Chase, J. Richard
- Existence: 1930 - 2010
J. Richard Chase was born to James Warren Chase and Nina Marie Fiscus Chase on October 7, 1930. Chase was the second of four boys. He grew up outside of Oxnard, California, on the Chase Brothers Dairy, still a family-owned business today. As a boy, he imagined that he would follow in his father’s footsteps.
His plans changed over time, beginning during his last two years of high school when he attended Culter Academy. There he met Mary Sutherland, daughter of Dr. Samuel Sutherland, who would later become president of Biola College. The two began dating at 16, and married four years later, while both were students at Biola. During his undergraduate years at Biola, Dr. Chase felt the Lord was calling him into Christian education. In Dr. Sutherland, he found both a mentor and friend.
Graduating from Biola in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in theology, Dr. Chase went on to earn a B.A. in speech education and an M.A. in speech at Pepperdine University. After completing his masters’ degree, he worked part-time at Biola and then full-time in the speech department, while also pastoring a small church in Hollywood.
With the encouragement of the Biola trustees, Dr. Chase then took a leave of absence from teaching. He and Mary packed their young family, which by this time included 3-month-old Kenneth, and drove across the country to begin a doctoral program at Cornell University. While in New York, Dr. Chase worked as the youth pastor of a Baptist church in Ithaca and earned his doctorate in rhetoric and public address from Cornell.
Upon the family’s return to Biola, Dr. Chase rejoined the speech department, developing the forensic program, and forming debate teams. He served as chairman of the speech department and chairman of the humanities division during this time, and he and Mary welcomed their second child, Jennifer. He was appointed vice president in 1965, and in 1970, he became the sixth and youngest president of Biola College.
During his 12-year term at Biola, an acquisition led to the establishment of the Rosemead School of Psychology, and Dr. Chase’s tenure reached its summit when Biola College became Biola University on July 1, 1981. Described as a “good academic navigator,” Dr. Chase is remembered for developing and maintaining Biola’s twin commitments to academic excellence and Christian teaching.
Dr. Chase then felt God’s call to another Christian college far from balmy Southern California. Despite frigid temperatures on the initial interview trip, in 1982 he accepted the role of president at Wheaton, calling the post “one of the most exciting and demanding jobs in Christian higher education today.”
Under his biblically centered and constructive direction, the academic, financial, and physical dimensions of the College flourished. “Dick Chase has done much to make Wheaton the flagship of the Christian colleges,” said Dr. Kenneth Wessner ’47, trustee emeritus.
With an emphasis on strengthening the breadth of Wheaton’s academics, Dr. Chase encouraged Wheaton’s participation in the Pew Science Program, designed to enrich science educational opportunities and to attract more science students. A partnership with nearby Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) began a five-year program of liberal arts and engineering that still exists today. Also during Dr. Chase’s tenure, the Center for Applied Christian Ethics was established and the Leroy H. Pfund Lectureship began. These two programs enriched the College, bringing noteworthy speakers to discuss and debate current issues. With a vision to develop the graduate school, Dr. Chase oversaw the start of the College’s first doctoral program in clinical psychology in 1992.
Strong financial gains fueled the academic growth of this period. The endowment fund grew from $32 million to about $93 million. Such growth was in part due to the successful $36 million Campaign for Wheaton, spearheaded by Dr. Chase.
Significant changes to the campus landscape included the artful restoration of Blanchard Hall and the construction of Anderson Commons’ sun-lit dining spaces.
Dr. Chase was named America’s Outstanding Educator by the Religious Heritage of America Foundation in 1986 and, in the same year, listed among the 100 most effective college presidents in America in a nationwide survey reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He also served as the first chairman of the board of the Christian College Coalition.
During his 11-year tenure, Dr. Chase received some of the country’s most influential leaders to campus including former Presidents George H. W. Bush. and Jimmy Carter, evangelist Billy Graham ’43, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
Dr. Chase taught and served on the board at Tyndale Seminary in the Netherlands from 1993 to 2003. He also enjoyed preaching and speaking at his home church, and at Wheaton alumni events around the country and the world. He and Mary continued to enjoy spending time with family and with Wheaton alumni, faculty, and friends at HoneyRock each summer, as his health allowed.
He is survived by his wife, Mary; two children, Dr. Kenneth Chase and Jennifer Chase Barnard; and 7 grandchildren.
His children remember him for his steadiness, wisdom, generosity, and genuine concern for the well-being of others. Dr. Ken Chase, once chair of the communication department at Wheaton, says, “Looking back, our family life was extremely peaceful.”
