President’s Newsletter – Fall 2023

Gustafson Fine Arts Center

This newsletter from Bob Jones University Acting CEO Alan Benson is intended to inform BJU’s alumni and friends of student and faculty achievements and campus programs and activities. Communication regarding this newsletter may be addressed to [email protected].

Message from Acting CEO Dr. Alan Benson

In mid-May of this year, the Bob Jones University Board of Trustees gave me both the privilege and the awesome responsibility of leading the University through a time of transition until the Board names the next president.

BJU Acting CEO Alan Benson

As acting CEO, I welcome the privilege of overseeing the total student experience to ensure that we embed a biblical worldview into all that is taught in the classroom, the residence halls and every student activity; that we provide mentoring and guidance as our students are forming their beliefs on critical issues and deciding what is important in life; that we supplement the classroom with real-world experiences to prepare students for life after college.

I also welcome the privilege of working with our faculty and staff who are dedicating their lives to Christian education. Their top-notch credentials enable them to continually innovate to keep our academic offerings strong. At the same time, their love for students as fellow believers compels them to focus on training the whole person to do their best for the glory of God.

And I enjoy interacting with our alumni and seeing how God is using them in their careers and especially in their families and churches.

As we go through this transition, I want to keep the University moving forward on all fronts. We cannot afford to just maintain status quo. To do so would run the risk of slipping backward. That means we promote new ideas and programs that keep interest high and maintain a spirit of excitement.

We especially have to keep moving forward spiritually, creating an atmosphere where spiritual growth is encouraged and celebrated.

God is burdening my heart to lead with philosophy at this time. My goal in this role as interim is to encourage what is marked by healing, unity and stability. As we are coming to the end of first semester, I am thankful for evidence that God is actually doing that work on campus.

I covet the prayers of our university community, alumni and friends, that I will lead this transition in such a way that the University will be stronger at the end than we were when it began. To God be the glory.

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Board of Trustees Launches Search for Next President

On Friday, Oct. 20, the Bob Jones University Board of Trustees officially launched their search for the University’s next president by releasing a website to accept nominations and applications. The site also features a presidential profile describing the type of person the Board is seeking and a profile of today’s BJU.

Bob Jones University’s president is hired by and reports directly to the Board of Trustees and is the chief executive officer of the institution. For this position, the Board is seeking a godly and Spirit-filled individual with a passion for God, His Word, evangelism, ministry and Christian education; who is totally committed to the absolute authority of the Bible, the mission of BJU and the local church; and who has successful leadership and administrative expertise.

Individuals may apply for the position or recommend individuals for consideration here. The site will be open for nominations and applications through Dec. 1, 2023.

“We are grateful for the leadership of acting CEO Dr. Alan Benson during this transitional time,” said Dr. Sam Dawson, chairman of the BJU Board of Trustees. “Selecting the next president of Bob Jones University is an awesome responsibility which the Board does not take lightly. We are asking God for guidance as we continue this process.”

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BJU Seminary Presents Stewart Custer Lecture Series

2022 Stewart Custer Lecture Series with Will Varner

BJU Seminary will host its annual Stewart Custer Lecture Series on Thursday, Nov. 9, in BJU Seminary’s lecture hall. Dr. Paul Hartog, professor at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa, will present this year’s theme, “The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers.”

Known for his knowledge of and expertise on the apostolic fathers, Dr. Hartog will give three lectures:

  • 8–9:15 a.m. — Clement of Rome: The Character of Divine Authority
  • 9:30–10:45 a.m. — Ignatius of Antioch: The Development of Early Kerygma
  • 11–11:45 a.m. — Polycarp of Smyrna: The Reception of Apostolic Traditions

Pastors are invited to join the seminary students and faculty for these lectures.

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BJU Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News and World Report | Bob Jones University

In its 2024 Best College Rankings, U.S. News & World Report again recognized Bob Jones University as one of the Best Regional Universities in the South. BJU’s rankings have consistently improved each of the last seven years.

