Way back in 1986, the very first issue of Biola Magazine (called Connections back then) landed in mailboxes. On the cover, in dull gray and black, was a ransom-note-looking letter that said, simply, “Okay, we’re sorry we haven’t written!” Well, over the ensuing 25 years we have written — quite a bit, actually. And to mark the 25th anniversary of the magazine, our staff decided to spend a day flipping through every single issue, looking for the top news to emerge from Biola University over the past quarter-century.
It was a fascinating journey through history, and along the way we encountered plenty of academic achievements, building projects, questionable student fashions, short-lived magazine designs and alumni director Rick Bee’s evolving facial hair. At the end of it all, we had dozens of contenders for the most newsworthy articles, which we then narrowed down and placed into a somewhat-arbitrary order of importance with the help of faculty volunteers and editorial board members.
Now, here, we present our selections for the 25 most interesting, impactful and era-defining developments for Biola over the past 25 years.
25. Tim Worrell (’90) Pitches in the World Series
The 2002 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels was one of the most exciting in recent memory — made all the more so for Biolans by the presence of Giants relief pitcher Tim Worrell. Worrell, who studied business and physical education at Biola before he was recruited to the major leagues, pitched in six of the seven games (a total of five and two-thirds innings), winning the fourth game and losing the sixth. Ultimately, the Angels prevailed in seven games.
24. A Refreshing Ad Campaign
Aquafina. Evian. Biola? Back in the early 2000s, Biola capitalized on the growing bottled water craze with a creative advertising campaign that featured a bottle wrapped with the Biola logo. The award-winning ads, which popped up on billboards, in magazines and elsewhere, touted the university as “100% pure since 1908” and listed some clever “nutrition facts.” Today, the campaign is long over, but you can still find Biola bottled water (with a recently revamped design) in the campus bookstore.
23. Nightline Discovers Abstinent College Students
Just how strange is it for college students to remain sexually pure? Strange enough, apparently, to make the national news. Back in May 2006, ABC’s Nightline featured Biola in a lengthy segment titled “Inside the College of Abstinence.” The program spotlighted Biola’s community standards agreement — in which students commit to abstinence outside of marriage — and featured interviews with Biola students and staff about why they choose to live by biblical principles.
22. Biola Becomes the Place for Christian Apologetics
Christianity has always faced its share of critics. That’s why, back in 1997, Biola launched an effort to equip more Christians to defend their faith. The M.A. program in Christian apologetics was an instant hit, teaching students of diverse backgrounds how to articulate the evidence for Christianity. In the years since, the program has earned a national reputation, thanks in part to its high-profile debates (No. 12 on the countdown, for example) and nationwide apologetics events (find them at apologeticsevents.com). For a taste of the Christian apologetics program, check out Biola Magazine’s new “Defend Your Faith” column.
21. Professor Gets 3 Million Views on YouTube
Who’d have thought a “Nature of Math” class could be so fun? For April Fool’s Day 2010, math professor Matthew Weathers pulled a high-tech prank on his students, featuring an elaborate showdown between him and his own on-screen shadow. On YouTube, the clip quickly became a viral sensation. To date, it has garnered 3.4 million views (and growing). Weathers, who later discussed the video on CNN, has made it a tradition to post videos each semester on April Fools Day and Halloween. Find them all at www.youtube.com/mdweathers.
20. U.S. News Names Biola an 'Up and Comer'
Biola achieved its highest ranking ever in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings in 2010, earning a spot in the top tier of the “national universities” category. The rankings guide also spotlighted Biola as one of the country’s 28 “up and coming” national universities, alongside schools like the University of Southern California, Wake Forest, Rice, Purdue and Pepperdine.
19. Old Mysterious Logo Replaced by New Mysterious Logo
In 1994, Biola replaced its old logo with a shiny new one. The old logo — in case you’re wondering what it’s supposed to be — “had specifically represented Biola’s four schools,” the magazine said at the time, and had become obsolete with the addition of a fifth school, Crowell School of Business. The new logo, meanwhile, has more going on than many of us ever realized. Here’s what the magazine said:
“ The internal images suggest an open Bible. … The flame depicts God’s holiness and power, intellectual enlightenment, or the lamp of learning. Together these two shapes suggest a descending dove, representing the Holy Spirit, or a leaf portraying growth and vibrancy. Surrounding these shapes are circles, which symbolize the world. … The motion suggested by the circles illustrates Biola’s ongoing endeavor to fulfill its mission.”
