It Takes a Village to Raise a University - President's Note, April 2023

On June 3, 2023, Bakke Graduate University (BGU) will install Dr. Bryan McCabe as its new president. After serving in that role for the past 20 years, I will step into the role of chancellor and support Bryan by focusing on networking, marketing, recruiting and fundraising. In those 20 years, BGU has grown from a Northwest USA-focused seminary into a global university influencing over 150 nations through five degree programs and many non-degree training and coaching programs.

There is an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” BGU, perhaps more than many universities, was raised through the collaboration of many diverse individuals and groups. I understand that people often skip reading the long genealogies in the Bible as they seem irrelevant and perhaps boring. But they are placed in inspired Scriptures by God for the purpose of marking a record in time for readers in the future, solidifying roots, and reminding us that God uses individuals to accomplish divine purposes.

As we approach this milestone in BGU’s life I would like to create a BGU genealogy of gratitude to serve as a reminder of how God has used so many to raise up this university. I do so with the reality that I will err by not remembering all that should be remembered -- and I am sorry for my failure in that.

BGU’s roots go back to the Lausanne Movement which was a network created from Billy Graham’s global connections. In 1982, Ray Bakke was appointed as the Executive Director of the Lausanne Urban Associates to examine the state of evangelism in the world’s largest cities. In that role, he teamed up with the research genius of Bryant Myers and received financial support from World Vision. Their team conducted 7-10 day city-wide consultations in over 200 of the largest cities in the world, leaving behind a new vision and often a new unity among the leaders in those cities.

By 1996, those who participated in those city consultations needed a way to move beyond events to create practical collaborative strategies in their cities. Ray worked with a team that included Glenn Smith, Corrie DeBoer, Gwen and Don Dewey, Jember Teferra, David Ngai, Robert Calvert, Bob Lupton, Bill O’Brien, Anne-Marie Kool, Martine Audéoud, H. Spees, Wayne Gordon, Randy White, John Perkins, Rene Padilla, Leah Gaskin Fitchue, Mac Pier, Atul Aghamkar, Andre Pownall, Celestin Koffi, Benjamin Chan, Jimmy Dorrell, Viju and Valsa Abraham, Viv Grigg, Moise Isodore, Tim Svoboda, Steve Thrall, Bishoy El-Antony, Stephen de Beer, and others to develop an innovative urban DMin program. The degree was first launched at Eastern University, then at Northwest Graduate School of the Ministry (NWGSM) to provide a focused way to accomplish that goal. As with all that Ray and the school did, Ray’s wife, Corean Bakke, was often the host of events and the quiet but steady anchor of values.

Meanwhile, from 1998-2000, Bill Payne was serving as the President of NWGSM to lead it through crisis and transition. In 2000, Gwen Dewey became the next President during “two years of discovery” with David McKenna as the board chairperson. She led the way forward, seeking how Ray’s innovative DMin program could be integrated into the program of NWGSM.

Shaping how this program would look in the new Seattle location included African-American leaders in the Ranier valley, which included Harvey Drake, Aaron Haskins, Marvin Charles, Ken Ransfer, and Les Braxton, the Leadership Foundation of Seattle Tacoma led by Dave Hillis and Kris Rocke; Serve Seattle led by Jon Sharpe; Vision Youth leaders Romanita Harrison and Lena Thompson as well as other leaders in the city including Nancy Murphy, Lynn Ellis, Rita Nussli, Ron Vignec, Polly Pearson, Ward Gasque, Richard Twiss, Agros founder Skip Li, Pastors Jan Hettinga, and Jim Hayford. Other key influencers of the program at this time included Kathy Dudley, Bert De Ruiter, and Raineer Chu.

In 2003, the board of the International Urban Associates (IUA) led the way to assume leadership of NWGSM. Key leaders in this effort included Don Dewey and Russ Johnson who stayed on the BGU Board for the next decade. Board leadership was provided by dedicated chairpersons such as law partner Barbara Sherland, King County District Attorney Norm Maleng, CEO of Nordstroms Jack McMillan, and the current board chairperson, Hartland founder Jack vanHartesvelt who has served in that role for almost 15 years. Key board members included the Executive Director of the SEATAC port system John Okamoto, CEO of Trillium David Syre, founder of TRUST Chicago, Janet Morrow, CMA President, John Pearson, and AES founder Dennis Bakke.