Additionally, U.S. News recognized BJU as #2 in the Best Value Regional University in the South category and also as #2 in the Top Performers on Social Mobility among Regional Universities in the South.

Among Regional Universities in the South, BJU is the highest-ranked university for Best Value in the Carolinas. The Best Value ranking is a measure of both academic quality and cost.

The Top Performers on Social Mobility recognizes the graduation rates of students awarded federal Pell Grants. Approximately 36% of BJU students receive Pell Grants. The average financial package awarded is $14,113. In the Class of 2023, 59.2% graduated with no federal debt.

“These rankings give evidence of the passionate pursuit of academic excellence at BJU,” said Dr. Alan Benson, acting chief executive officer. “Our demonstrated commitment to providing a superior student learning experience rooted in biblical thinking, life mentoring and experiential learning is producing life-impacting results and career readiness that are enabling our graduates to thrive.”

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Worldview Collectives Guide Students through Current Issues

Renton Rathbun
Dr. Renton Rathbun

The broad function of BJU’s Center for Biblical Worldview, directed by Dr. Renton Rathbun, is to ensure that BJU faculty and staff fully integrate a biblical worldview into all academic classes and all student activities.

As a vehicle for helping students form a biblical worldview about current issues, Dr. Rathbun also puts together three Worldview Collectives each semester. The morning prior to each evening Collective, he preaches in chapel to give students context for and stimulate their interest in the topic.

The first Collective of the semester was Sept. 25 on the topic, “My Biggest Doubts about Christianity Are …” Faculty panelists included Dr. Brent Cook, Division of Biblical Studies and Theology; Dr. David Gardenghi, Division of Natural Sciences; Dr. Greg Mazak, BJU Seminary; and Dr. Melissa Gardenghi, Division of Mathematical Sciences. After initial statements, panelists answered student questions moderated by Dr. Rathbun.

A second Collective on Oct. 30 focused on “Are Pronouns Important? LGBTQ+ Identity and You.” Panelists included Dr. Ted Miller, Division of Biblical Studies and Theology; Dr. Billy Gotcher, BJU Seminary; and Dr. Esther Salinas, Division of Teacher Education.

A third Collective is scheduled for Dec. 5 on the topic, “Should I Submit to an Authority I Disagree With?”

From working with college students, Dr. Rathbun sees that this generation struggles to know what they believe and why. He states, “These collectives are designed to use their questions to confront the pervasive sin of our culture that seeps into their hearts and to call them out from that culture.”

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BJU Students Excel at Army ROTC Ranger Challenge

BJU Students Excel at Army ROTC Ranger Challenge
Army ROTC Furman Paladin Battalion

The Army ROTC Furman Paladin Battalion — comprised of students from Bob Jones University, Furman University and North Greenville University — placed second out of 38 teams in the Ranger Challenge held at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) on Oct. 21. Two BJU students participated: Glory Gillen, junior criminal justice major from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and Joshua Ellis, freshman biblical counseling major from Amherst, New Hampshire.

The competition featured 10 stations, including marksmanship, weapons assembly and a Humvee push. Cadets practiced the various skills for weeks leading up to the competition, and selection to participate was an honor for each student.

When asked about the experience, Glory Gillen said, “The past eight weeks of preparation for the 2023 Ranger Challenge were truly an inspiring and humbling experience. All the cadets involved gained an enormous amount of experience through hands-on training, field practice and classroom lessons. Going into the challenge, we all felt prepared and hyped. I’m very grateful for the leadership and support we had from the cadre and our team captains. Winning second overall was a huge accomplishment for the program. Getting the opportunity to go to Sandhurst, New York, next spring will be a truly unforgettable experience!”

