Corban’s history stretches back to 1935 when it began as a small Bible institute in Phoenix, Arizona. You’ll notice, as you dive into Corban’s story, that the school has been called by several different names. Each name marks a significant season in Corban’s history and helps illustrate the transitions and periods of growth the school experienced to become the University it is today.
But the common thread in each of the school’s iterations has been a commitment to the authority of Scripture and a foundation on the person of Jesus Christ. Corban’s name and location may have changed, but its roots haven’t. Today, the school is just as committed to discipling Christians and preparing them for a lifetime of impact as it was in 1935.
In the growing city of Phoenix, Arizona, Evangelist Leland B. Entrekin and Pastor Roy O. Bancroft founded Phoenix Bible Institute (PBI) in 1935. Bancroft carried the work into 1943, and at that time a resolution was passed to hand over the Institute to the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, who were better equipped to provide support for the school.
In the fall term of 1943, 30 students had applied for enrollment. By 1946 the decision was made to move the school to Oakland, California.
A New Home, A New Era
At a meeting in April 1946, a motion was made for the purchase of the property of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Oakland, California, for the sum of $37,500.
A new name was chosen for the school: Western Baptist Bible College. By 1954 enrollment had reached 94. The college remained at the Oakland site for ten years.
The Maturing Years
The “El Cerrito property,” as it was first called, caught the attention of the Board. Its six acres and facilities just north of Oakland were said to be available for $150,000. An offer was made, and by the fall of 1956 classes began on the El Cerrito, California campus for 103 students.
In 1957-58, with an enrollment of 128, the largest department continued to be missions, while the second largest was the pastoral department. The library collection continued to grow to 10,000 volumes.
On to Oregon
On July 15, 1969, administrators used $5,000 from the President’s Club as a down payment for the new 100-acre campus in Salem, Oregon. (The down payment figure was adopted as the school’s new address: 5000 Deer Park Drive.) The sale was personally signed by then-Governor Tom McCall.
In October, several of the buildings on the new campus were named for John Schimmel, Herbert Farrar, Carrel and Fern Aagard, and Dr. H.O. Van Gilder, laying the foundation for decades of growth, building, and expansion.
Investing in the Future
Corban’s sixth president, Thomas Younger, brought to the school a passion for equipping Christian leaders for professional vocations. He helped institute the school’s education and business programs, two of Corban’s mainstays today. Younger believed that the world desperately needed educators, healthcare professionals, business leaders, and ministry leaders whose daily lives are founded in the Word of God.
This belief, ironically, caused some turmoil when Dr. Younger suggested removing the word “Bible” from the school’s name. But by becoming “Western Baptist College,” the school didn’t lose any of its biblical heritage; rather, the name change highlighted the importance of biblical training for men and women in all vocations. Every calling is a sacred calling, the name “Western Baptist College” suggested, and pastors and missionaries weren’t the only ones who could make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.
In 2005, Corban’s ninth president, Dr. Reno Hoff, made the move to change the school’s name to Corban College. He recognized that by affiliating with the Baptist denomination, the college was potentially limiting its reach. A non-denominational name would allow the school to reach more Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches, and thus expand Corban’s impact. “Corban,” a biblical word meaning “a gift dedicated to God,” reflected the school’s gratitude and commitment to God and His Word. Following Dr. Hoff’s retirement in 2013, Dr. Sheldon Nord, a Corban alumnus, became the tenth president. Under Dr. Nord’s leadership from 2013 to 2022, Corban welcomed more students than ever before, expanded its global outreach, and strengthened its class and major offerings.
Dr. John Mark Yeats has been selected to be the University’s 11th president, beginning June 1, 2023. Corban is poised to enter a new season of its history under the leadership of Dr. Yeats with a continued passion for Christian education and firm commitment to Corban’s mission: “To educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.”