A Golden Legacy by Marilyn Thomsen

The pages were brittle and yellowed, but the more I read the Criterion issues of 50 years ago, the more intrigued I became.

October 28, 1960*

SENATOR ALBERT GORE OF TENNESSEE SPEAKS at the La Sierra College chapel service about why John F. Kennedy should be elected President. Days later, Senator Thomas Kuchel of California tells students why Richard Nixon should be elected instead.

“Wow,” I thought. “Two sitting U.S. senators addressing La Sierra students in a two-week span. And they talked politics in chapel!”

February 17, 1961

An advertisement proclaims “SAVE $10 ON 5-TRANSISTOR RADIO—FITS IN YOUR POCKET.” College enrollment is listed as 1,052 students, including 75 from other countries. I quickly did the math. Our student body has now more than doubled in size.

March 3, 1961

A two-day series by Mrs. A.V. Wallenkampf of Loma Linda, written up in a front-page article, helps La Sierra girls learn “HOW TO BE AN ATTRACTIVE WOMAN.” An earlier article, on October 28, 1960, is headlined “7 PILLSBURY AWARDS FOR HOME EC MAJORS.” Back in those days, I thought, there were not just home economics majors—they had their own building on campus. A previous article said typewriters were available for rental. Nowadays we find them in museums. Lunchtime came. The Heritage Room attendant let me keep reading.

March 8, 1961

TOM SMITH DEFEATS RAE CAMPBELL to be Criterion editor. Did some believe the “Critter” editor should be a man? Miss Campbell graciously responds. She later becomes editor of the Inside Dope.

March 31, 1961

Headline announces that the NORTHWEST ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY AND HIGHER SCHOOLS WILL VISIT the campus. The dean has prepared a 175-page report. It’s now called the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, but La Sierra is still hosting accreditation visits. The reports have just gotten longer.

Still March 31, 1961

The student association, with a new constitution, was having problems. An article says that President William Landeen spoke to 800 students in chapel against the need for student government. Student Don Conrad responds with an article on “WHY I THINK STUDENT GOVERNMENT IS NECESSARY TO ADOLESCENTS.” Today, the president of the student association is invited to meetings of the Board of Trustees.

July 12, 1961

(Yes, in those days the Criterion came out in the summer.)

$150,000 MILKING PARLOR OPENS. California Dairy Princess is photographed sampling the milk. A write-up describes her speech that “stressed the importance of milk products to the economy and health of the country.”

January 10, 1962

Professor Fritz Guy attends the annual meetings of the SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE. In 2011, he’s still contributing to scholarship at La Sierra.

April 25, 1962

La Sierra College alumnus files to run for California governor as the PROHIBITION PARTY CANDIDATE. Never did learn how many votes he got.

September 27, 1962

Lengthy article says that 70% OF MEDICAL STUDENTS NATIONWIDE OPPOSE MEDICARE. Health care debates appear to be perennial.

For parts of three days I relished my walk down memory lane, smiling at the ads for Jamaica shorts selling for $2.98 at Harris’ department store (now, sadly, out of business) and Vegetable Skallops (served in the cafeteria today at noon). The annual Carol Sing got an entire page of pictures, as did the members of the senior class—which in 1961 included just one African-American graduate and six of Asian or Hispanic heritage. Quite a contrast with our most recent graduating class with its rainbow of God’s family.

Mixed in with the news both momentous and mundane, however, were articles on three topics of special interest.

April 28, 1961

In a piece titled LA SIERRA COLLEGE: A PROGRESSIVE OUTLOOK, A JOB WELL- DONE, Criterion editor Lewis Walton says that “Academically, LSC probably holds second place to none. Our faculty is by and large exceptional, and with such opportunities as our recently-inaugurated honors program available, no student can honestly claim that his abilities are in any way curtailed.”

That stirred my curiosity and sent me deeper into the Heritage Room, with assistance from reference librarian Hilda Smith. The first mention of La Sierra’s Honors program is found in the 1959-60 Bulletin. This was a full seven years before Andrews University began its Honors program, sometimes called the first in Adventist education. While I was in the library in Riverside, La Sierra’s current Honors cohort was in Istanbul, spending four weeks immersed in a historic city where East meets West.

August 17, 1962


The article was only eight paragraphs in length, but it shows La Sierra’s early role in a program that would eventually expand to Adventist colleges across North America and change countless lives. “Larry Veverka, junior theology major, left July 9 for Hong Kong to spend one year learning about missionary work through practical experience,” it said, adding that the invitation came from the Far Eastern Division. Veverka would teach English, participate in evangelism, do colporteur work, and study the Chinese language daily. He would receive 10 units of theology credit from La Sierra and also take correspondence courses.

“It’s been my dream to get a student in the mission field to give him practi- cal experience,” the Criterion quoted Wilbur Nelson of the Far Eastern Division as saying. “I hope this program will be profitable for both Larry and the mission area.”

That hope is fulfilled every year at La Sierra and its sister colleges. This year, La Sierra student missionaries are serving in Micronesia, Peru, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

March 24, 1961


That headline announced the begin- ning of another major contribution of La Sierra to Adventist education— a fledgling program that would even- tually become Adventist Colleges Abroad. Later articles tracked the progress of the program. December 6, 1961—“College Starts Overseas Branch.” February 14, 1962—“Overseas French Class Conversing.” March 21, 1962—“Year Abroad Students Get Acceptances.” August 17, 1962—“Bon Voyage Party Held.” October 25, 1962—“Nouvelles de France,” the first of many columns Tom Smith sent from Seminaire Adventiste du Saleve.

This September, thirty-two La Sierra students enrolled in Adventist Colleges Abroad. The university is known as the program’s biggest supporter.

I closed the large green hard-bound volume that chronicled life at La Sierra 50 years ago and began to ponder what I had read. What was there about La Sierra College that gave rise to educational innovations that still shape students today—not only at La Sierra, but across the spectrum of Adventist colleges and universities?

I sat in the cafeteria for several lunch hours, looking out across campus and letting the stories I had read roll around in my mind. Pierce Street wasn’t visible any more, supplanted now by beautiful Yeager Way. I could see the Alumni Pavilion, which took the place of College Hall years ago. The milking parlor and poultry facility had long since given way to the Riverwalk development. But as happens every September, the campus was beginning to stir with eager students as a new academic year was about to commence.

The scene changes, I realized, but what La Sierra values endures.

  • LA SIERRA VALUES FORWARD-THINKING. It encourages discussion and engagement with big ideas.
  • LA SIERRA VALUES ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE. The Honors program—possibly the first in an Adventist college or university—is a part of that legacy.
  • LA SIERRA VALUES CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING. That’s why study abroad is encouraged and supported, and why we are glad for our diversity.
  • AND FINALLY, LA SIERRA VALUES SERVICE. That’s why we encourage participation in missions and service-learning.

Over the next year, in the pages of this magazine we will look at Honors, Adventist Colleges Abroad, and Student Missions—three contributions that La Sierra helped to pioneer in Adventist education. And while we will see them through the eyes of today’s students, we will give thanks for those who, half a century ago, paved the way for an education that is broad, deep, and cutting-edge.

The legacy they created for future generations lives on in the university they helped to build.

*Dates refer to Criterion articles, not event dates.

Author: La Sierra

La Sierra University, an institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

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