André Stephens, Ph.D., will be inaugurated as 14th President of Fresno Pacific University Friday, March 31, 2023, in a ceremony beginning at 10:00 a.m. in the Special Events Center on the main FPU campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave., Fresno.
Special guests will include speakers Shirly V. Hoogstra, president of Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, and Barry H. Corey, president, Biola University. Matthew Grundy, deputy mayor of Fresno, will provide the invocation.
The investiture pronouncement and prayer will be by Joshua Wilson, J.D., chair of the FPU Board of Trustees, and Jordan Ringhofer, M.A., trustee and minister of the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, with which the university is affiliated.
Members of the board of trustees and university leadership team will be at the ceremony, as well as faculty in academic regalia. Students, staff and a variety of community guests will be present, including some past presidents. Following the inauguration the FPU community and invited guests will celebrate with a picnic on the Campus Green. President Stephens will throw out the first pitch at FPU’s home baseball game against Hawaii Pacific University in the afternoon.
Stephens assumed the duties of the presidency on July 1, 2022, culminating 30 years of experience in Christian higher education in California, most recently as vice president for student development at Biola University. In this cabinet role, he led a team that fostered the Christian character of students in many areas of campus life. Before moving into the vice presidency, Stephens was associate vice president of university admissions. A member of Biola’s enrollment management team since 1991, he started as an admissions counselor. Among his professional honors, Stephens has served as the president of the North American Coalition for Christian Admissions Professionals (NACCAP) and received the group’s “Admissions Officer of the Year” Award in 2012. He has also been a facilitator and mentor for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) Leadership Development Institute and is currently chair of the CCCU Commission for Chief Student Development Officers.
Stephens completed his B.A. in Communication with a public relations emphasis from Biola, his M.A. in Speech Communication with an emphasis in intercultural/interpersonal communication from California State University at Fullerton and his Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in higher education administration/student affairs from Claremont Graduate University. He and First Lady Beth Stephens, also a Biola graduate, have three children.
Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D., is a visionary leader who is passionate about Christian higher education and the role it plays in the common good. The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) is the national voice for Christian higher education and Fresno Pacific University is a governing member of the Washington, DC-based organization. She travels the country highlighting the value and purpose of high-quality, Christ-centered liberal arts education that shapes the heart, soul and mind. President Stephens is delighted to partner with President Hoogstra to promote Christian colleges and universities as a part of a diverse, pluralistic system of higher education.
Barry H. Corey, Ph.D., has led Biola University since 2007 and is known for his heart and commitment to Christian higher education. As a Fulbright scholar, Corey lived in Bangladesh and researched educational programs for children of the landless poor. He is in the author of two books, Make the Most of It: A Guide to Loving Your College Years and Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue (Tyndale, 2016). At Biola, Stephens worked closely with President Corey, and the two continue as valued colleagues promoting the positive impact of Christian higher education in California.
The sun shone September 18, 1944, on 28 students and a handful of teachers, parents and friends at a building on Van Ness Avenue in Fresno. With a stanza of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” class began at Pacific Bible Institute, operated by the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The members of this small, immigrant denomination who grew up more comfortable with German than English had no idea their school would grow to five campuses and 24,000 alumni that reach throughout the Central Valley and beyond.
Today’s main campus began in 1959 when Sattler Hall rose from an old cotton field at the corner of Chestnut and Butler avenues. Within a year the school would be Pacific College with a two-year junior college curriculum, and in 1965 the first bachelor’s degree programs were accredited, with a master’s program approved in 1974.
In the 1980s, Fresno Pacific began “Broadening the Base,” an effort to engage more students and supporters from a variety of backgrounds while remaining centered on Christ. Bachelor’s degree completion (DC) programs came in 1990, with classes opening in Visalia in 1992 and in Bakersfield and Merced in 1996. Today all locations and North Fresno have dedicated regional campuses, and DC is the largest student population.
Also reaching the Valley and beyond are the Center for Community Transformation, a seminary program that works with faith-based organizations to bring Shalom to the region, and the Center for Continuing Education, which each year serves over 8,000 people nationally through continuing education and professional development.
As Fresno Pacific has reached out, its student body has become the diverse face of the Central Valley. Today 49% of all students are the first in their families to attend college, 56% identify as Hispanic, 67% come from families earning less than $40,000 a year and 98% receive financial aid. Students from 40 countries and many religious traditions. Sunbird athletics fields 16 teams in NCAA Division II, and music and theater enrich the community.
What has remained true since that spring day in 1944 is that Fresno Pacific University is still the only independent four-year Christian university founded in the Central Valley, with programs that emphasize values, ethics and character development.