Cadet Joshua Ellis trained alongside the team and prepared with another student as a two-man alternate team. Additionally, he assisted in taking pictures and video content. Ellis said about the experience, “The Ranger Challenge program for ROTC was awesome, and having the ability to experience something like that was worth the weeks of rigorous training. It was an honor to be a part of it, and we couldn’t have won second for the brigade without our cadre and Cadet Mikell, who was our team captain. We are excited and proud to represent BJU, Furman and our fellow cadets.”

The team will compete in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition hosted by the United States Military Academy at West Point in the upcoming spring semester.

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BJU Hosts 51st High School Festival

2023 High School Festival | Bob Jones University
2023 High School Festival

BJU hosted its annual High School Festival Oct. 30–Nov. 2 with over 530 students in grades 9–12 from dozens of Christian schools and homeschool groups around the country participating in art, music, speech, video, preaching and teaching competitions.

In addition to the competition experience and prizes for category winners, all participants received personalized feedback on their performance from BJU faculty. Students participating in the preaching and teaching categories received feedback from the School of Theology and Global Leadership and the BJU Seminary faculty.

First-place winners in individual competitions received a trophy and a $425 EDUcamp Scholarship (a full EDUcamp Scholarship). Second and third-place winners in individual competitions receive a plaque and a $212 EDUcamp Scholarship (half an EDUcamp Scholarship).

A Festival Concert Thursday evening featured winning ensembles and soloists, along with performances by the festival’s bands, string orchestra and honors chorus.

In addition to competing, students visited classes and attended campus events.

“This event brings hundreds of high schoolers to the BJU campus to compete and display their talents,” said Andrew Carter, university host. “We are continually impressed by the quality of their performances and entries, and we are thankful for the many BJU faculty and staff who help make this event a meaningful experience for our guests.”

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Students Perform Speech-Language Therapy in Uganda

BJU Students Perform Speech-Language Therapy in Uganda
BJU Uganda Team

Last summer, faculty and students from BJU’s Communication Disorders program volunteered with Hope Speaks, a Christian speech-language therapy nonprofit serving children and adults with disabilities in Kampala, Uganda.

David Eoute Jr., communication disorders faculty, and former faculty member Kris Miller led the team of five communication disorders majors: Ellie Di Malanta, senior from Oxford, Michigan; Emma Landry, 2023 graduate from Manchester, New Hampshire; Emily Hansen, senior from Greenville, South Carolina; Emily French, senior from Taylors, South Carolina; and Ariana John, senior from Plantation, Florida.

The team served in five outreach locations and an orphanage for children with special needs, providing supervised therapy and assessments for children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism and developmental language delays.

The students learned to adapt to the local culture and language through interactions with the Ugandan Hope Speaks staff and therapists. The trip revealed the challenges of providing speech-language therapy in a developing nation and taught students and faculty the importance of cross-cultural communication and collaboration. Through this experience, students saw firsthand how Christ’s love on display during a speech-language therapy session can make a difference in the lives of disabled and impoverished children and their families.

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CoRE Conference to Deal with Depression in the Church

2023 BJU CoRE Conference with Nicolas Ellen
2023 BJU CoRE Conference with Nicolas Ellen

BJU Seminary’s CoRE Conference — January 29–31, 2024 — will focus on the topic, “The Return of Hope: Dealing with Depression in the Church.”

A 2023 study by Gallup and Walton Family Foundation asked GenZers 18 to 26 years old to characterize their general outlook on life. Each person could choose one of three categories: thriving, struggling or suffering. Only 41% identified themselves as “thriving.” In comparison, the previous generation, Millennials, chose the “thriving” category at the same age at a rate of 60%. The rising generation is losing hope — and Christians are, too.

Although Christians, on the whole, experience depression in lower frequency than unbelievers, The Psychiatric Resource shows that many believers surprisingly suffer from a lack of personal hope as well.

At BJU Seminary’s CoRE Conference, speakers will carefully lay the biblical groundwork for understanding the problem of depression and despair and then equip the church to help fellow believers return to the hope and joy God promised in this broken world.

