Gordon in the News: last updated 11/14/2008

An Open Birthday Letter to Dr. Billy Graham

Gordon College
Wenham, MA
November 5, 2008

Dear Dr. Billy Graham,

In 1955 you were elected to the Board of Trustees at what was then called Gordon College of Theology. The Boston Sunday Herald ran a photo of the "world's foremost evangelist" alongside the announcement of your election, and news spread quickly of your relationship with Gordon. In between preaching and directing a full-time ministry around the world, you served faithfully as a Gordon trustee until 1972, providing crucial leadership and vision for the college community. We remain grateful for your influence on our campus.

In 1969, at the inauguration of Dr. Harold John Ockenga as president of the college and seminary, you inspired us with these words- words that inspire us still: "I believe Gordon can become one of the great educational institutions of the world if we maintain the things of the past that we should hold on to and never let go, while at the same time changing in those areas in which we can change and should change in a revolutionary age."

As you turn 90 years old on November 7, 2008, we at Gordon College join communities across the country in celebrating your life and Christian service. While our library's archives document your far-reaching influence in manuscripts, photographs and newspaper clippings, the impact of your ministry on the lives of Gordon College administrators, faculty, staff and students is immeasurable.

Several members of our Gordon community, then, would like to offer you the following personal reflections for your birthday:

I'm grateful for the profound influence you had on Gordon College in the 1960s and early 1970s. I know that you considered Dr. Ockenga your mentor during these years and were intimate friends with several Trustees of the College. You and Mrs. Graham also knew the value of a strong Christian liberal arts college like Gordon because one of your daughters attended Gordon during this period. Thank you for all the times you were a speaker on our campus at the height of your ministry because you inspired many Gordon students to serve Christ throughout the world. Your consistent example of Christian faith and service has been a model to me.
-R. Judson Carlberg, current president of Gordon College

Happy birthday, Friend. You have taught me in person (in the company of thousands). You have taught me all alone, as I have read your work through the changed lives of others. All thanks be to God who gives us such friends for the journey. I am blessed.
-Stan D. Gaede, president of the Christian College Consortium and scholar-in-residence at Gordon College
I became a Christian in 1979 and joined a local youth group. My leader, Jim Farmer, gave me a Bible. In the back of the Bible was a coupon for a Bible study through the Billy Graham Association. Needless to say, I sent the coupon in and quickly finished my first study on the book of Mark. After each lesson, I received a kind note from someone in your organization. This greatly encouraged me and as my faith grew, I never forgot those kind words. Now, I work at Gordon College, where you were once a trustee for many years! So from one of many lives you touched, Happy Birthday to you. Thank you for your ministry and your kind staff.
-Russ Leathe, director of networking and computer services
I "went forward" at a Billy Graham crusade in October of 1971, in the Anaheim Stadium in Orange County, California. There are a thousand reasons I might have fallen away-my counterculture leanings back then, my mainline-bordering-on-Unitarian upbringing-but my conversion "took," and all these years later I am still a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am forever grateful for Billy's huge heart and his straight-shot approach to evangelism. 
-Patty Hanlon, director of publications in the Office of College Communications
Several years ago I heard you speak at the Memorial Chapel at Harvard University on "What Does the Cross of Christ Mean to You?" I was so grateful that you did not compromise the gospel message in any way for the Harvard community, but presented the good news of the cross at Harvard as you have around the world. May God richly bless you during this time of your birthday celebrations.
-Roger J. Green, professor of biblical and theological studies
I send this short note to express to you heartfelt wishes for the celebration of your 90th birthday. Your voice and presence during this past century have changed the religious landscape of our nation. Thank you for your years of service. I heard you speak in Dallas, Texas (Explo '72), when I was a new young Christian. (I was 16.) I have never forgotten the words you said that inform, to this day, my understanding of how to live for Christ in this disorienting world. You said, "It is not easy to be a New Testament Christian." I believe those were the first honest words I heard about the cost that this adventure of faith would require. I then served at the magazine you founded, Christianity Today, for over five years as an associate editor (1995-2000) and then, another five years as a senior writer (2000-2005). During that time, I interviewed your wife Ruth and published two pieces about her in the magazine. I also interviewed your son Franklin (twice) and daughter Anne (twice) and wrote major pieces about them for the magazine as well. My only sadness is that I was never able to interview you. (The invitation remains open.) Wishing you all blessings and grace on this special day.
-Wendy Murray (Zoba), author and adjunct professor of journalism
In 1949 the Billy Graham Crusade came to Boston and began on New Year's Eve. What did that crusade mean to us who were Gordon students? For those 17 days in January 1950 we talked of little else. We held prayer meetings. We volunteered as personal workers and to sing in the choir. Yes, we still had to go to classes-I don't remember our professors lightening the load of assignments. But the whole campus was focused on the Billy Graham meetings. The kitchen served our main meal at noon and prepared bag suppers for those going downtown. People were turned away every night so we had to get there early. Going back on the subway, whole cars filled with people singing praises to God-in Boston! . . . The crusade impacted many of us in significant ways. Your messages, straight from the Bible, clearly pointed people to Jesus Christ as the answer to their deepest problems, and they responded by the thousands.
-alumna Pauline Kolodinski Brown '50

From all of us at Gordon College, Happy Birthday, Dr. Graham!

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Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 36 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colle


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