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Saying Goodbye to the Fuller Theological Seminary

Pasadena bids a fond farewell to a venerated institution.

By: Peter Segall,  Images: Courtesy Fuller Theological Seminary

For 70 years, Fuller Theological Seminary has trained thousands from its relatively small campus tucked neatly between Union and Walnut, just east of City Hall. Its proximity to the center of government was no coincidence as its founder, Charles Fuller, wanted the school to be the Caltech of theological education, sitting “in the shadow of City Hall,” according to Fuller’s communications manager, Britt Vaughan.

Fuller had become famous through his popular radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour,” which aired from 1937 to 1968 and was the first international religious radio program, broadcasting in the U.S. and U.K. Wanting to spread the gospel even further, Fuller and a few fellow evangelists decided to found a school they hoped would be a center for evangelical scholarship.

The school opened in 1947, originally occupying the palatial manor house at the John S. Cravens Estate on Madeline Drive off Orange Grove. In 1953, the 250 students moved to the newly constructed Peyton Hall, which sits at the center of the campus between Union and Walnut.

“Fuller had a desire to train students in psychological counseling through the integration of psychology and theology,” Vaughan says, and in 1963 the School of Psychology opened. In 1973, the American Psychological Association approved accreditation of the school’s Ph.D. program, making it the first seminary-based graduate school of psychology to receive such a distinction.

But after 70 years in Pasadena, thoughts turned to the future. The board began to “reconsider what graduate and theological education means for the 21st century,” Vaughan says. The plan is to moved all operations by summer 2021 to a new campus in Pomona where they’ll be able to provide a “more collaborative” environment and develop the necessary infrastructure for a new era. “Online classes grew 15 percent quarter over quarter,” Vaughan says, which is where the school sees much of its future.

So what is to become of the Pasadena campus? That depends on the buyer. For sale: 27 property pieces on 11 different parcels covering several blocks just east of Los Robles. There are 248 apartment units as well as a newly constructed library, offices, auditorium, and lecture halls. As of this writing no buyer has been named, but a representative for CBRE said that the company will be working closely with the City of Pasadena’s planning and development office.

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