America in a nationwide survey reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He also served as the first chairman of the board of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.
At Biola University, Dr. Chase’s legacy is recognized by a building named in his honor, Chase Gymnasium. Additionally, at Biola’s 100th anniversary Legacy Gala in February of 2008, Biola awarded Dr. Chase a Legacy Award for a distinguished lifetime of leadership and service.
Dr. Chase is survived by his wife, Mary; two children, Dr. Kenneth Chase and Jennifer Chase Barnard; and seven grandchildren.
If you would like to give in memory of Dr. Chase, please visit the giving website.