Sundoulos - Summer 2008

Dean's Column

A Tale of Two Presidents

by Dr. Dennis Dirks

This has been a rich centennial year for Biola University, rehearsing and giving thanks for God’s faithfulness, welcoming a new President, and offering final farewell to another.

Dr. Clyde Cook

(1935-2008; President, Biola University, 1982-2007)

This spring we observed the home-going of President Emeritus Dr. Clyde Cook, whose abundant legacy will continue to mark Biola University for generations to follow. Twenty-five years as President established his as one of the longest tenures in Christian higher education. Dr. Cook’s far-reaching life of service for his Lord extended quite literally around the world. He was a cherished leader, a man of dauntless courage, determination, relentless perseverance, boldness, and deep, uncommon, unyielding conviction. We marveled at his tenacious spirit, his unbending sense of obligation to accomplish his God-given tasks, to fulfill the vision etched on his heart. By his unswerving faith and devotion, he reminded us frequently to cling to the cross.

The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Still we say, blessed be the name of the Lord.

One of my first experiences with Dr. Cook on an administrative level was shortly after he became President of Biola. By way of the Provost, Dr. Cook had asked me to consider serving as Talbot’s Associate Dean. I had just completed a Ph.D. while teaching full-time, conducting church seminars nearly every weekend for an international church educational ministry, taking denominational history and polity courses for ordination and being grilled by an ordination panel, actively serving in my church, and raising a young family. I was bone-tired. I declined the invitation, with appreciation for being considered.

Within a day, President Cook called me into his office, sat me down at a round table, and placed himself within inches of my face. His wordless stare straight into my eyes seemed like it would never end. At last, without blinking a piercing blue eye, he spoke. “Dennis, one of us is out of God’s will!” Still no blinking, no expression that I could analyze for clues to his mood. I snickered, then cracked up in laughter. Still no sign in his face, no hint of anything. Slowly, sheepishly, as sincerely as possible, I said I would pray some more and left the room. Two days later I accepted the position. What a recruiting style!

Dr. Barry Corey

(President, Biola University, 2007- )

In this 100th anniversary year, our Father’s rich provision gave Biola another man of God as President. Dr. Barry Corey’s deeply-rooted, explicit convictions united with sincere humility were immediately observable. Embracing Biola’s historic commitments with vigor, his esteem for Biola’s heritage is unambiguous; he rehearses and renews these ideals with regularity. Dr. Corey has demonstrated himself a guardian of the faith. Energy and enthusiasm for the massive task of guiding a large, complex institution distinguishes his leadership, in his words from “strength to strength.”

I’ve known Dr. Corey for at least six years, longer if my first conversation with him in 1997 counts. Dr. Corey was then Vice President for Advancement at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary outside Boston. I was on sabbatical, visiting sister seminaries, trying to learn all I could about things to which Talbot needed to give attention. Fund-raising was one such area of urgent need and I was struck by Dr. Corey’s principled approach. Later, we spent many hours in thoughtful conversation during annual meetings of the Evangelical Seminary Deans Council and periodic meetings of the Association of Theological Schools. At one such gathering, I noticed Dr. Corey absorbed in discussion with Talbot’s Assistant Dean. Wanting to dispel any possibility of losing a quality co-laborer, I cut into the conversation and made some quip about his enlistment tactics. My experience with Dr. Cook had made me suspicious of potential recruitment strategies, but Dr. Corey assured me he had no such ploy in mind.

Even as we mourn the loss of Dr. Cook, we are grateful for Dr. Corey’s Christ-centered leadership and pray God’s direction as he steers Biola from “strength to strength.”

Dr. Dennis Dirks is Dean of Talbot School of Theology and Professor Christian Education. He has been with Talbot for more than 27 years as a faculty member and administrator after serving on the staff of two churches.

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