At the core of Dr. Chase’s commitment to Wheaton, and to Christian higher education as a whole, was a profound understanding of the eternal importance of the task. In one of many moving addresses he said, “The technology of our age may soon get the basic message of salvation to our entire world. But a searching society needs the witness of those who can think Christianly. They need the witness and human touch of those who serve them, weep with them, and rejoice with them for no other reason than the compelling love of Christ.”
J. Richard Chase died at Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois, on August 20, 2010. He was 79 years old.
Found in 9 Collections and/or Records:
Correspondence, reports, minutes, budgets, audio tapes, photographs.
Topics documented included the formation of the WEF; the gradual growth of influence by non-Western associations; the activities of Evangelical Protestants in many different parts of the world; the leadership of J. Elwin Wright, Clyde Taylor, Waldron Scott, and David Howard, among others. Many of the twenty-eight audiotapes are of addresses presented at the Eighth General Assembly in Singapore in 1986.
Papers, recordings of meeting sessions, planning materials and other documents from the Trinary Consultation, which examined how Christians in the late twentieth century should present the Christian gospel in large urban settings. The meeting was co-sponsored by Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Wheaton College.
The records document the presidency of J. Richard Chase, sixth president of Wheaton College.
- Collection 7
- Unprocessed 1
- Digital Record 1
- Evangelicalism -- United States. 5
- Evangelicalism. 5
- Evangelistic work. 4
- Church and social problems. 3
- Evangelistic work -- Congresses 3
- Evangelistic work -- United States. 3
- Mass media in religion. 3
- Theology 3
- Theology -- Study and teaching -- Asia. 3
- Authors and readers -- United States. 2
- Bible. 2
- Businessmen -- Religious life. 2
- Businessmen. 2
- Christian literature -- Publication and distribution. 2
- Christian literature. 2
- Church and social problems -- Congresses. 2
- Community development. 2
- Conversion. 2
- Ecumenical movement. 2
- Ethics. 2
- Evangelicalism -- Africa. 2
- Evangelicalism -- Asia. 2
- Evangelicalism -- Europe. 2
- Evangelicalism -- Oceania. 2
- Evangelicalism -- South Africa. 2
- Evangelicalism -- South America. 2
- Evangelistic work -- Biblical teaching. 2
- Evangelistic work -- Hymns. 2
- Evangelistic work -- Music. 2
- Evangelistic work -- Philosophy. 2
- Fund raising. 2
- Fundamentalism. 2
- Great Commission (Bible) 2
- Hispanic Americans. 2
- Liberalism (Religion) 2
- Liberalism (Religion) -- United States. 2
- Mass media in religion -- United States. 2
- Missions. 2
- Religious institutions. 2
- Theology -- Study and teaching -- United States. 2
- Abortion 1
- Abortion -- Religious aspects -- Christianity. 1
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- Administrative Records. 1
- African Americans -- Missions. 1
- African Americans. 1
- Amnesty. 1
- Amnesty. -- United States. 1
- Annual Reports 1
- Apartheid. 1
- Audiotapes 1
- Authors and publishers -- United States. 1
- Authors and publishers. 1
- Bass baritone. 1
- Belief and doubt. 1
- Billy Graham Greater London Crusade (1966: London, England) 1
- Born again (Motion picture) 1
- Born again. 1
- Businessmen -- Religious life -- United States. 1
- Campaign funds. 1
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- Capital punishment -- Christianity. 1
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- Christian education -- Philosophy. 1
- Christian education. 1
- Christian leadership. 1
- Christian life -- Hymns. 1
- Christian literature -- Publication and distribution -- United States. 1
- Christianity and culture -- United States. 1
- Christianity and culture. 1
- Christianity and other religions. 1
- Christianity and politics. 1
- Christianity today. 1
- Church and social problems -- United States. 1
- Church and state. 1
- Church development, New. 1
- Church growth 1
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- Church work with women. 1
- Church. 1
- Cities and towns. 1
- City churches. 1
- City missions. 1
- Cold War. 1
- Communication -- Congresses. 1
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- Communism and Christianity. 1
- Communism. 1
- Community development -- Christianity. 1
- Conversion -- Christianity. 1
- Conversion -- Hymns. 1
- Conversion -- Personal narratives. 1
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- Corporations, Religious 1
- Corporations, Religious -- United States. 1
- Correspondence 1
- Counseling. 1
- Crime and criminals 1
- Crime and criminals -- United States. 1 ∧ less