Sundoulos - Winter 2007

Faithful to our Mission, Growing for Our Future

On February 25, 1908, The Bible Institute of Los Angeles was founded to equip men and women to be effective ministers of the gospel in a world that was becoming increasingly secular.

Formed by the Rev. T.C. Horton and Lyman Stewart, founder of Union Oil Company, the non-denominational school offered degrees in Bible training, hosted the nation’s largest Christian magazine, The King’s Business, and aired the first Christian radio program west of the Mississippi, which later became known as “The Biola Hour.”

Enrollment grew rapidly under the direction of Biola’s first dean, R.A. Torrey (1911–1925). By 1915, the school had more than 1,000 students and was housed in 13-story twin towers in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, this was the tallest building in the city. By the late 1920s,

Biola had already graduated many influential Christian leaders, such as author and pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse and Charles Fuller, who later founded Fuller Theological Seminary.

But even with the steady growth of Christian schools like Biola, the 1920s and 30s were a time when many of the nation’s leading seminaries began to take a “liberal” stand on the basic doctrines of the faith. The leadership of Biola decided in 1936 that it was time to expand the school’s curriculum to include a Bachelor of Theology degree. In 1943, Biola established the Bible Theological Seminary of Los Angeles to recognize those students doing seminary level work.

During this time, Dr. Louis T. Talbot, then pastor of the Church of the Open Door, was serving his second tenure as Biola’s president (1932-1935, 1938-1952). He saw the increasing need for Biola to offer a three-year seminary degree to effectively fill the gap left by the liberal seminaries.

In 1952, during his last year as Biola’s president, Talbot worked to establish a fully accredited theological seminary. The seminary’s first dean was noted Christian scholar Charles Feinberg, who, along with his colleagues, unanimously voted to name the seminary “Talbot Theological Seminary.” In 1981, the seminary’s name was changed to “Talbot School of Theology” when Biola moved from college to university status.

Today, Talbot School of Theology is one of the nation’s leading evangelical seminaries and continues to grow with the needs of Christian leaders, offering ten different Master of Arts majors or emphases, the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), the Master of Theology (Th.M.), and three doctoral degrees.

When Myers Hall was constructed to house Talbot in 1962, 46 students attended. A chapel that included office and classroom space was added in 1975 when enrollment reached 460. In 1999, student population had reached 664. During the fall semester of 2007, 1,119 students were enrolled at Talbot (up 10% from just the previous year). Since 1999, the number of full-time Talbot faculty has grown from 40 to 62, and administrative staff from 13 to 23.

Biola University also has experienced healthy growth, up 120% in the past 15 years. During that same time, enrollment increased just 12.8% at public colleges and universities, 28% at private schools, and 70.6% at institutions belonging to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (of which Biola is a member). Clearly, Biola is providing what the Christian community desires—a quality university education taught from a biblical worldview.

Biola’s growth deeply impacts Talbot School of Theology, as Talbot plays a strategic role at Biola. Talbot not only is a comprehensive seminary, preparing men and women for professional ministry, it also enables the entire University to fulfill its mission and vision. Talbot helps ensure that every course is taught from a biblical worldview, anchors Biola as a Global Center for Christian Thought, and provides the impetus to serve as a Global Center for Spiritual Renewal. Each year, over 3,000 undergraduates develop a biblical worldview under the guidance of Talbot professors. At Biola, all undergraduate students are required to take 30 units of Bible and theology, nearly all of which are taught by Talbot faculty.

Although the demand for Talbot classes has skyrocketed, no new facilities have been added since 1975. Classes are scattered across Biola’s campus, and faculty offices are located in five separate buildings. To serve Talbot’s growing needs, and to provide educational facilities to enable Talbot to its mission well into the 21st century, Biola’s Board of Trustees has approved a plan to create a “campus within a campus” for the School of Theology. The multi-million dollar plan includes two new instructional and office buildings, the renovation of the existing Feinberg Hall, and a community gathering plaza with café.

The new buildings will frame the existing Calvary Chapel/Feinberg Hall building, creating a defined campus area specifically for Talbot students, faculty and staff. Currently, Talbot classes and faculty offices are spread across Biola University’s campus, utilizing space in buildings belonging to a number of other campus disciplines. The vision for the new Talbot project is to bring all facets of Talbot School of Theology together into one campus area, improving the quality of the seminary experience for all involved.