18. A Mammoth Discovery
Sorry, graduates from the late 1950s: You weren’t the first residents on Biola’s campus after all. In 2002, the prehistoric remains of a mammoth — a skull, tusk and full set of teeth — were discovered at the construction site of a new dorm, Hope Hall. The fossilized finds made national news, and in the years since, the site has provided hands-on experience to many anthropology and archaeology students.
17. Enrollment Tops 6,000 Students
Biola reached a major milestone in 2010, eclipsing 6,000 students for the first time. The university has broken its enrollment record every year since 1994, meaning more students than ever are being equipped with a biblically centered education. Enrollment has more than doubled in the past 25 years alone.
16. A Boon for Business
With the unveiling of a new $13.3 million classroom building in April 2007, the university made a statement: Biola means business. The state-of-the-art facility serves as home to the university’s Crowell School of Business, which offers an MBA program and Biola’s most popular undergraduate major, business administration.
15. Baseball Four-peats
For a while there, the Yankees had nothing on the Eagles. Between 1998 and 2001, the Biola men’s baseball team captured four straight Golden State Athletic Conference championships — earning its first-ever trip to the NAIA World Series in 2001. The team won the GSAC title again in 2005, earning a second trip to the World Series that same year.
14. Biola Gets a Junior High
It was a match made in heaven. In the 1980s,Biola needed more classroom and office space. Conveniently enough, the local school district owned an unused former junior high school right next door to the university. Thus, in 1987, after nine years of leasing the property, Biola nailed down a deal to buy McNally Junior High for $4 million. Today, the 20-acre property is home to classrooms, faculty offices, various academic departments, a theater and the newly renovated Media Production Center.
13. Extreme Campus Makeover
With enrollment skyrocketing, Biola’s campus underwent a sudden and dramatic expansion in the first several years of the 2000s to make room for all the new students. Among the additions:
Chase Gymnasium Expansion
Soccer Field/Parking Structure
12. Hitchens vs. Craig
What happens when one of the world’s most recognizable atheists goes up against one of the world’s leading defenders of the faith? In April 2009, more than 10,000 people tuned in to find out, as Christopher Hitchens and Biola professor William Lane Craig went head to head in Chase Gymnasium for the “Does God Exist?” debate, which was streamed live around the world. So who won? Decide for yourself by watching the DVD (available at www.doesgodexistdebate.com). Craig, by the way, has since debated prominent atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.
11. Biolans Win Christianity Today Book Awards
In the world of Christian publishing, Christianity Today’s annual book awards are among the top honors an author can receive. So it was exciting news when Talbot School of Theology professors Mike Wilkins and J. P. Moreland picked up an award in 1996 for their book Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Since then, several other Biolans have been honored with CT awards:
2008: Kingdom Triangle, by J.P Moreland (Award of Merit)
2009: To The Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History, co-edited by Mitch Glaser (M.Div. ’78) (Award of Merit)
2010: I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life, by professor Gregg Ten Elshof (M.A. ’96)
2010: God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible, co-edited by professor William Lane Craig
2010: Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church, by Christine A. Colón (’90) and Bonnie E. Field (’91) (Award of Merit)
10. Oxford Comes to Los Angeles
In 1996, Biola launched the Torrey Honors Institute, a unique program that began to attract students seeking an especially rigorous education. Modeled on the Oxford tutorial system, Torrey isn’t a typical classroom experience. Students learn by discussion, as they read and dissect some of the most important books ever written with fellow honors students — with the goal of shaping them into critically thinking, well rounded scholars.
09. The Ringing of the Bells
The Bell Tower — a mixture of art, history and music in one eye-catching landmark — made its debut at the heart of campus in 1987. The tower includes five of the original 11 Meneely bells that were suspended atop Biola’s original downtown Los Angeles building, which chimed out hymns over the city streets for more than 50 years. Tip: Make sure you’re not standing underneath the bells at 9:25 a.m., noon or 6 p.m. Your ears may regret it.
08. Library Leads the Way into 21st Century
As the most ambitious academic building constructed on Biola’s campus to date, the library transformed the way that students research, study and even nap (the recliners on the upper level are a little too comfortable, we’re told). Dedicated in 2001, the three-story facility caters to students of the digital age, offering a staggering number of online databases and technological services — alongside its collection of more than 310,000 print volumes.