Later in 2003, focus groups with over 70 Lausanne leaders led by Kn Moy and Steve Brock helped shape the vision for a university with colleges of urban studies, theology and business studying together. They originally considered naming this vision "Paradox University." On further reflection, they then asked the Bakke family if their name could be used to reflect this vision as this family had the same paradox in their callings and careers. Dennis Bakke, Ray Bakke, Pastor Lowell Bakke, and women’s Bible teacher Marilyn Bakke Pearson graciously agreed and by 2004 the name was changed to Bakke Graduate University of the Ministry (BGUM).

Over the next four years, BGUM worked to remove its ministry exemption, which was required in order to be approved as a business college and add an MBA program. With that accomplished, BGUM removed “of the ministry” and became Bakke Graduate University (BGU). BGU became centered on the ideas of Dennis Bakke in his New York Times best-selling book, Joy at Work, Kyle Usrey became the founding business dean in 2006, and Neal Johnson later served as the director. Other business school directors have included Gwen Dewey, Steve Coe, Lynn Jackson and now Scholastica Olagunju.

Julie Gustavson held BGU together during the first decade serving as the air traffic controller for everyone and everything. Early assistants included Jourlie Martin and Katrina Sharpe. Judi Melton has served as Academic Registrar since 2004 to today providing amazing, consistent, core leadership to all that BGU does. She was assisted in that role by many gifted women including Addie Davis, Jessica Moore, Lauren Geiser, Ruby Tice and Lisa San Martin. Clair O’Keefe and Art Zylstra provided the bookkeeping and financial reports. Diana Bakke served as Admissions Director and so much more.

Carolyn Cochran has served as admissions director, finance director, and director of operations for almost a decade supported by Julia Burk. Today Kafi Carrasco serves as Admissions Director and is now the first person many prospective students talk to at BGU.

Before decentralizing leadership of city immersions to local city teams in 2011, the Seattle-based city immersion logistical team included Shirley Akers and Carol Quinlan who served as Ray Bakke’s Assistant but also directed the scholarship program provided by the Mustard Seed Foundation (MSF) until 2011. Also, Lowell Bakke has led the MSF Theology of Work Partnership Grant serving 80,000 people in Theology of Work seminars supported by Sandra Tjoa and the TOWPG team. Key people on that team who have influenced BGU significantly in this area include Paul Stevens, Larry Peabody, Don and Gwen Dewey, Dotun Reju, Jewell Hyun, Martine Audeoud, Fletcher Tink, and Femi Odebiyi.

BGU was hosted by pastors Jeff and Ellen Schultz at the First Presbyterian Church of Seattle until 2014 when it moved to the Gaston Christian Community Center in Dallas hosted by Bill O’Brien.

The crucial role of Academic Dean at BGU has been filled by Tom Adelsman, Randy Rowland, Jon Sharpe, Ray Bakke, Gwen Dewey, Grace Barnes, Sukhwant Bhatia, Judi Melton, Martine Audeoud and now Bryan McCabe.

Randy White served as the DMin director during its most critical formation time, reshaped how BGU holds city immersions, and also developed the concept of the Doctor of Transformational Leadership (DTL) degree, which is now BGU’s largest degree. Other DMin directors have included Lowell Bakke, Rodney Robinson Rogers, Charles Barber, and now Bruce Jackson. DTL directors have included Brad Smith, Gwen Dewey, Bryan McCabe and now Paulette Jordan. BGU has had a core master degree program that bridges urban studies, Christian theology, and business under various acronyms including Master of Arts in Global Urban Missions (MAGUM), Master of Arts in Global Urban Leadership (MAGUL), and Master of Arts in Social & Civic Entrepreneurship (MASCE). Directors of these programs have included Grace Barnes, Lowell Bakke, Doug Barnett, and Judi Melton. Yvonne McKenzie designed and is the current director of the Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership (MATL).

PhD program was founded by Martine Audeoud with help from Lester Hirst, Claire Henry and others.

The critical role of dissertation director has been filled by Winn Griffin, Gwen Dewey, Judi Melton and currently Bill Payne. BGU’s long-time librarian is Jennifer Roman. Roxie Payne served as an early Registrar and has been editing dissertations and providing guidance for over 25 years.

