Palm Beach Atlantic Universtity
FROM THE PRESIDENT - Why a Christian University?
What an honor, I reflected, at the ceremony to mark my installation as the ninth President
of Palm Beach Atlantic University. I thanked God for all those who had prayed and
worked over the years to build this great Christian university. And my thoughts returned
to this foundational question: What is the best way to describe a Christian university?
Some think of a Christian university as a school linked to one of the Christian denominations.
Palm Beach Atlantic was founded by Baptist pastors and Baptist lay persons, but from
its inception, PBA has welcomed students of all faiths. Today we have a 3,700-member
student body with a wonderful diversity of denominational preference. (See chart on
Others think of universities that long ago were founded by churches, but that today
don’t seem much different from a purely secular university. Perhaps a better term
for these schools is “historically Christian.” By contrast, PBA is a Christian university
that has stayed true to its founding principles as a “Christ-first university,” with
the motto: Enlightening Minds, Enriching Souls, Extending Hands. There are two primary
requirements that have made it possible for PBA to stay on that mission:
First, all faculty and staff agree, in writing, that they believe in and affirm in
principle and practice the basic Christian doctrines. Secondly, all faculty commit
to the integration of their faith into their various disciplines. This has broad implications.
It means a call to excellence, to creativity and to Christian discipleship.
We surveyed faculty, asking why they teach at PBA. Nursing professor Dr. Kathy McKinnon
responded, “I believe that enriching the spiritual lives of our students is a calling
and privilege and will equip them to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives while leading
them to intellectual, spiritual and personal character development.”
Consider what happens to many professing Christian students after four years at a
school not providing that kind of spiritual support. Consultant Dr. Steven Henderson
followed 18,000 students in a national study, and found that 52 to 70 percent of all
Christian students who go to a non-Christian college will no longer identify themselves
as Christian and/or will not have attended any religious service within the last 12
months before they were surveyed. What a tragedy!
I am so thankful for our dedicated faculty and staff who nurture faith as well as
intellect. See pages 18-19 to read more examples of how professors explained why they
teach here. For the result of that teaching and nurturing, read the rest of this magazine
to learn about some of our amazing students and graduates.
But you might ask, does the Christian university isolate students in an unrealistic
Christian “bubble”? PBA ministry professor Dr. Justin Hardin prefers to frame a Christian
university not as a bubble, but rather a greenhouse: “a place where young saplings
can grow and mature, where they can take firm root and be sheltered from the violent
winds of the world. And when they are ready, they can leave the greenhouse and live
in the world with strong roots and limbs, ready to weather the storms of life and
equipped to provide shade and shelter for others.”
Amen to that! I am so thankful to be a part of this vibrant “greenhouse” that’s sending
out graduates as strong servant leaders who will impact their world for good. I invite
you to join with us in this impactful greenhouse effort; find out how on page 17.
Dr. Debra A. Schwinn