Clyde Cook, BIOLA Hero
Across Pacific Magazine

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Dr. Clyde Cook
former president of Biola University in Los Angeles

After five years in South Africa, the Cooks came to the United States and settled in Laguna Beach, California, where Clyde was named California Interscholastic Federation basketball player of the year in 1953. He was offered athletic scholarships to thirteen different major universities.

The Biola website says Clyde received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Biola University (1957) and his Master of Divinity (1960) and Master of Theology (1962) from Talbot Theological Seminary. He earned his Doctor of Missiology (1974) at Fuller Theological Seminary.

After graduating from Biola, Clyde served as the school's Athletic Director from 1957 to 1960. From 1963-1967 he and his wife, Anna Belle, were missionaries with O.C. Ministries (then known as Overseas Crusades) in Cebu City in the Philippines. During this time Clyde participated in pastors' conferences, city-wide crusades, lay institute training, youth conferences and Bible school teaching. He traveled extensively, visiting more than 72 countries in athletic and drama evangelism and to represent Biola University. In 1971, he spent six months in the Philippines helping to set up theological extension education programs.

Returning to Biola in 1967 as an Assistant Professor of Missions, Clyde was then appointed Director of Intercultural Studies and Missions and helped to develop Biola's nationally acclaimed program in cross-cultural education. Called to the presidency of O.C. Ministries in 1978, he ably guided the mission organization to an increased level of financial stability and multiplied foreign field effectiveness.

Clyde served on the Biola Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1982 when he was invited by a unanimous vote of the Board to assume the seventh presidency of Biola University on June 1, 1982 and became president emeritus on July 1, 2007.

The Biola website says Dr. Cook served for seven years on the Board of Directors of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and one year as its chair. He also served for six years on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and served as the president of that organization for two years. He served on the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation task force as well as serving as a member of the steering committee for the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents. He served for six years on the executive committee of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of California.

An article entitled: "Well Done -- With integrity and conviction, President Clyde Cook guided Biola to national prominence" by Holly Pivec, states that after 25 years as Biola's president, Clyde Cook retired in June, 2007 a year before the school's 100th anniversary.

Pivec writes that ranked as a "National University" by U.S. News & World Report - the only evangelical school that the magazine groups with the "major leagues" of higher education - Biola is one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation. It boasts new campus buildings, top Christian scholars among its faculty, and one of the largest operating budgets in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

Cook became president in 1982, a year after Biola transitioned from a college to a university. At that time, Biola was facing serious challenges. It had just entered a decade of declining enrollment and dwindling finances. Department funds were being slashed, and staff and faculty salaries were frozen. Discouragement set in across campus.

Most universities saw sharp declines in enrollment in the 1980s, after the number of Baby Boomers peaked. Biola's enrollment dropped from 3,181 in 1980 to 2,566 in 1989 - 615 students. On top of that, the year before Cook took over, the University received about 20 percent less donations than it had planned for; yet, it adopted a 17 percent higher budget, creating about a 37 percent shortfall. Cook had to quickly cut $1.3 million.

In Pivec's article, Dr. Ed Thurber, who has served as a math professor at Biola since 1971., was quoted as saying: "Dr. Cook is really a man of the Lord. That came out early in his presidency. There was no doubt about how he loved the Lord and how that was central to everything."

Cook faced an unforeseen obstacle two years into his presidency. At age 49, he had a major heart attack, a type so serious that it's called "the widowmaker" - 100 percent blockage of his heart's left main artery. Cook remained in critical condition for five days and was hospitalized for 24. Many people feared that his term as president would be cut short.

However, says Pivec, Cook recovered and became Biola's longest-serving president and one of the most beloved. He also became one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation in a career where the average tenure is seven years at a private school and five years at a public one, according to the American Council on Education.

Pivec says perseverance was nothing new to Cook, who faced adversity at an early age.

A Missionary At Heart

Cook, a fourth generation missionary, never aspired to be a university president, but, instead, always saw himself as a missionary. Born in 1935, Cook grew up in Hong Kong. When the Japanese invaded in 1941, he, his parents and five siblings were imprisoned for six months in three separate concentration camps. They nearly starved to death - as many of their fellow prisoners did - on a diet of rice and soup made with only a few Chinese greens.