Nathalia Mighty serves as the e-learning director of BGU supporting many students as they work through online programs. Nita Kotiuga serves as BGU’s Director of Spiritual Formation and adds new depth to BGU courses and program. Connie Parker serves as BGU’s Director of Certificates which is a fast-growing means to help BGU alumni increase influence through translating their expertise into non-degree programs. Krisztina Olah is BGU’s marketing director shaping how BGU’s message is told throughout the world. BGU has an alumni network to create an on-going community with BGU alumni that was formed by Andrea Mullins and Gail Hallman and is now led by Bill Tenny-Brittian, Leroy Hurt, Marlene Hines and others.

BGU is dependent upon partners who are trusted in various parts of the world and open doors for BGU to serve them. BGU has also been served well by students who have reshaped their courses and degree programs while students then as alumni or faculty, led city immersions or opened doors for partnership.

This list of partners, students, graduates and faculty will miss many; however, some who have had a significant influence on BGU include: Joel Aguilar, Oluwasayo “Sayo” Ajiboye, Abiodun Coker, Fai Luk, Richard Nongard, Kah Hooi Lim, Jeremy Gwee, Dotun Reju, Dave Hillis, Jim Henderson, Carol Ann Sommers, Las Newman, Bill Hendricks, Kathy Dudley, H. Spees, Eric Swanson, Kit Danley, Lauren Speeth, Rob Murray, Veda Ram, Dale Dan, Ruth Padilla Deborst, Joel vanDyke, Justin Beene, Mario Matos, Fred Billings, John Hayes, Neil Tibbott, David Hunt, Patience Hove, Keith Webb, Bekele Shanko, Joan Rowland, Jill Shook, Lisa Slayton, James Fadel, Joy Wilson, Matthew Watson, Mary Glenn, Mark Gosney, Jeremy Graves, Peter van Breda, John Lewis, Noah Manyika, Jan Martinez, Keith McNichols, Joanna Meyer, Linus Morris, Clara Ricketts, Mark Jobe, Jeffrey Johnson, Jerry Edmonson, Lynne Ellis, Joycelyne Fadojutimi, Zachary Hamilton, Maria Pompea, Todd Poulter, Samson Gandi, John Keane, Susan Nichols, Vatriesha Nyemba, Christian Overman, King Kinang, David Koop, Ingrid Kutsch, Tyler Johnson, Sean Benesh, Adele Booysen, David Henry, Marcel Hutson, Judith Johnson, Antoine Hawkins, Joann Yabrof, Angela Harrison, Joe Mattera, and many more.

BGU’s Board of Regents continues to be the advanced global scouts both to uphold BGU’s global vision and values, as well as to serve as the point leaders for city immersions, global recruiting and regional mentoring. BGU’s current Board of Regent’s members include: Willy Kotiuga (Chair), Funmilayo Adeyemi (vice chair), Pieter Brinksma (vice chair); Rolando Aguirre, Marimuhu Arumuganadar, Jacob Bloemberg, Natalie Man Se Chan, Duky Charles, Gwen Dewey, Gea Gort Bakker, Rebecca Gray, Keum Ju “Jewel” Hyun, Cosmos Chuckwunelum Ilechukwu, Virginia “Jeng” Juan, Samuel Kargbo; Emmanuel “Mel” Luna; Zenet Maramara, Matthew Mbanga, Minh Ha Nguyen, Kris Rocke, Andrew Sears, Susan Spousta, Bill Tenny-Brittian, Randy White, and Tabor Gebremedhin Wordofa.

BGU’s Board of Directors serves as the legal board of BGU and is where the final authority and accountability resides. They have also served as the generous backbone of BGUs financial support. BGU’s current Board of Directors members include Jack vanHartesvelt, Dave Hataj, Karen Schenk, Kimberly Thomas, Bob Slocum, Kurt Risley, Willy Kotiuga and Brad Smith.

In these 20 years I have had the support of my wife Debby Smith as she had to put up with me traveling to Seattle from our home in Dallas so often in the early years, as well as the financial uncertainty during various times of crisis.

My purpose in this gratitude genealogy is to say thank you to so many people God used to grow this University.

And finally, gratitude goes to Bryan McCabe who has been involved with BGU since 2012 in various roles and has proven himself to be a capable and trusted leader. Bryan is deeply committed to the values of so many listed in this article that have created BGU. He respects that legacy of the past as he seeks innovative ways to serve the mission and vision of BGU in greater ways in the future. I am grateful to have such a person I can hand over the reins to with total confidence in him as God’s chosen successor and leader of BGU for the next era of growth.

Brad Smith

BGU President