President Emeritus Clyde Cook's Legacy

Changing the Mindset

Many people on campus still thought of Biola more like a Bible college -- or even a church -- than an academic institution, and it was run accordingly. An incident early in Cook's presidency illustrates this mindset.

One of Cook's first actions was to get women on the Board of Trustees. Although more than half of the students were women, some board members felt that the Bible prohibited female leadership of a Christian institution. Cook felt otherwise. When he broached the issue, however, there was stiff opposition.

Still, the issue kept bugging him. So a year later, he brought it up again.

"I thought we should have women on the board because there have been a number of women who have had such an impact on my life, especially my mother," Cook said. "I just thought it was healthy for the institution to have the perspective of women, particularly because of the excellent women faculty and staff we had and the large number of female students."

So Cook wrote a paper arguing that the Bible addressed female leadership in a church, not an academic institution like Biola. His argument took hold.

"For the board, it wasn't a bias against women; some members felt it was compromising with the Bible," Cook said.

The dawning realization that Biola was a university helped to change their minds. A year later, they voted to bring Carol (Carlson) Lindskog onto the Board.

"Carol has done such a good job," Cook said, adding that, since then, three more women have joined her.

Lindskog told Biola Magazine that she accepted the invitation because she felt that Biola's female students and faculty should be represented. "I have loved serving Biola, and it's been a very positive experience," she said.

Cook also began to set up a university structure for Biola, under the direction of then-provost and senior vice president, Dr. Robert Fischer. The entire advancement division -- including student recruitment, marketing and fundraising -- was created under Cook's watch.

"Before President Cook came, Biola had modest efforts in these areas," said Willmer, who was hired by Cook to head the advancement division in 1989. "During the Cook era, they've grown substantially."

Under Cook, Biola also added graduate programs that strengthened its academic profile, including three new schools: the School of Intercultural Studies, the School of Professional Studies and the Crowell School of Business.

During the changes, Cook always listened to dissenting voices, according to Jennifer (Cowen, '95) Fitzgerald, who served as the student body president from 1994 to 1995. When the administration proposed a policy change that would require students to pay more for taking 18 units, Cowen sat down with Cook and shared the students' concerns.

"He was really receptive, and they ended up dropping the proposal, which, to us students, meant a lot," said Cowen, who now owns her own political consulting and fundraising business in Fullerton, Calif. Cook's warmth and sense of humor also won over students. In 2003, they dedicated their yearbook to him.

"Dr. Cook treats everyone the same. It doesn't matter if they're a tenured faculty member or a first-year student," said Cook's close friend, Chuck Swindoll, the founder of Insight for Living radio ministry and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Even the timing of Cook's retirement has been viewed as an example of his humility, since it will give the new president the limelight during Biola's centennial celebration.

Under Cook, and at the urging of Willmer, the University Planning Group was also launched, which has helped define Biola's niche in higher education as Protestant, evangelical, non-denominational and theologically conservative. As Biola has honed in on these distinctives -- especially in communicating its conservative evangelical stances -- enrollment and financial support have gone up, according to Willmer. The University Planning Group also has helped formulate Biola's vision to become "a global center for Christian thought and spiritual renewal."

Yet, structure and strategy weren't the only issues Cook tackled. As a new Christian university, Biola also needed a philosophy of the relationship between faith and academics.