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Tim Jordan, retired pastor of 44 years from Calvary Baptist Church, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Dan Dionne, ACBC certified internal medicine physician and former chief of staff of a hospital in Spokane, Washington
  • Brian Hand, BJU Seminary professor
  • Stuart Scott, BJU Seminary professor and ACBC Fellow, director of ACBC membership
  • Alan Benson, acting CEO of Bob Jones University

They will address such topics as depression, medications, suicide, dealing with loss, children of divorce, forgiveness, dealing with medical illness and helping children with anxiety.

BJU Seminary is now accepting conference registrations.

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BJU School of Religion Changes Name

In September, BJU’s School of Religion changed its name to School of Theology and Global Leadership.

“Our new name better conveys our dual emphasis on theology and leadership and more accurately describes who we are and the opportunities our students have today,” said Dr. Kevin Oberlin, dean of the School of Theology and Global Leadership.

Incorporating the word “Theology” in our name reinforces that we will continue to provide students with a robust theological framework in all our academic programs. Theology emphasizes our commitment to the Bible and the process of biblical hermeneutics, biblical theology, systematic theology and practical theology that answers relevant worldview issues and life questions.

While BJU is known for training leaders, we also want our students to become globally aware — to be comfortable communicating the Gospel across cultures and with people unlike them. Adding “Global Leadership” to our name communicates our great commission emphasis and mission endeavors. Global leadership prepares our students to handle differences well through intercultural dexterity and encourages them to interact skillfully and compassionately with the world at their doorstep, whether a growing international community at home or those in remote corners of the world.

A strong foundation of theology with a practical outworking of global-ready leadership will equip our graduates for ministry wherever the Lord leads them.

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Alumni Relations Presents Awards during Homecoming

BJU Alumni Award Winners 2023
Dr. Jessica Minor (left), Cleo Campbell (top center), Dr. Malcom Cummings (top right), Dr. Jonathan Edwards (bottom center), Bonnie Bixby (bottom right)

At the Alumni dinner during Homecoming on Oct. 6, Alumni Relations presented the Alumnus of the Year Award and recognized other alumni with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Dr. Jessica Minor, dean of BJU’s School of Health Professions, is the 2023 Alumnus of the Year. Jessica earned a BS in biology from BJU in 2007, an MA in Bioethics from Trinity International University and a PhD in Healthcare Ethics from Duquesne University.

Prior to returning to BJU in 2014, Jessica served as adjunct faculty at the University of Connecticut Health Center, teaching medical ethics to medical students. She was also affiliate faculty for Health Care Ethics with Regis University, where she taught an online ethics course to post-baccalaureate nursing students.

In 2018, Jessica became the founding dean of BJU’s School of Health Professions, an academic school critical to the mission of Bob Jones University. She brought together all health-related programs, faculty and students from multiple other schools on campus and created one of the fastest-growing schools at BJU.

Alumni Relations stated, “For her persistence in overcoming many personal and professional challenges, for her excellent leadership in founding and growing the School of Health Professions and for her commitment to the faith and to her alma mater, Bob Jones University’s Alumni Relations is honored to recognize Dr. Jessica Minor as our 2023 Alum of the Year.”

In the Greenville community, Jessica serves on various advisory boards and committees, including the Bon Secours St. Francis Ethics Committee, the Upstate Human Trafficking Task Force, CA4 Innovation Charities dba Carolina Rides+ and the Urban League of the Upstate.

In addition, Alumni Relations presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to:

  • Bob (posthumously) and Bonnie Bixby, 1967 and 1969 grads, respectively, who served as missionaries in the Central African Republic for 11 years before planting two churches and founding a college ministry in France.
  • Cleo Campbell, 1960 grad, was recognized by the state of Maryland for her excellence in teaching mathematics and by fellow believers for a lifetime of serving others in every needed capacity.
  • Dr. Malcolm Cummings, 1954 grad (PhD 1967), for his support of missions worldwide and his advocacy for Christian education as evidenced by his serving as the dean of Christian Education at Korean Bible University, the founding of Athens (Ga.) Christian School, and service to the Georgia Association of Christian Schools and the American Association of Christian Schools.
  • Dr. Jonathan Edwards, 1975 grad, for faithfulness in planting churches in four Mormon communities in Utah, helping found the first Christian camp in the state, and forming Eagle’s Nest Baptist Ministries, now a conference center and retreat for Christian workers.

