A sell-out crowd of well over 400 people celebrated Fresno Pacific University’s 75th anniversary at a gala Nov. 2, 2019. The elegant evening saw many current and former administration, faculty and staff as well as supporters in tuxedos and gowns on the main FPU campus. In the late afternoon, hors d’oeuvres including shrimp and several kinds of cheese were served on the University Green as people visited at tables and a jazz combo provided music.
As the sun set, people found their way into a transformed and sparkling Special Events Center. Music continued with a string trio and later Pacific Brass as guests enjoyed filet mignon, grilled chicken breast and a combination of delicate desserts.
The program featured a historical video telling the story of Pacific Bible Institute, Pacific College, Fresno Pacific College and Fresno Pacific University as the school grew from its original location on North Van Ness Avenue to five campuses in Merced, North Fresno, Southeast Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. What began as 28 students in biblical education and missions classes has grown to over 4,000 students—and 42,000 alumni—in more than 100 areas of study in traditional bachelor’s degree, bachelor’s degree completion, master’s degree and seminary programs.
At the center of the evening were seven distinguished alumni representing the fields of health care, education, nonprofit/youth, business, ministry/human services, international relations and public service:
- Dean Lee, M.D., Ph.D. (BA ’87)—Physician in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, director of the cellular therapy and cancer immunology program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, and professor of pediatrics and cell-based therapy at The Ohio State University College of Medicine
- Joe Hernandez (MA ’95)—Dinuba Unified School District superintendent
- Yammilette Rodriguez (MA ’06)—Central Valley director of programs for Youth Leadership Institute
- Max Steinert (BA ’67)—Partner in Steinert Investments
- Priscilla Robbins (BA ’10)—Director of Rescue the Children
- Pascal Kulungu (BA ’97, MA ’98 posthumous award)—Member of Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, finance director and professor at the Christian University of Kinshasa, and founder of the Center for Peacebuilding, Leadership and Good Governance in Kinshasa
- Lynne Ashbeck (MA ’12)—Senior vice president of community engagement and population wellness at Valley Children’s Healthcare, and council member and former mayor, City of Clovis
Closing the evening was a look to the future from President Joseph Jones. He cast a vision for the planned Culture and Arts Center, a $13 million facility that will bring together the arts, education and service to the surrounding community and beyond.
Pointing out that Southeast Fresno, where the main campus has been located since 1960, is one of the most challenged areas of the city and that FPU students tend to come from the most economically challenging areas of the region, Jones said the Culture and Arts Center will be a place where we create beauty and inspiration, hope and healing and peace and unity to be a transforming community.
“These facilities are not about adding to our prestige or value,” Jones said. “These buildings represent our service and engagement. It is a gift to our students and the people of this region. It will become a place of whole integration of the heart, mind, body and the soul. Not just for our neighbors, but for the whole FPU community including our alumni, our emeritus faculty, our supporters and friends.”
The gala concluded a series of 75th anniversary events that began Sept. 5, 2019 when about 500 people gathered on the Main Campus for a worship service and a family-friendly party that featured food trucks, music and magic that drew around 850 family and friends. A centerpiece of the service was a talk by FPU President Joseph Jones, who shared how his life led him to see that for a Christian the need of the world is the call to service.
Seven weeks of prayer Sept. 16 through Oct. 28 highlighted select professions in which FPU alumni have made an impact in their communities and special honored alumni in each. These were the same individuals recognized during the gala. The professions were health care, education, nonprofit/youth, business, ministry/human services, international relations and public service.
The university also recognized Sept. 18 as the actual birthday of FPU. Goodies and coffee were served on each of FPU’s five campuses.