A Tale of Two Schools

by University Relations

In spring 1965, Azusa College buzzed with life as students walked to and from classes, ate lunch, and met for study sessions. But one topic dominated conversations among students, teachers, and staff alike: the upcoming merger with their rival, Los Angeles Pacific College (LAPC). In the nearby community of Hermon, LAPC students discussed the same changes and anxiously anticipated moving to their rival’s campus.

As universities grounded in the Christian faith, both institutions sought the same goals: instilling academic excellence and strong Christian values in their students. However, due to small sizes and limited resources, neither school could reach its full potential alone. “Azusa College and LAPC could accomplish far more as one entity,” said Ken Otto, M.S., MLIS, Special Collections librarian at APU. “Together, they became a dynamic and energetic Christian college with a host of new opportunities.”

That August, a flood of students arrived for move-in day, helping each other unpack luggage, tables, chairs, and couches from trucks and moving vans as they began life at their new home. Before the merger, 240 students attended Azusa College and 150 attended LAPC, but a staggering 600 enrolled at the new Azusa Pacific College in its first year. “Nearly every department experienced incredible growth,” said Carolyn Koons ’65, a physical education instructor at the new school. “Such an influx of talented faculty, staff, and students infused campus with an incredible collaborative energy.” Staff and administrators from both schools worked toward more effective, smoother operations. Professors combined expertise to improve classroom curriculum. Music majors blended talents in ensembles. Students collaborated over a yearbook dubbed Tavaleph, and a new newspaper—the Clause.

Most notably, the Azusa College Sentinels and LAPC Panthers sports teams—archrivals just a few months earlier—joined forces in baseball, basketball, soccer, track, cross country, and football as the Azusa Pacific College Cougars. “The first football game of the season represented a turning point in the schools’ union as we rooted for one team as one body,” said Cliff Hamlow ’56, then Azusa Pacific College athletic director. “More students and talent launched us to a higher level of performance in athletics, music, and academics, setting the stage for APU today.”

Azusa College and LAPC student body presidents Peb Jackson ’67 and Mike McKee ’67 co-governed the new Student Government Association (SGA). “Peb and I both wanted to unite these two schools,” said McKee. The presidents shared their responsibilities evenly and planned regular campus-wide social events to inspire unity. “Each school brought important contributions to this merger of equals. The whole was better than its parts, and friendships formed that last to this day.”

Originally published in the Winter '14 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.