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BJU to Feature Romeo & Juliet

Romeo and Juliet | Bob Jones University
Romeo & Juliet, directed by John Michael Cox

Bob Jones University’s Classic Players will present three performances of Romeo & Juliet, Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 14–16. Directed by faculty member John Michael Cox, this western take on Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers is bold, funny and wildly unexpected.

Performances are in Rodeheaver Auditorium at 7:30 each evening. Tickets are available through Programs & Productions at 864-770-1372 or through BJU’s ticketing platform, Showpass. The performance is recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Faculty Member Recognized by American Prize

Ron Pyle | Great Expectations
Ron Pyle behind the scenes of Great Expectations in 2019

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts recently announced BJU theatre faculty Ron Pyle as the 2023 national winner in the Virtual Performance college/university division for directing BJU’s Classic Players webcast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The American Prize is the nation’s most comprehensive series of contests in the performing arts, annually recognizing artists, directors, ensembles and composers at professional, college/university, community and high school levels, based on submitted recordings.

Ron Pyle is an associate professor in the Division of Communication in the School of Fine Arts and Communication. In productions by BJU’s Classic Players, he has played over 20 Shakespearean roles, including the title roles in Hamlet, King Lear and Richard III. He teaches classes in Stage Directing, Stage Lighting and Audio, Introduction to Theatre and Theatre as a Vocation. He is an active member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference.

BJU’s Classic Players was founded in 1929 as part of the University’s commitment to liberal arts training for all students. Open to both BJU students and faculty, it has grown into one of the outstanding college Shakespearean repertoire groups in the world.

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Drama, Math and Apologetics Teams Represent University in Fall 2023

Drama, Math and Apologetics Teams Represent University in Fall 2023
Drama Team (top), Math Team (lower left), Apologetics Team (lower right)

During the Fall 2023 semester, the BJU drama team is performing Hold Fast, the Peter and Georgi Vins’ story of Russian persecution, imprisonment and hope at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, Tuesdays through Saturdays. Performances — which began Sept. 12 — are available through Nov. 18. The father-son story inspires audiences to hold fast to the faith no matter the cost.

Members of the cast include Joshua Watts, senior music major from Lexington, Kentucky; Taylor Stephens, junior theatre major from Keystone Heights, Florida; Hannah Stroup, a senior paralegal major from Lake Mills, Wisconsin; and Denver Baughman, a 2023 theatre graduate from Stockton, Illinois.

Also, the BJU Math Team is traveling in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee this fall, holding workshops to help students prepare for the math portion of the ACT or SAT test. This team is led by Blythe Sterling, a middle school education major from Florence, South Carolina. Sophomore engineering major Jewelien Willson from Binghamton, New York, and Alyssa Camastro, a sophomore English major from Taylors, South Carolina, comprise the team. Next semester, another Math Team will hold sessions in schools in New England, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Apologetics Team is holding workshops in Christian schools and homeschool co-ops in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Team members are senior Jackson Dukeshier, sport management major from Contoocook, New Hampshire, and Noal Nelson, a junior pursuing a biblical studies degree from Fort Collins, Colorado. Micah and Elizabeth Lehman, 2021 and 2020 graduates, respectively, from Greenville, South Carolina, are leading the team. The team for the spring semester will be in North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

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BJU Students Serve on Medical Mission Team to Bolivia

BJU Students Serve on Medical Mission Team to Bolivia
Medical Mission Team to Bolivia

Before the start of the fall semester, Dr. Marc Chetta, Division of Health Sciences faculty, led a team of 15 BJU premed, nursing and Spanish majors on a medical mission trip to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, with Medical Missions Outreach. It was the first time BJU health science majors cross-collaborated interdepartmentally with language majors on global outreach.

