Through Palm Beach cardiologist Dr. Donald Warren, some of America’s wealthiest businessmen came to know about — and to give generously to — the small but growing Christian college that became Palm Beach Atlantic University.
But Dr. Warren, PBA’s founding chairman, insists that he is not a fund-raiser. “I’m a storyteller,” he said Monday during a special chapel presentation on the first day of classes for the spring semester.
“I’ve never asked anybody for any money. However, I’ve told them what we’re doing for Christ and given them great opportunity to give of money,” he said during a question-and-answer session with University President William M. B. Fleming Jr.
Dr. Warren said that in his medical office, he never talked to anyone about the college unless the person brought it up.
One of Dr. Warren’s most noteworthy patients who became a major benefactor of PBA was the late John D. MacArthur, who was one of the nation’s three wealthiest men at the time of his death in 1978. Another, he said, was Rich DeVos, co-founder of Amway and owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
“God led me to Palm Beach to be a physician,” said Dr. Warren, who received the 2013 Community Leader Award from the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, among numerous other accolades.
Dr. Warren served as chairman of the Palm Beach Atlantic University Board of Trustees from 1968 to his retirement on Dec. 31, 2006, after which he became a life trustee.
He was instrumental in helping the University assemble the more than 100 parcels of land on which the main campus now sits. The most recent acquisition was the former Quattlebaum funeral home property, which PBA obtained last year.
Asked if he ever thought the University would acquire the funeral home, Dr. Warren replied, “I certainly did,” adding that he expects PBA eventually will acquire the few parcels that still remain.
Dr. Warren said the idea for the college grew out of discussions that he and Founding President Dr. Jess Moody, then pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, had in the 1960s about the declining state of education in the United States. Then one day, he heard a report in which he learned that that South Florida was in one of the “most unchurched, unsaved” parts of the country at that time.
“That night, in my prayers, I knew we had to do it,” Dr. Warren said.
Near the end of the chapel hour, Dr. Warren was asked whether PBA is important to America. “Extremely,” he said.
“When we started our main objective was to produce graduates who would be the lay leaders of their churches and the moral leaders of their communities,” he said, adding that he believes that PBA can play a large role in reversing “the moral decline of America.”
PBA's Warren Library is named after Dr. Warren and his wife, Bebe. In 2009, Dr. Warren published a book about PBA titled “Miracles and Wonders: A Chronicle of Palm Beach Atlantic University.”
Dr. Warren is slated to speak in chapel again on Tuesday.