Pivec says they later settled in Laguna Beach, California, where Cook excelled on his high school basketball team. As the 1953 California Interscholastic Federation's "Basketball Player of the Year," Cook received lucrative scholarship offers from 13 colleges and universities. He planned to play for the University of Southern California, but, two weeks before classes started, he began to rethink his priorities.

"I wanted to invest my life in something that would last for eternity," Cook said.

Pivec says Cook enrolled at Biola Bible College to prepare for professional Christian ministry. There, he met his wife, Anna Belle Lund ('55), and earned three degrees: a bachelor's degree in Bible, a master of divinity and a master of theology. After a five-year stint as Biola's athletic director and coach of the men's sports teams, he, Anna Belle and their two young children, Laura and Craig, left as missionaries to the Philippines. But they returned four years later for Cook to head Biola's missions department, which he did for 12 years. In 1979, Cook was appointed the president of Overseas Crusades, a missions agency (now called O.C. International), succeeding evangelist Luis Palau.

Pivec says that Biola's Board of Trustees watched as Cook grew Overseas Crusades and increased its financial stability. So, when then-president Dick Chase left in 1982 to become the president of Wheaton College, the Board invited Cook to be Biola's seventh president.

According to Pivec, after praying about the offer, Cook felt he could do more to influence world missions as the president of a Christian university than he could as the president of a missions agency. So, with the blessing of Overseas Crusades' board, he accepted their offer.

When Cook stepped into his new office, he knew, first off, that he needed to change some minds. Now a university, Biola needed to start seeing itself as one, says Pivec.

Changing the Mindset

Many people on campus still thought of Biola more like a Bible college - or even a church - than an academic institution, and it was run accordingly. An incident early in Cook's presidency illustrates this mindset.

One of Cook's first actions was to get women on the Board of Trustees. Although more than half of the students were women, some Board members felt that the Bible prohibited female leadership of a Christian institution. Cook felt otherwise. When he broached the issue, however, there was stiff opposition.

Still, the issue kept bugging him. So, a year later, he brought it up again.
Cook wrote a paper arguing that the Bible addressed female leadership in a church, not an academic institution like Biola. His argument took hold.

"For the Board, it wasn't a bias against women; some members felt it was compromising with the Bible," Cook said.

The dawning realization that Biola was a university helped change their minds. A year later, they voted to bring Carol (Carlson) Lindskog onto the Board.

"Carol has done such a good job," Cook said, adding that, since then, three more women have joined her.

Cook also began to set up a university structure for Biola, under the direction of then-provost and senior vice president, Dr. Robert Fischer. The entire advancement division - including student recruitment, marketing and fundraising - was created under Cook's watch.

Under Cook, Biola also added graduate programs that strengthened its academic profile, including three new schools: the School of Intercultural Studies, the School of Professional Studies and the Crowell School of Business.

In Pivec's article, Cook's close friend, Chuck Swindoll, the founder of Insight for Living radio ministry and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, said: "Dr. Cook treats everyone the same. It doesn't matter if they're a tenured faculty member or a first-year student."

Even the timing of Cook's retirement has been viewed as an example of his humility, since it gave the new president the limelight during Biola's centennial celebration.

Under Cook, and at the urging of Wes Willmer, the vice president of university advancement, the University Planning Group was also launched, which has helped define Biola's niche in higher education as Protestant, evangelical, non-denominational and theologically conservative. As Biola has honed in on these distinctives - especially in communicating its conservative evangelical stances - enrollment and financial support have gone up, according to Willmer. The University Planning Group also has helped formulate Biola's vision to become "a global center for Christian thought and spiritual renewal."

Faith and Academics

Many secular universities have treated faith as antagonistic to academics, or at least as periphery to it. But, for Cook, Christianity has always been the core of an education.

In that light, says Pivec, Cook kept the requirement that all undergraduate students take 30 semester-units in Bible, making Biola one of only two schools to require this many units in the 105-member Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

Cook also encouraged faculty to teach every discipline from a biblical worldview by introducing "faculty integration seminars," where faculty are taught how to combine their faith with their disciplines. A "seventh-semester sabbatical" was also created, which allows professors to apply for a research leave every seven semesters - if they are doing research that combines their faith with their fields -- instead of waiting seven years for a sabbatical.

