by Georgeann Halburian Ikuma
With unemployment up, the stock market down, and the world’s economy on shaky ground, conventional wisdom calls for not just strict frugality, but perhaps an outright insular approach to financial management that excludes most giving, let alone philanthropy.
Rick ’79 and Robyn (Delamarter ’80) Dillon don’t subscribe to that philosophy. Or perhaps they simply listen to a different Advisor who counsels, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). At a time when fear causes even the wealthy to think twice about spending, investing, and giving, the Dillons’ significant donation to Azusa Pacific University, underwriting the entire transformation of Adams Field, represents a beacon of hope for students and a solemn reminder of Christ-centered stewardship.
“God has blessed us tremendously,” said Rick, who received his bachelor’s degree in business more than 30 years ago from APU. “We believe in putting God First and giving back.” The Dillons also value the university’s vision and mission to advance the work of God in the world through academics by encouraging students to develop a Christian perspective of truth and life, a lesson they treasure from their time on campus. “APU provided us with a life-changing education,” said Rick. Not only did he and Robyn meet and fall in love while attending APU, but during his time as a student and Cougar basketball player, Rick also became a Christian.
“I remember touring the campus with Cliff Hamlow, and I asked him if this was going to be a religious kind of thing. He said, ‘Why? Have you outgrown church?’ That was it! He hit the nail on the head. I felt like church was part of my childhood but had no place in my adult life.” Rick soon learned otherwise. “I had never been a part of a team like that before,” he said. “Coach Hamlow and the players took me in and wrapped their arms around me. I didn’t understand that kind of warmth and camaraderie at first. When I started going to Bible studies at the coach’s house, it started to make sense.”
That sense of community and connection prompted the Dillons’ substantial gift and inspired them to safeguard this aspect of their alma mater. “We want the money to be put directly toward something that benefits students now,” said Robyn, a registered nurse who attended APU’s nursing program and currently serves on the Board of Trustees focusing on student life and advancement. “Having a communal area where students can hang out and participate in recreational activities promotes lasting friendships,” she said, speaking from firsthand experience as a student and a mother witnessing the personal and spiritual growth of their children, Darren ’05 and Kara ’11, who followed in their father’s footsteps, graduating with bachelor’s degrees in business.
“The APU educational impact goes beyond earning a degree, though that’s important. The university community works to create well-rounded, capable individuals who love the Lord,” she said. “Every year, we open our home to host new students in hopes that they, too, will experience the same academic excellence, spiritual growth, and meaningful connections with others that APU has provided for our whole family.”
“The Dillons’ longtime history with APU informs their understanding of our need to create an excellent environment both in terms of academics as well as co-curricular opportunities,” said David Bixby, Ed.D., APU’s executive vice president. “Their gift enables us to convert Adams Field into an inviting green space for students to congregate and foster community through basketball, volleyball, and football, anytime, day or night. It is an honor for us to have this space carry their name, not only because of their generosity, but also because of their strong belief in APU’s mission.”
The Dillons hope that through their gift, APU will be able to maintain the warm, intimate environment of a smaller university, while advancing its esteemed position as one of the nation’s leading Christian higher education institutions. “The school has grown incredibly since we were students, but not so swiftly that there hasn’t been careful attention paid to maintaining its Christ-centered identity and unwavering commitment to students,” said Robyn. “Through each phase of expansion, the university has kept a hand on the student’s shoulder and paid close attention to each one. No one falls through the cracks here. My father, who was involved in higher education for many years, used to say that Azusa Pacific professors reach across the desk to connect with their students. That image depicts the caring and compassion we have always felt here.”
Rick agrees and credits APU for helping to prepare Christian leaders in all academic areas who can contribute to improving this nation. “Now, more than ever, it is important for our educational system to equip young adults with the degrees, intellectual know-how, and spiritual guidance that will help make a much-needed difference in our economy,” he said. “Hopefully, our contribution affects the positive change our country needs.” That kind of influence can’t be measured in dollars and cents.
Georgeann Halburian Ikuma is a freelance writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. firstname.lastname@example.org