07. Radio Silence
After 70 fruitful years of broadcasting, “The Biola Hour” radio ministry was discontinued in June 1992 due to financial struggles. Biola’s presence on the radio dated back to 1922, when the Bible Institute of Los Angeles founded the first religious broadcasting station in the United States, KJS, which aired devotional and doctrinal classes and a nightly children’s program. In those early years, the programs reached people as far away as Canada, Hawaii, Alaska and even Africa.
06. The Jesus Mural
It’s impossible to miss the 30-foot Jesus Mural near the center of Biola’s campus, and it’s almost equally as impossible to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion about it. Painted by world-renowned muralist Kent Twitchell as a gift to the university in 1990, “The Word” is an artistic depiction of Christ holding a Bible. (The pages match the pigmentation of his skin — symbolizing the Word who became flesh.) While the mural is beloved by some, it has also faced numerous criticisms over the years. After a series of community discussions about race, theology and artistic expression — all aimed at building unity — President Corey in 2010 approved the restoration of the mural, which has faded and deteriorated over the years. The restoration is slated for this summer.
05. The New York Times Magazine Camps Out at Biola
In the spring of 2004, reporter Samantha Shapiro spent half of a month living on Biola’s campus — attending classes, eating in the Caf, exploring Missions Conference and hanging out with students at coffee shops and movie theaters. The result was “All God’s Children,” an in-depth, six-page feature in The New York Times Magazine that sought to capture what life at Biola University was all about. The article became the focus of a Biola Magazine cover story later that year, asking, “Did They Get it Right?” (Judge for yourself by reading both articles.)
04. John Thune (’83) Wins a U.S. Senate Seat
Alumnus John Thune sent shockwaves through the political world in November 2004 when he narrowly edged out Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. A 1983 business graduate, Thune has since established a reputation in the Senate as “unfailingly genial, modest and nice” and “conservative at the roots but pragmatic at the surface,” according to New York Times columnist David Brooks. Now in his second Senate term, Thune hinted earlier this year that he might run for president — Stephen Colbert even joked that he “looks like our next president” — but he officially declared himself to be out of the running in February. 2016, perhaps?
03. New President, New Century
In 2007, on the eve of Biola’s second century, a youthful visionary named Barry H. Corey left his native Massachusetts to step into the role of Biola’s eighth president. In his first four years on the job, Corey has continued to push Biola forward as a leader in Christian higher education and has prayerfully helped to navigate the university through a turbulent economy. Corey also launched a new leadership structure for the university in 2008 and — working with the new President’s Administrative Council — recently unveiled a new university plan that maps out Biola’s future over the next 10 years. He’s also quickly won over the hearts of students, evidenced by a huge following on Facebook and the popularity of student-made DBC shirts (short for “Dr. Barry Corey”) around campus.
02. President Clyde Cook Retires
If anyone deserved the title “Mr. Biola,” it was Clyde Cook. As a star basketball player, a three-time graduate, a professor and ultimately president of the university for 25 years, Cook spent most of his life at Biola University. During his years as president — 1982 to 2007 — Cook was an instrumental force in transforming the school from a small Bible college to one of the nation’s largest Christian universities. Under his leadership, Biola’s size and academic reputation grew dramatically, all while holding unswervingly to its biblical heritage. Less than a year after his retirement, Cook died of a heart attack in April 2008, prompting emotional tributes from all around the world. The following year, Biola honored Cook and his wife by naming the Clyde and Anna Belle Cook School of Intercultural Studies in their honor.
You only turn 100 once, and in 2008, Biola looked back on its “Century of Faithfulness” (the year’s theme) with a seemingly unending stream of prayer services, historical celebrations and memorable events. Highlights included a Legacy Gala at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel and a midnight concert from Switchfoot on the actual birthday: Feb. 25, 2008. (Yes, that’s lead singer Jon Foreman presenting President Corey with a birthday cake). The university also marked the year with banners around campus, billboards across Southern California, a photo-filled coffee table book, a centennial clothing line and (ahem) a commemorative edition of Biola Magazine. Said Corey: “No story was bigger than Biola entering a new century without compromising our most deeply held beliefs. God’s word remains at the heart of what we do and who we are as a university committed to making a global impact.”