President oversaw 25 years of robust growth at Biola University

Times Staff Writer

Clyde Cook, who was president of Biola University for 25 years and oversaw tremendous growth at the Christian college before he retired last year, has died. He was 72.

Cook died of a heart attack April 11 at his home in Fullerton, the university announced.

During his tenure, enrollment at the university in La Mirada nearly doubled, to about 5,750 students. The campus grew by 20 acres, and the school’s endowment went from almost zero to $43.5 million.

After Cook assumed the presidency in 1982, one of his first acts was to add women to the board of trustees. Some trustees thought the Bible prohibited female leadership of a Christian institution, but Cook “just thought it was healthy” to include the perspective of women on the board, he said in a 2007 Biola publication.

The move caused an exodus of older, conservative faculty members, which energized the university as new professors with fresh ideas were hired, according to a 2007 profile of Biola in Los Angeles magazine.


Cook insisted that academic rigor was essential to spiritual commitment.

“The truth can never harm faith,” he told the magazine.

In 1988, the university received wide media coverage when -- after 80 years of forbidding dancing -- it allowed students to dance off-campus.

Administrators saw it as a positive change because moral responsibility was being transferred from the school to students. Cook said altering the code of conduct was not a marketing move to make Biola more attractive to students.

“Some will see this is as a sign of spiritual growth, and others will see it as a sign of slippage,” the genteel Cook said in a 1988 Times article about the rule change.

A fourth-generation missionary, Cook was born in Hong Kong in 1935 and grew up there. He was the fourth of six children of a sea captain and his missionary wife.

During World War II, Cook, then 7, and his mother were held by the Japanese in a prison camp for about six months. The rest of his family was imprisoned elsewhere.

After the family was reunited, they spent several years in South Africa before settling in Laguna Beach. Cook was a star basketball player at Laguna Beach High School.

Training to be a missionary, he earned a bachelor’s degree in the Bible in 1957 and master’s degrees in divinity and theology at Biola. He married a fellow student, Anna Belle Lund.

For five years, Cook coached Biola’s men’s sports teams and served as athletic director. He spent four years as a missionary in the Philippines, then joined Biola’s faculty in 1967. He earned a doctorate in missiology, the study of missionary activities, at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1974.

A life philosophy was behind his penchant for collecting newspaper clippings of freak accidents, Cook told The Times in 1982.

“This isn’t a morbid fascination,” he said. “It’s just something I do to remind myself how unpredictable life can be.”

In addition to Anna Belle, his wife of 50 years, Cook is survived by daughter Laura Botka of Kent, Wash.; son Craig of Chaska, Minn.; two brothers; a sister; and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at First Evangelical Free Church, 2801 N. Brea Blvd., Fullerton, and at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Biola’s Chase Gymnasium, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to Biola’s Talbot School of Theology building project,