March 14, 2024

PBA Celebrates Founders Day with CCCU President Dr. Shirley Hoogstra

PBA News

West Palm Beach, Fla. Thursday, March 14, 2024 – On Wednesday, March 13, Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) marked Founders Day by welcoming Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), to its campus. The celebration was a vibrant testament to the university’s enduring legacy and continued vision-building. Events included a chapel service and a luncheon to honor four retiring faculty members.

During the chapel service, Executive Vice President of Advancement Laura Bishop, who hosted the service, took a moment to honor the visionaries of PBA. She extended gratitude to present and former Board of Trustee members, faculty, staff, and all those whose efforts have sculpted the university’s 55-year history.

A pivotal moment of the celebration was the screening of a historic reflection video, which served as a poignant reminder that what seems impossible to man is indeed possible with God.

Shirley Hoogstra on the Importance of Christian Higher Education

Shirley Hoogstra, J.D., is the current president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), a global association supporting over 185 institutions worldwide, including Palm Beach Atlantic University. Hoogstra believes PBA is an exceptional testament to the significance of Christian higher education today, as it has not only embraced but also surpassed the vision of its founders.

“Most campuses take 100 to 155 years to get where you are,” said Hoogstra. Her observation underscored the rapid development and significant achievements of the university within a relatively short period. “I think that shows God’s favor on you and where you are today and that the vision of your founders was exactly right.”

Hoogstra, in her presentation “Why Christian Higher Education Still Matters,” pointed out that CCCU member schools are unique compared to most schools because they continually strive to integrate faith in learning and making disciples out of students. By teaching counter-culture, these institutions differ from others in three distinct ways:

  1. Faculty integrate biblical truths into classes and research.
  2. The spiritual foundation of students is as important as academics.
  3. Serving the purpose of creating a redemptive force in this world by creating students to live the Gospel.

“Instead of being self-interested, you all are being educated to be ‘other’ interested. And instead of having things our way, your motto is ‘God’s Way,'” Hoogstra said.

Her presentation touched on existential questions of purpose and the profound impact of faith-based education on preparing students for future challenges.

A Reminder of Divine Possibilities

Sharing her journey, from graduating from a Christian school where her goal was to become a teacher to enrolling in a secular university to pursue a career in law, Hoogstra illustrated how her faith, education and experience influenced every phase of her career and gave her an unparalleled advantage.

Hoogstra graduated from a Christian college with an elementary and junior high education degree. Education taught her how to be adaptable and always prepared. She then went on to take a masterclass from Columbia University about law in education. After taking the LSAT for the first time, she found herself in a secular education setting. In law school, she discovered her passion for collaborative problem-solving.

“Because I graduated from a Christian college, I actually had an advantage in law school. I had the advantage that we believe there is a moral compass and that there was actually a moral authority,” Hoogstra said.

Hoogstra strived to always do right as a lawyer by following Christian morals, the law, and her clients. She always worked through ethical issues to love her clients through the problems they brought to her. Hoogstra wanted to give them the law advice and compassion they desperately needed.

Eventually, she left the firms she worked at to become a vice president for student life at Calvin University. Hoogstra never imagined taking the position but knew God tended to work in dramatic ways and called for his believers to serve him boldly. She trusted God to accept the position and loved working in higher education. The CCCU helped her learn how to be an effective leader in her position and learn how to serve students from all backgrounds. She believes God was already preparing her for another career pivot fourteen years later.

In 2013, the CCCU president job became available, and Hoogstra once again did not believe it would be her taking the job. However, she found that the position needed both a lawyer and an educator. Hoogstra believes God had prepared her in a very special way to excel in the role and become an advocate for Christian education on a national level.

Hoogstra’s message to the students was one of encouragement and wisdom. She urged them to seek divine guidance in decision-making, to consult the wise counsel of others, and to reflect on how they have been prepared for the roles they feel called to pursue. She closed with a poignant reminder to students that their choice to be educated in a Christian higher education institution is already a step in embracing the purpose and direction God has for their lives. “Throughout your life, starting with the day you said ‘yes’ to the admissions letter from Palm Beach Atlantic, you are going to see God knitting together your life in small ways and big ways. Let me remind you that nothing is wasted in God’s economy. You are going to have an adventure that is greater than you can hope or imagine.”

Honoring those who Continue to PBA’s Legacy

 In the spirit of gratitude and recognition, during the luncheon, PBA honored four remarkable faculty members entering retirement. Denise Breitkreuz, associate professor of Health and Human Performance and the Director of the Health and Human Performance Program, served PBA for 19 years; Mike Griffin, associate professor of Intercultural Studies and the Chair of the Intercultural Studies Department, has enriched the School of Ministry for 10 years; Don Piper, professor of Sports Broadcasting and associate dean of the College of the Arts, has been instrumental in shaping the voices and visions of aspiring media professionals for 15 years and Larry Shyers, professor of Counseling and chair of the Counselor Education Program at the Orlando Campus, joined the university eight years ago and has played a crucial role in advancing the practice and understanding of counseling.

Watch the recap of Founders Day.

We are celebrating 55 years of PBA! We have seen God’s hand at work in countless ways, and we are so grateful for the growth He has blessed us with. In 1968, PBA looked vastly different than it does today — now a sprawling urban campus along the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of West Palm Beach. As we celebrate our 55th Anniversary, we want to hear how you have been impacted by PBA. You can submit your story here. 

Related Articles

Back to All News