Providence Christian College celebrated 10 years of commitment, challenges, courage, faith, pioneering spirit and a whole lot of prayer this past weekend as it marked a huge milestone in celebrating a decade in the development of the college. As hundreds of alumni, supporters, families, and founders gathered for homecoming weekend at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California, the common theme and stories that emerged were the numerous ways that God has sustained and provided for the college in its founding years.
As families arrived on campus on Friday, they were able to experience a day in the life of a Sea Beggar through attending chapel, a pep rally, class, an Avodah, and even a volleyball game with their Providence student. Original staff, faculty and board members were on hand to share stories in chapel about Providence history. They reminded students that the college was started with them in mind and just how many supporters and donors stand behind them. Founding board chair Geoff Vanden Heuvel closed chapel by sharing his hope for the future of the institution and saying about his part in the founding of Providence, “It has been an adventure and a privilege to have a front row seat in watching God’s plan for Providence unfold.”
After chapel, the school mascot Piet Hein handed out blue and orange “fandanas” to the fans as they cheered on the teams currently participating in the fall sports and in anticipation of the volleyball game that evening. After a full day of activities and an Avodah to local Pasadena favorite, the Huntington Library, Sea Beggar fans were still high energy as the women’s volleyball team prevailed in a nail-biting battle worthy of homecoming weekend against Life Pacific College. To the backdrop of a roaring crowd, Providence fought their way to several ties and lead changes until they were able to power ahead to give Providence the victory. The match was a total team effort as every Sea Beggar recorded a kill and supplied defensive digs in the match.
On Saturday morning at the Founders Brunch, Providence welcomed back the founders, past board members, past presidents, faculty and alumni who have made Providence Christian College possible.
“It was a herculean task and that’s why nobody starts liberal arts colleges anymore,” opened Providence President Dr. Jim Belcher, recognizing that other Christian Colleges in the area are over 100 years old. “There was a certain amount of holy ignorance, or they wouldn’t have done it. But they had just enough to go forward and with God’s help here we are today. And we desire to continue to take holy risks and know God will show up in a big way.”
Founding President Jim Den Ouden talked about how far Providence has come since a small committee of five met at the kitchen table of founding board chair Geoff VandenHeuvel in Chino years ago reading Psalm 100 about God’s faithfulness. He added they were deeply passionate about the reformed faith and the dream to have a reformed Christian college on the west coast.
“That first year with 22 students attracted by the vision, biblical foundation and reformed Christian education was such a blessing,” recalled Den Ouden. “We make sure they get it while they’re here and get it when they graduate so they can serve the Lord in any walk of life.”
Providence’s second president, Dr. J. Derek Halvorson addressed some significant milestones during his term including leveraging his PhD in medieval history to develop the school’s unique and colorful mascot the Sea Beggars, 16th century Dutch Calvinist pirates who were defenders of the faith.
During Halvorson’s tenure, the college relocated from Ontario 30 miles to its current Pasadena campus which was vacated by the former Nazarene college that relocated to become Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego. Halvorson also led the challenge to raise over $3 million in 90 days when the college needed to restructure to focus on a Christian liberal arts degree with multiple career
concentrations on its multi-year path to successfully receiving WASC accreditation.
Providence’s first employee, Dawn Dirksen, now Vice President of Operations and Finance, compared the 10-year Providence journey to the Israelites wandering in the desert and God providing everything they needed including “the manna from heaven, water from the rock and sandals that never wore out.”
Current Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Jansen summarized the 10th Anniversary Celebration like this, “Providence is a lot like an airplane and we ran out of runway a long time ago but with God’s providence we are soaring under His wings.”
In the afternoon, fans were treated to some additional great sporting matches with the men’s and women’s soccer teams taking on scrimmages with Cal Lutheran and Bristol Colleges.
Saturday night, the community-wide celebration was held on the campus quad and included great food, games for kids, and chaplain Dan Myers jazz band “The Providence Quintet”. Sea Beggars took to the stage for a program commemorating some of the funniest moments in Providence history, including great quotes from professors and students, Sea Beggar trivia, and hilarious stories by founding faculty, staff and students of the institution.
The college has had a short but eventful history, including everything from a major campus move in 2010 from Ontario, CA to its current home in Pasadena, CA and the restructuring of its academic programs in order to achieve accreditation. In each case, those unexpected challenges brought about incredible solutions which could only have been attributed to God’s provision for the school in miraculous ways.
Now firmly established as a fully accredited institution by WASC, Providence is enjoying its newest but most invigorating challenge of record enrollment and growth. The college grew by 60% this year and added 3 major sports, enjoying its first year in the NAIA. As President Belcher reflected on the weekend, he stated “We don’t believe that the road ahead will always be easy, but we are privileged to now be preparing more students than ever for lives and vocations filled with meaning and purpose rooted in strong faith, which has and will continue to be one of the most important parts of Providence’s holistic educational process”.