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Golden Gate celebrates 60 years of preparing ministers

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–With a grateful look to the past and optimism for the future, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has marked 60 years of preparing ministers for churches in the West.

Chancellor William O. Crews said the seminary “exists and thrives today because of a compelling dream, articulated by visionary leaders and pursued by literally hundreds of men and women who have given their lives to the pursuit of that dream, a dream that came true.”

Crews, in a special Founder’s Day Chapel, recounted founding President Isam Hodges’ vision in 1944 for a seminary in the West that became a reality first in Oakland and later in Berkeley, Mill Valley and throughout the western United States.

“When we see what God has done with this vision in the past 60 years, who knows what He will do in the next 60 years,” Crews commented.

Special guests included two of Hodges’ children, Harlan Hodges and Bea Hodges Hill; grandson Brad Hodges; and Tammie Hill, wife of grandson Joe Hill. Other special guests included Frieda Graves, widow of former President Harold K. Graves, and their daughter, Nancy McLaughlin.

“It is because there are men and women who did something significant for God, who placed that dream in their heart, that is why we are here today,” Crews said.

In addition to the special chapel service March 31, a celebration banquet was held April 2 in honor of current and past faculty and staff.

Former President Frank Pollard, who gave the banquet benediction, said his 1983-86 tenure at Golden Gate was “the most rewarding time of my life.” Pollard currently is a visiting professor at Baylor University.

The chapel and banquet featured highlights of the early years in Oakland and Berkeley during the 1940s and ’50s, the move across San Francisco Bay to Mill Valley in 1959 and the expansion in the West including opening additional campuses in Southern California (1973), the Pacific Northwest (1980), Arizona (1995) and Colorado (1996).

Crews also noted that the seminary has established ethnic leadership centers serving more than 600 students in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Arkansas.

Included were video excerpts from a 1992 interview by Graves, who was president from 1952-77 and spearheaded the move to Mill Valley and construction of the facility on a scenic hill overlooking San Francisco. Graves recalled that the seminary paid $400,000 for the 129-acre site, which was once considered a potential location for the United Nations headquarters.

The evening’s celebration was made possible by a generous gift from Bill Avery of Fresno, Calif.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a Cooperative Program Ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and operates five campuses: Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado.

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  • John C. Eagan