PUC Recognizes Maxwell as Longest-Standing President

By Sharon Fujimoto on June 13, 2007

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Pacific Union College celebrated the career of D. Malcolm Maxwell, the longest-serving president in its 114 year history, on July 17, 1996. Maxwell, whose college presidency of more than 13 years officially surpassed all previous records on July 10, 1996, took office on July 1, 1983. He is the first alumnus to serve as PUC's president.

The record of longest-standing president had previously belonged to W. E. Nelson, who served as president from June 21, 1921, to July 9, 1934.

Maxwell's achievement was officially recognized at a luncheon held on July 17. In appreciation of his leadership at PUC, and knowing Maxwell's enthusiasm for the sea, Vivian Wahlen, spouse of late PUC alumnus Don Wahlen, '51, donated a decorative, glass-cased sailing ship to be placed in the president's office. The ship is a replica of the 14-sailed USS Constitution, built in the 1790s in Boston.

One of President Maxwell's earliest achievements during his tenure at Pacific Union College was to reduce the tensions over the theological debate which he inherited on his arrival. Eric Anderson, professor of history, likened Maxwell to FDR or Ronald Reagan as "a great communicator" within the Adventist environment. "Like them, he recognized the vital importance of timing and images and had the knack, somehow, of inspiring action," Anderson commented.

According to Verne Wehtje, assistant to the president, Maxwell has succeeded in strengthening confidence in the college among the constituency. He has traveled extensively with the goal of becoming highly visible as a president by creating personal contact and maintaining long-term relationships with supporters of the college's projects.

Charles Bell, academic dean, described Maxwell as "a person of extraordinary talent with a true sense of leadership that inspires others. He has the ability to encourage a strong spirit of optimism towards the college's mission," Bell said.

During the 13 years under Maxwell's leadership, PUC has undergone substantial development. Examples of this are the opening of Chan Shun Hall and the up-coming renovation of Clark Hall. Chan Shun Hall was opened in 1985 after the college received contributions from Hong Kong philanthropist Chan Shun and the Archie Tonge Educational Fund. The Clark Hall Science Capital Campaign is in progress to raise funds for the refurbishing and enlarging of Clark Hall.

President Maxwell has spent considerable time and effort in seeking to put the college on sounder financial basis, both by finding new uses of its resources, such as its land, and by seeking donations and endowments. Also notable is PUC's persistence, under Maxwell's leadership, in seeking new markets: the English as a Second Language Program has recruited students from Asia; extension programs have expanded PUC's audience; and degree completion programs in Napa and Santa Rosa have offered educational options for non-traditional students.

During the 1996 annual PUC Alumni Weekend, the Charles E. Weniger Award Committee, an independent group, presented Dr. Maxwell with its 1996 award. The Weniger Award is given to persons in Adventist education who best exemplify the professional excellence and Christian commitment of its namesake, Dr. Charles Weniger, who served as chair of the PUC communication department for many years before going on to a distinguished career as dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.

Maxwell is one of the five children of Rachel and Arthur S. Maxwell, known as "Uncle Arthur" of the Bedtime Stories and the Bible Story series. He was born in Watford, England. When Maxwell was two years old, the family moved to Mountain View, California. He graduated from Mountain View Academy in 1952.

Maxwell studied theology and Biblical studies at PUC from 1952 to 1956, serving as student association president during his senior year. He married Eileen Bolander in 1955 and graduated the following year.

Prior to returning to PUC, Maxwell pastored for nine years, taught at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, for one year, and spent 18 years at Walla Walla College in College Place, Washington, as a professor of religion, dean of the school of theology, and academic dean. Maxwell earned his doctorate in New Testament from Drew University, New Jersey.

President and Mrs. Maxwell will have been married 41 years in August. They have two children and three grandchildren. Their son and his wife, Kevin and Debbie Maxwell, live at Walla Walla, Washington. Their daughter and her husband, Wendy and Steven Henderson, live in Phoenix, Arizona, with their two sons and one daughter: Bradford, 13, Christopher, 4, and Sydney, 2.