April 2009 Message

March was a historical month for Biola University. There were many events that took place beginning with the Art department’s annual Art Symposium, a forum where Christians and non-Christians could discuss art, faith and culture, featuring Gregory Wolfe, founder and director of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. James Romaine, another symposium speaker and co-founder of the New York Center for the Arts and Media recognized the strong leadership in Biola’s Art department when he said, “The Biola Art symposium is fast becoming one of the premier gatherings of Christians invested in the visual arts.”

Ruby Slippers PresentationThen, in honor of National Women’s History Month, Biola hosted its second annual Ruby Slippers Luncheon on March 11. Over 200 members of the Biola community attended the program which was themed “In Her Shoes: Walking in the Footsteps of Women Around the World” and featured an inspiring message from Dr. Donna Thoennes, Assistant Professor in the Torrey Honors Institute. Five women students from multi-cultural backgrounds shared about their unique perspectives and the challenges that women face around the world. I was deeply moved by the student monologues and I encourage you to listen to their voices online.

My wife, Paula, had the pleasure of presenting the Second Annual Biola Ruby Awards at the luncheon to exemplary women in the Biola community:

  • Dr. June Hetzel, Biola School of Education dean, Deborah Award for Leadership and Wisdom
  • Meleca Consultado, Biola senior, Priscilla Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring
  • Elaine Crain, Biola alumnus, Esther Award for Obedience and Servanthood

The excellence of our faculty was recognized on March 16 during Biola’s annual faculty awards at the Provost's luncheon. The following professors were commended for their accomplishments:

  • John Liang, Cook School of Intercultural Studies, _Peer Mentoring Award _
  • Joe Hellerman, Talbot School of Theology, Award of Excellence in Scholarship
  • Dan Callis, Department of Art, Award for Mentoring Students
  • Tom Buckles, School of Business, Award for Excellence in Biblical Integration
  • Mick Boersma, Talbot School of Theology, Award for Career Achievement and Leadership
  • Paul Spears, Torrey Honors Institute, Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Glenn Styffe, Department of Nursing, University and Community Service
  • John Coe, Judy TenElshof and Betsy Barber, all from Talbot School of Theology received the Robert B. Fisher Award

Also recognized at the annual luncheon were faculty who have been advanced in academic rank, and these include Rachel Van Tholen, Tamara Welter, Jonathan Anderson, Robin LaBarbera, Kurt Simonson, Rob Lister, Ashish Naidu, Peggy Burke, Marc Apkarian, Alan Hultberg, Ivannia Soto-Hinman, Paul Spears, Jonathan Kim, Len Bartlotti, Moyer Hubbard, Virginia Johnson, Tim Muehlhoff, Richard Leyda, Mick Boersma, John Coe, Michael Longinow, George Boespflug and Sue Russell.

Among other notable faculty achievements, Dr. John Mark Reynolds, director of the Torrey Honors Institute was honored with an invitation to speak at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Norton Lectures in mid March. This lecture series, established in 1910, focuses on “science and philosophy in their relations to religion”. Dr. Reynolds joins a list of luminary speakers including William Dembski, Alvin Plantinga, Arthur Holmes, and John Polkinghorne.

Professor of New Testament and dean of faculty for Talbot School of Theology, Michael J. Wilkins, has appeared in five of the eight part series, “Jesus: Man, Messiah, or More?” on the Day of Discovery television program. Wilkins was interviewed to assist in providing insight in this documentary-style program answering questions like, “Was Jesus really the Son of God and the Messiah the Bible claims, or was He merely human like the rest of us?” The weekly 30-minute program runs through Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009 on Ion television Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m.

In addition, Associate Professor in the English Department, Paul Buchanan just had his novel released, The Last Place I Want to Be, published by Kregel Publications.

CSICS DinnerThe School of Intercultural Studies hosted a special dinner marking its 25th anniversary on March 16. At the dinner, I had the pleasure of formally announcing the school’s new name, the Clyde and Anna Belle Cook School of Intercultural Studies, honoring the legacy and service of Clyde and Anna Belle Cook. President Emeritus Clyde Cook established the School of Intercultural Studies in 1983 with the finances the university received from the Chinese Government as compensation for the confiscation of the Hunan Bible Institute. The School of Intercultural Studies was Biola’s fourth school and played an important part in our move to becoming a university. The school’s new sign on Marshburn Hall was revealed at a public unveiling ceremony on March 18.

As we celebrate this honor with the Cook family, we also, as a community, uphold them in prayer during this time, as it was a year ago, on April 11, 2008, that President Emeritus Clyde Cook went home to be with the Lord. We remember and are grateful for his dedication to this university and to the furthering of the kingdom of God through his work in missions.

I was delighted to speak at Biola’s 80th Annual Missions Conference March 18-20 joining George Verwer, Marilyn Laszlo and Grant Porter who served as keynote speakers for the conference. I shared during this session, that when Paula and I were being interviewed for this position two years ago, we were deeply moved by the passion and intellect of the students we met at a luncheon in May 2007. It was then that we first heard about Missions Conference and learned about Biola University's students’ desire to be global Christians who are followers of Christ, wherever he might lead them. The student body’s heart for the Great Commission and passion to be voices of redemption for the brokenness in this world is one reason which made it easy for Paula and me to say yes when God prompted us to consider Biola University. I was amazed at the way students challenged themselves to live missionally and to be “osme,” (Greek), the fragrance of Christ, to all those they meet.

