What a Weekend! CIU Celebrates with 100th Anniversary Grand Finale

CIU Interim President Dr. Rick Christman (left) and Chancellor Dr. Bill Jones lead the parade of flags on International Boulevard (Photo by Noah Allard)

What a Weekend! CIU Celebrates with 100th Anniversary Grand Finale

What a Weekend! CIU Celebrates with 100th Anniversary Grand Finale

CIU Interim President Dr. Rick Christman (left) and Chancellor Dr. Bill Jones lead the parade of flags on International Boulevard (Photo by Noah Allard)

November 10, 2023

By Bob Holmes, Jenea Bradshaw and Brandon Lee

Dr. Paul Tripp says he and his wife Luella “love the atmosphere” of their alma mater, 51 years after they graduated from Columbia International University when it was known as Columbia Bible College.

Tripp is one of CIU’s best-known alumni. The author of 30 books on the Christian life was the keynote speaker for CIU’s 100th anniversary Grand Finale Thursday through Saturday Nov. 2-4.

Surrounded by dozens of well-wishers following his address at a Gala celebration, Tripp said he is please to see that CIU still emphasizes a biblical worldview “that’s rooted in Scripture, and rooted in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ … and now being applied to all these areas of study,” noting CIU’s expansion of program offerings. “It’s very exciting. The things that are important haven’t changed … and the students have bought into it. That’s very special.”

Speaking to a packed house in the Moore Fitness Center on Friday, Tripp’s Gala message centered on the wonders of being a child of God. 

“As much as this gathering is about 100 wonderful years, of a God-centered institution of higher learning, this gathering represents something deeper than that. It represents our inclusion in the family of God … included in the most wonderful story that has ever been told … the grand redemptive purpose of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Then, beginning in the book of Genesis, Tripp subtly began reciting from a biblical study that he and probably most of the alumni in the room had learned while at CIU: “The Progress of Redemption,” attributed to revered CIU Professor Buck Hatch, a 1939 CIU graduate who later served the school as teacher, counselor and administrator for over 40 years.  

“Whenever I think of long-term influence, it’s Buck Hatch’s Progress of Redemption,” Tripp said after the Gala. “I think many of us came (to CIU) as students thinking the Bible is a collection of stories, and (Buck Hatch) said, ‘no, no, no, no, no. This is one story.’ We got ahold of that and it became the way that I think about Scripture.” 

First Hall of Faith Induction

Speaking of Buck Hatch, he was one of five honorees inducted into CIU’s new Hall of Faith, individuals who have demonstrated significant Kingdom impact, a commitment to CIU’s motto, “To Know Him and to Make Him Known,” and have embodied CIU’s core values. The other inductees are:

The Praying Women who gathered regularly in the early 20th century to specifically ask God for a Bible school in Columbia.

Joy Ridderhof, one of the first CIU graduates in 1925, and founder of Gospel Recordings using creative means to deliver the gospel to undereducated and underdeveloped regions of the world.

Cliff Bedell, a former missionary to the Philippines, who taught his well-known Romans class for 36 years.

Dr. Kevin McWilliams, a CIU alumnus who is a former missionary to the West Indies, and a current CIU professor since 1996.

After the Gala, McWilliams, the only living Hall of Faith inductee, said the Lord has blessed him in many ways during his time at CIU.

“Arriving at CIU almost 50 years ago, I learned so much about the Bible from amazing professors and faculty, and it has stuck with me my whole life through ministering, pastoring and teaching,” McWilliams said.

The Ambassador Choir and Laura Story’s stories

The Gala was followed by a concert featuring the Ambassador Choir, old and new. About 35 Ambassador Choir alumni joined with the current Ambassador Choir. They were led by former Ambassador Choir Director Dr. David Osterlund, affectionately known over the years as “Doc O.” He led the combined choir in singing the CIU Alma Mater, as well as an old Charles Wesley hymn that was sung regularly in the early year of the school, “Faith Mighty Faith.”

Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees
And looks to that alone;
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries: It shall be done!
And cries: It shall be done!
And cries: It shall be done!
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries: It shall be done!

What most of the audience didn’t see was that while the choir sang on the stage of Shortess Chapel, quietly taking a seat at the piano behind them was 2003 CIU alumnus and Grammy-Award winner Laura Story.  

“I guess it’s me now,” Story joked as the choir left the stage.

She told humorous stories about why it took her eight years to get her bachelor’s degree, and how much has changed since she was a student, noting the drum set on the stage.

Today, Story is a worship leader at Perimeter Church in suburban Atlanta and credits CIU for preparing her for ministry.

“The ministry training I got here — I get to mentor women, teach Bible studies, lead worship services, all sorts of things. It’s my dream job.” 

Flags and Fireworks

Friday began with flags and ended with fireworks. Students alumni, faculty and staff participated in an international flag parade down CIU’s International Boulevard, carrying flags representing 160 nations where CIU alumni work and minister. A bagpiper led the way playing well-known hymns, while at the rear of the parade was a familiar figure and a different, but well-known sound.

“Bagpipes?” mused CIU Professor Emeritus Dr. Bryan Beyer to those along the parade route. That’s when he drew a breath and sounded his ram horn, familiar to decades of CIU students who have studied under his Old Testament teaching.

Friday ended with a stunning fireworks display over the athletic fields. But that did not signal the end of the celebration.

But wait, there’s more!

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Alumni Relations hosted a breakfast in the cafeteria where CIU alumnus and author Rob Morgan from the Class of ’74, spoke an encouraging and challenging word on the Victorious Christian Life, a CIU core value.

Morgan described how people and the teachings at CIU shaped his life, and his witness for the gospel. But Morgan's main focus was on 1 John 5:4, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith" (ESV).

Morgan said the world is the domain of and under the power of the devil, and "as a school, as an institution, as individuals, as churches, as pastors in our pulpits, this is no time to be intimidated, and this is no time to be silent ... we have got to speak truth to power, truth to academia, truth to culture, speak truth in our pulpits without fear and with love, but we cannot give a single inch."

After breakfast, class reunions were the order of the day. Celebrating at this combination 100th anniversary/homecoming was the class of 1973, commemorating their 50th reunion. Among them were Pam and Fred Tuggy.

“Back in the ‘70s, when we were here at Homecoming, we would see these little white-haired people walking around, stumbling and tottering and thinking, ‘That will never be us,’ and here we are,” joked Pam. “But our class meeting together has been a blessing for us. We were talking about how God has brought us through all these wonderful things and all these horrible things, and He is still there, always there to the end. And that's one of the things that we learned here: God will always be there. Always faithful.”

The class of ’73 closed their reunion by singing “God Be with You ‘til We Meet Again.”   

There is even more from the weekend:

Hear Dr. Paul Tripp’s address to the community, “How to be a Christian Without Losing Your Mind” on CIU’s Spotify podcast page.

Hear the special 100th anniversary chapel message from former CIU board member Delaine Blackwell on Spotify.

Check out what happened at a special event for community partners held at The Mills House, CIU’s downtown location prior to 1960. “100th Anniversary: CIU thanks community partners.”

CIU alumnus and author Dr. Paul Tripp address a community event "How to be a Christian Without Losing Your Mind." (Photo by Noah Allard)

CIU alumnus and author Dr. Paul Tripp address a community event "How to be a Christian Without Losing Your Mind." (Photo by Noah Allard)