With Biola’s completion of five new buildings in the last decade, the University continues to raise the standard for campus architecture, and the new Talbot campus design will continue the trend. The experience of light, color and artistic expression in the architectural design is expected to reflect the glory and variety of God’s creation. The complex roofline and building massing will have a visual rhythm, allowing the new construction to fit comfortably into its surrounds, while making a contemporary statement. Use of varied landscaping, mixing Southern California palms with Biola’s historic olive trees will lend a Mediterranean flavor which references the land of Israel.

In recognition of our responsibility to be faithful stewards of creation, the new Talbot buildings will exploit several environmentally friendly, “green” features:

• The “green roof ”—rooftop gardens—both cools the building and it keeps rainwater from simply running off.

• Two of the major stair towers are clad with photo-voltaic panels that will produce some of the electricity used by the building

• Faculty office windows feature a sun shading device that blocks much of the sun, but also offers a second feature. The device, which is set about 25% of the way down from the top of the window, shades sunlight from coming directly in, but also bounces light through the top part of the window, sending it deeply into the room, proving soft, indirect natural light in the offices.

• All windows will be treated with ceramic material called “fritting,” similar to the pinstripes in the Library windows. This material reflects light out of the building, preventing it from heating the interior. In this case, faculty offices will be treated with a polka-dot pattern, and some special, larger windows will be fritted with text drawn from scripture, appearing in English, Greek, and Hebrew.

The modern and monumental look of the proposed Talbot School of Theology complex will be matched with modern and technologically-advanced features to support learning and research. Rooms and the outdoor plaza areas will offer wireless Internet access. High-tech presentations will be supported with rooms wired for high quality audio and video content. Global communication will be facilitated by videoconferencing stations. To ensure student and staff security, building features include closed-circuit monitoring and magnetic card entry portals.

The proposed new complex will be a noticeable feature of Biola University’s main campus entrance on Biola Avenue, providing Talbot a rightful place at the front of the university community.

William Carey, nineteenth century missionary to India, said, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.” To move the Talbot School of Theology complex from dream to reality will require the prayers and commitment of many faithful people. The multi-million dollar expansion plan will necessitate the largest fundraising effort in the history of the University. As Biola University and Talbot School of Theology celebrate the university’s 100th anniversary in 2008, we remember our heritage and eagerly anticipate the future. We earnestly request your prayers as we “attempt great things for God” in our day and looking to the future at Talbot School of Theology.

To learn more about Biola’s plans for the Talbot School of Theology complex or to find out how you can be involved, please contact Adam Morris, Senior Director of Stewardship and Resource Development at (562) 903-4714 or

Project details:

  • Two new buildings (Talbot East and Talbot West), totaling 88,000 square feet
  • Renovation and updating of Feinberg Hall
  • 28 classrooms
  • 80-90 faculty offices
  • Student and faculty access to advanced audio-visual and Internet technology
  • New faculty/student meeting spaces
  • Outdoor plaza with café linking the three Talbot buildings

The proposed design for the complex features a modern sensibility with traditional architectural references. Incorporating the campus’s signature red brick motif at the base, the buildings rise with large expanses of angular glass and composite panels, signaling strength and vitality. The architectural style has sought to reflect a certain sort of gravitas—a “joyful seriousness.”

One special element of the new complex will be rooftop gardens, paying homage to Biola University’s Bible Institute roots in downtown Los Angeles. The Bible Institute building erected in 1913 at Sixth and Hope Streets no longer stands, but it was an impressive 13-story structure, with gardens on the rooftops for studying, relaxing and praying.

The new Talbot complex will bring back this feature, affording the Talbot community much-needed outdoor study and meeting space—and reinforcing Talbot’s heritage at Biola University.

Another anticipated feature of the Talbot complex is an elevated, 2-story reading room enclosed in glass. Overlooking the community plaza, the reading room will be a peaceful, inspirational space to read and meditate, journal, research and write. The lofty ceiling height and views across the plaza to all of Biola’s campus will be spectacular. The glass-sheathed structure will be sited toward the lighted beacon on the library building roof, connoting the important connection of faith and reason.

Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639