by Caitlin Gipson

In less than a minute, Richard Pineda ’10 noticed the difference.

On the first day of his senior seminar class, team-taught by APU President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, the other professor stopped by his desk. “She asked how I was. When I said, ‘Pretty good,’ she responded, ‘Just pretty good? Let’s see how we can fix that!’ I had answered that way hundreds of times—she was the first to think ‘pretty good’ wasn’t good enough.”

Pineda quickly discovered that this was not a fluke. Every interaction with the vivacious Peggy Campbell, then-member and current chair of APU’s Board of Trustees, reflects a Colossians 1:10 approach to life and commitment to APU students. Over that semester, she pulled him aside, met with him over meals, and helped him explore his life goals. “That first conversation displayed Peggy’s heart. She cares deeply and wants everyone to experience joy,” said Pineda. Four years later, the two still meet.

Campbell, who made APU history in 2012 with her appointment as the school’s first female board chair, exemplifies how the investment of time, financial resources, and emotional energy into APU can reap bountiful rewards. Her relationship with APU began eight years ago when she and her husband, Jon, who together operated Irvine-based Ambassador Advertising Agency, hired two APU graduates. “They were professionally proficient and spiritually deep,” Campbell explained. “We decided we should learn more about Azusa Pacific University.”

After their initial financial gift to APU in 2003, the Campbells developed a strong relationship with the APU community and immersed themselves in its culture. “We found spiritual sparkle and an effervescent spirit that captured our hearts,” she said.

Their involvement broadened, when Jon served on the APU board for a short time before losing his battle with esophageal cancer in 2005. “I didn’t expect to become a widow,” said Campbell, “but God ordained for me to be part of APU for this second life chapter—it is such a superb blessing that I laugh and weep with gratitude. Student life energizes the soul.”

A year later, she joined the board, fulfilling her late husband’s wise belief that she was perfect for the role. “I decided to invest a big part of my life and resources in this community,” she said. She visits APU’s campus multiple times a week, attends student events, and meets with recipients of the scholarship established in Jon’s name. “Meeting students affirmed our decision to support these lives—there is no better endorsement. One works in India, another as a CPA in Los Angeles, another as a missionary in Australia. I love intersecting with these amazing students.”

Wallace points out that this connection plays a very personal, tangible role in living out APU’s mission. “Her servant leadership perfectly expresses APU’s Christ-centered mission,” he said. “Even more remarkable than Peg’s commitment to individual faculty, staff, and students are the many alumni who continue a meaningful relationship with her after graduation. She’s truly one of a kind. But soon, there will be many others—those she has mentored, the Peggy Campbells of tomorrow.”

Jacova Snyder ’16 met Campbell as a prospective student when they sat together at a banquet. “She was warm and interested, and followed up to learn if I had chosen to attend APU. Ever since, she’s been a dear friend who speaks into my life.”

“Peggy has the biggest heart and a bubbling personality,” said Elisa Morales ’12, who also took part in Campbell’s senior seminar course. “She read our weekly journals and responded with sincerity—in notes, in person, and even now, two years later. Once you cross paths with Peggy, she will always care for and invest in you.”

Campbell emphasizes, though, that these interactions enrich her life, too. “Getting to know APU students and watch their lives flourish feeds my soul,” said Campbell. “This is a place where we equip young adults to lead a life worthy of their calling. It’s a treasure for any donor to know that any gift will have a lasting impact. The scholarship in Jon’s name assists students who exhibit his core value—servant leadership. The fund gives me the chance to pass the baton in his honor to men and women who will make a difference in the Kingdom.”

This attitude provides a striking example for her students. “Peggy has said, ‘I don’t understand why Jon is gone now, but I don’t want to miss what God has for me in this season,’” said Snyder. “She reacts to pain with open arms, refusing to let it stop her from loving people and serving the Lord. Her incredible testimony is applicable to my own life.”

APU staff member Philip Brazell ’08, who met Peggy in 2007 while serving as APU’s student body president, observed that Campbell’s compassion guides her everyday actions. “She savors life’s moments. Peg remembers everyone’s name, and takes time to ask about each person’s story. She urges students not to take their lives or their time for granted, but rather to discover their calling.”

When giving financially, Campbell follows her own calling. “Students are my heart. I support scholarships, missions trips, and projects like building a student union for commuters because of the direct impact on students’ lives. I believe we are commanded to give from the wealth we’ve been given. For some, that means time. For others, it means money. For others, it means focused prayer. For me, it’s all three. We all want to know that our life has somehow made a difference, and that’s what I see at APU. I see that the next generation is passionate about Christ, and the world is going to hear about Him and be transformed because of that message. That is such a powerful reality—it’s impossible not to be enthusiastic about the privilege of giving.”

Originally published in the Winter '13 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.