The students joined a larger team that ultimately consisted of 55 nurses, doctors, laymen and translators. The team treated 1,764 patients over four days with medical and optical care.

The goal of Medical Missions Outreach is to partner with local missionaries to enhance their standing in the community and use health care as an opportunity to share the Gospel. The local missionary trained his church on how to share the Gospel. While patients were waiting for their glasses or medications, they were presented with the Gospel privately. As a result, 219 prayed to receive Christ. The students saw firsthand how lovingly serving through health care can be an effective segue to the Gospel.

Students participating in this outreach were Hannah Chelli, junior premed major from Powell, Ohio; Will Chetta, Bob Jones Academy student from Greenville, South Carolina; Robert Daulton, senior Spanish major from Greenville, South Carolina; Kenzie Deighton, junior nursing student from Greenville, South Carolina; Ashley Gonzalez, junior nursing major from Lakeland, Florida; Ethan Harris, junior nursing major from Pisgah Forest, North Carolina; Ella Kochenderfer, sophomore nursing student from Saginaw, Michigan; Haley Marcello, junior nursing major from South Point, Ohio; Karis McGuire, 2023 graduate with a degree in Spanish from West Columbia, South Carolina; Josiah Schweitzer, senior premed student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sarah Scott, junior nursing major from Bremerton, Washington; Elise Snow, graduate student majoring in Spanish from Taylors, South Carolina; Andrew Thompson, senior premed student from Stapleton, Alabama; Olivia Townsley, junior kinesiology major from Taylors, South Carolina; and Matthew Wiley, senior premed major from Carmel, Indiana.

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BJU Receives Several Health and Science-related Grants

By Dr. Amy Hicks, chair, Division of Health Sciences

Recommended by the South Carolina Research Authority, BJU was invited to apply for the South Carolina Department of Applied Research Grant for funding to purchase research equipment for three divisions. BJU was awarded $230,000 in grant funding.

The biology department received $55,000 to purchase 18 microscopes for upper class biology labs and a gene sequencer that will be used by the genetics class lab and students involved in independent research. The goal is to innovate diagnostic products that can ultimately go to market.

The Nursing Division was awarded $54,000 for three training manikins. One is a high-fidelity infant simulator. Simulations involving this manikin improve patient care and communication with the families of ill children. The other two are static manikins for the skills lab, which enable larger class sizes while giving students individual opportunities to practice skills that promote patient safety, support quality measures and expedite patient care through excellence in nursing competency.

Lastly, the Center for Community and Global Health received $121,660 to purchase equipment for the new Public Health Innovations Lab. Equipment includes resources for cell culture, blood analysis, and protein isolation. This facility will enable undergraduate and especially graduate students in the Master’s in Public Health program to think outside the box in developing new tools for use in community health. These include screening and diagnostic equipment such as the nutrimeter that students developed last year to diagnose childhood malnutrition.

The South Carolina Research Authority further supported the next step of product design for this device through a $15,000 academic grant. This device was developed in the Global Challenges class as a collaboration between students and faculty in business, public health and engineering.

The heart of these grants is not just to provide equipment, but to facilitate BJU’s opportunities to transition products to the commercial market.

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Upcoming Events

Concert, Drama & Opera Series, Romeo & Juliet — Nov. 14–16
Thanksgiving Break — Nov. 19–26
Carol Sing and Campus Lighting Ceremony — Dec. 1
Administrative Offices Closed — Dec. 18–Jan. 1
Concert, Opera & Drama Series, Classical Pops Celebration — Jan. 25
BJU Seminary’s CoRE Conference — Jan. 29–31
Bible Conference — Feb. 13-16

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