About 70 students will be spending their spring break on missions trips. One team of students will be traveling to Utah for the Evangelical and Mormon Interactions trip. Through this ministry, Biola students are able to minister to and dialogue with college students at Brigham Young University and churches around Utah. The other group is heading to Honduras - funded "miraculously" by a recent generous gift that prevented the trip from being cancelled. The Honduras water project is Biola’s longest running aid and evangelism ministry - 23 years. Just weeks away from the trip they were over $20,000 short of the fundraising goal. Then a prospective parent, visiting during Biola Bound with his daughter, heard about the need in chapel and responded in obedience to God’s voice. What a story of obedience and provision!

Track Team ReceptionBiola’s Track and Field team recently returned from Tennessee where our athletes competed and placed eighth overall at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Indoor Track and Field Championships. We congratulate sophomore Natasha Miller who had a particularly exceptional performance. She won four out of five events, broke an NAIA Indoor record and won the pentathlon national title—a first for Biola. I hosted a reception in my office for the Women's and Men's Track and Field teams with coach Jonathan Zimmerman to honor the teams' achievements and to congratulate these outstanding athletes and students.

Other Biola sports enjoying success this season are Biola’s club Lacrosse team and our intercollegiate baseball and softball teams. Our Lacrosse team is competing against several Division I B teams and is faring well. Their latest wins against USC and Pepperdine drew large crowds of spectators, and I am pleased to see our club sports succeed too.

Once again, Biola University’s forensics team consistently displays exemplary talent in competition. The team first in the Division II Individual Events Sweepstakes at the Forensics Invitational held on campus. Dorothy Alston Calley, professor of communication studies and director of Individual Events for Biola Forensics, said, “Biola Forensics is pleased that we could excel again this year and represent Biola well not only through our performance, but also our hospitality.”

I’m pleased to announce that the Biola Counseling Center has opened a new location in Laguna Hills. The BCC will offer mental health service to Biola students, staff and faculty as well as the Orange County community. It’s great to see Biola’s reach increase as the BCC actively pursues those in need of counsel in Orange County.

Parent Relations hosted its first ever Grandparents Day on March 27. Like me, Parent Relations was astounded at the turn out! Grandparents Day ToursOriginally planned for 50 grandparents, over 350 grandparents came to visit their grandchildren at Biola! It was great to see Biola students arm in arm with their grandmothers and grandfathers escorting them to various events around campus. During chapel, Dr. Alonzo Levert and Mrs. Marilynn Sybesma were honored with the first ever Biola Grandparent Legacy Award. I was inspired connecting with these wonderful families and am so proud to see our students love and respect their grandparents.

On March 28, over 900 Spanish-speaking evangelical pastors, lay-leaders, youth and children attended the 30th Biola Hispanic Conference, sponsored by Biola and Talbot School of Theology. This year’s theme was “Strong Marriages: The Foundation of the Family” with featured speaker, Rev. Daniel Catarisano, U.S. Director of Hispanic Ministries with Focus on the Family.

As I reflect on the exciting month of March, I anticipate April’s upcoming events. This month I will be spending time with Biola alumni in Palm Springs and St. Louis. These events are a great way for me to meet and encourage alumni who are serving so faithfully and competently in many callings. Keep in contact with Alumni Relations to learn about upcoming alumni reception and events in your area.

On April 4, more than 4,000 descended upon Biola’s campus for a historical debate sponsored by Associated Students and the Apologetics Department. The debate titled, “Does God Exist?” featured committed and renown atheist, Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, and well known Christian apologist, author and Talbot research professor, Dr. William Lane Craig. This sold-out debate drew great media attention as it was also streamed live to 120 churches and other facilities in 30 states and 4 countries around the world. I commend Craig Hazen and the MA Apologetics team as well as Eric Weaver and the Associated Students for their architectural role in planning such a historic event for Biola University and for the broader community as we fulfill our vision to help Christians think more Christianly in their worldviews.

Another event garnering national attention is the Biola Media Conference, scheduled for April 25. Each year this conference draws hundreds of Christian professionals in the film industry for a time of networking and advancing as leaders in their specific media fields. The conference will take place at the CBS Studio Lot in Studio City and is themed “Closing the Deal.” Keynote speakers include Joe Eszterhas, Ralph Winter, Terry Botwick, Susan Isaacs and Phil Cooke.

As I reflect on all that has been accomplished for the cause of Christ through this university community, I am humbled to serve alongside our dedicated and talented trustees, students, faculty, athletes, parents, staff and so many more, who impact the world for Christ.

This Easter season as we take time to pause and reflect on the atoning work of our Lord through his death and resurrection, my prayer is that the peace of God our Redeemer be with you and your family. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!