Cook also hired faculty who would strengthen Biola academically, but who were also ministry minded, according to Dollar. "Schools tend to go in one direction or the other, but Dr. Cook moved the school in both of those directions at the same time," Dollar said.

Cook, himself, believed one of his biggest achievements was "maintaining Biola's spiritual dynamic and not compromising it for the sake of secular academic respectability."

The key for keeping Biola on track, doctrinally, was its faculty, according to Cook.

Another one of Cook's doctrinal legacies is his commitment to inerrancy - the teaching that the Bible is without error in its original manuscripts. Though some Christians urged Cook to drop this doctrine - considering it unimportant - many Biolans have applauded Cook for his staunch stance.

As a missionary, Cook also saw everything in light of the Great Commission. To keep Biola's historical thrust on missions, he turned the small missions department into an entire school - the School of Intercultural Studies - and he fought to keep the annual missions conference, even though it takes away three days from classes.

Cook also broadened Biola's understanding of missions, urging all students to see themselves as missionaries - not just those headed for cross-cultural ministry. During graduation ceremonies, he often reminded them that they were entering their mission fields - in the boardrooms, public schools and film studios.

This missionary zeal, applied to all careers, has resulted in a new era of impact for Biola, says Pivec.

Progressive Evangelicalism

Cook's mainstreaming of missions led Biola to new ways of influencing the culture, Pivec says. The film program, for example - known as one of the nation's top Christian film programs - has produced graduates like Scott Derrickson ('89, '90), the co-writer and director of the successful, spiritually themed Exorcism of Emily Rose (Sony Pictures, 2005).

The Torrey Honors Institute, an honors program for undergraduate students, was started in 1996.

The Master of Arts in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics Program is viewed widely as the leading one of its kind, and it boasts more than 100 graduates in top Ph.D. programs for philosophy, including the University of Notre Dame.
Pivec credits the growing reputations of programs like as causong major media outlets to seek Biola for an evangelical perspective, including, in recent years, The New York Times Magazine, ABC News' Nightline and the BBC.

These programs have also contributed to several years of record enrollments at Biola, she says.

Unprecedented Growth

Since Cook's arrival, Biola's enrollment nearly doubled to 5,752 - a growth that has outpaced public, private and many other Christian colleges and universities.

The campus also has been built up, including the purchase of 20 acres that adjoin the campus in 1988 and the additions of a state-of-the-art athletic field, a tennis complex, two new residence halls and a new library. Construction is underway on a 32,000-square-foot classroom building that will house Crowell School of Business.

Off campus, Biola has added six extension sites throughout Southern California and three overseas: in Chiang Mai, Thailand; Klaipeda, Lithuania; and Kiev, Ukraine. Another one is planned for Manhattan, New York.

The profile of incoming students has also improved, with the average GPA going up from 3.15 to 3.53 and the average SAT going up from 1025 to 1125.

The endowment, virtually non-existent in 1982, is now over $43.5 million. And the budget has grown nearly ten times, from about $13 million to over $125 million. Net assets have grown from $33 million to $115 million.

After his retirement, Cook took the office of president emeritus to serve Biola however the new president desired, says Pivec. Cook believed the biggest challenge for his successor would be fundraising for the nearly $200 million in new buildings, including a larger building for Talbot School of Theology; expansions of Sutherland Hall, Crowell Hall, Bardwell Hall and the Student Union Building; a four-story classroom building; a five-level parking garage and a convocation center.

Aftre his retirement, Cook also planned spend time with Anna Belle, their children and six grandchildren, including their oldest grandchild, Candace, who was then a freshman at Biola.

Pivec says some of Cook's best memories are commencement ceremonies, seeing eager graduates going out to fulfill Biola's mission of impacting the world for Christ.

"The world needs a place like Biola that does not compromise, that's rigorous in its academic programs - a place where parents can send their children, not to have their values undermined, but built up," Cook said.

At his retirement, many Biolans said they couldn't imagine Biola without Cook. But Cook always reminded himself that he's the temporary office holder and wanted to hold his work at Biola lightly, Pivec writes.

"It's so easy for me to think I'm Mr. Biola," Cook said at the time. "But there were presidents before me and presidents will come after me," he said. "This is God's work and it's His mission, and He's going to see it through."

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael's involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of ACT International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (ACT) International.


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