On Friday, October 20, guests and alumni joined Pensacola Christian College for a night of celebration, marking a half century since founders Dr. Arlin and Mrs. Beka Horton welcomed 100 college students to a much smaller campus. During Gala—Celebrating Our 50th Year, guests were treated to a special selection of musical and dramatic performances and participated in honoring influential people from PCC history.
An air of celebration was evident before ever stepping foot inside the Crowne Centre. Photo op locations hinted at the stage inside, and upon entering the main atrium, featured artwork by alumni and faculty artists sat on display. Once the program began, visiting alumni were quickly brought back to the start of College chapel as the audience was invited to stand and sing the Doxology alongside the choirs onstage.
A Night of Remembering
The Gala celebrated the heritage of PCC while looking forward to a bright future through selections performed by its own—staff, faculty, students, and alumni. Miss Liz Thomason, Gala director, likened the event to the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, where Dr. Arlin and Mrs. Beka Horton were honored for their 60 years of Christian ministry in the Pensacola area. “This year’s Gala includes a variety of performances as well; however, instead of focusing solely on the Hortons, other influential individuals received honors throughout the evening,” said Miss Thomason.
“The Lord has been so good to us to allow us to be part of this historical moment.” —Dr. Ray Gibbs
The night was filled with gratitude and nostalgia as the Gala looked back on years gone by. Audiences enjoyed performances such as “Jupiter” from The Planets performed on five pianos, the balcony scene from Cyrano de Bergerac, “For Your Beauty” by Heather Sorenson (Music: Sacred Piano ’97), and the premier performance of “To God Be All the Glory” by Paul Thompson (Music Education: Voice ’02, M.A. Music ’04), a piece commissioned specially for the 50th year.
Artists-in-residence Drs. Ray and Ann Gibbs joined college faculty in 1991. “We were immediately impressed that this institution was pursuing the highest academic standards, and at the same time, staying true to the spiritual standards taught in the Word of God,” Ray explained. Together, he and Ann sang “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” during the Gala program. For them, the evening was a moment of praise. “We have seen many special events during our tenure with this ministry, but I believe that this event celebrating 50 years of consistent godly ministry is the greatest. Few other similar ministries can say that. The Lord has been so good to us to allow us to be part of this historical moment.”
Of all the musical performances, “God’s Perfect Lamb,” performed by Mrs. Daisy Jaffé, was especially memorable to many in the audience. “That song had to be the best of the whole night,” shared Laina Duffee (Graduate Practical Theology ’01). “When she played the first few notes, you knew it was going to be amazing! She completely commanded everyone’s attention. You could definitely feel her love of the song in how she played the piano.”
Between the performances, individuals who had been a great influence at PCC were honored with Legacy of Influence awards. Recipients included Mrs. Lois Allen, Dr. A.A. “Buzz” Baker, Dr. Matthew Beemer, Dr. William Crawford, Dr. Jerry Goddard, Dr. Ron Godwin, Mrs. Landra Grant, Mr. Jim Hicks, Mr. John Hurst, Dr. Dell Johnson, Dr. Joel Mullenix, Dr. Paul Ohman, Dr. Phyllis Rand, Mr. Reggie Sellers, and Dr. Arlin and Mrs. Beka Horton. The information about these honorees and many other faculty and staff will be featured on a Legacy of Service website launching later this year.
Grateful for the opportunity to publicly acknowledge each award recipient, Dr. Troy Shoemaker remarked, “I have both experiential and emotional connection to this place and to so many of the people that we honored. For me, these are not just names of people that once were here—I saw firsthand the faithfulness of ministry, the dedication to excellence in this place. So to honor them and do so with a Gala like that was absolutely top-notch and made the whole night really, really special. We share this common passion about how much this ministry has meant in our lives and how much it continues to have [meaning] in the lives of so many of us, whether current college students or people who serve here.”
Alongside the special evening, PCC unveiled the 50th-Year Commemorative Book, full of nostalgic photography that showcases events, milestones, and people that shaped the College. After the performance concluded, alumni and guests were given the first opportunity to take this treasure trove of memories home with them.
A Story Worth Celebrating
The Gala program certainly made an impression, but so did the audience members themselves—the people who are part of PCC’s story. Student body members past and present felt a sense of unity together throughout the evening. “It was interesting to look at the whole legacy of the 50th year, especially when we’re singing all together and you hear everyone’s voices,” Mao Kuribayashi (So., Japan). “It’s so amazing that everyone came back and they’re still honoring God and they’re still following God’s path. I have a deeper appreciation for everything around campus.”
Danielle Burdick (So., FL) echoed a sentiment shared by many PCC students: The Gala’s Legacy of Influence awards and the Alumni Homecoming Chapel earlier in the day informed them about the names they see on campus on a day-to-day basis. “I really liked the fact that they introduced us to some of the members who buildings are named after because you don’t really think about it. ‘Oh yeah, that’s Rice Tower’ or ‘That’s Allen Chapel,’” she said. “Now we have a face with the name and what they did to deserve such an honor of having a building or a chapel named after them.”
“I fought tears all day—actually, I let them flow a few times. I’m just very, very grateful that I got to be part of this.” —Michelle Foster
Since the program took place in conjunction with Alumni Homecoming, many alumni attended the Gala wanting to be part of the culminating celebration. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” shared Tim Foster (Management; Bachelor of Bible ’02). “Fifty years is quite an accomplishment, so I felt like coming back and seeing people that we knew, seeing the staff we knew, and honoring those people. This [influence] is what we want to do in other people’s lives, so if I can take anything away from it, it would be, how are we going to make an impact where we’re at?”
Celebrating 50 years during this special weekend was more than just marking a milestone, it was an avenue for graduates to express gratitude to their alma mater. “I wanted to see Dr. Horton. I wanted to see the people that I had heard were coming,” continued Michelle Foster (Early Childhood ’01, M.S. Educational Administration ’04), Tim’s wife. “I wanted to be a part of this because the names that we went to school with were going to be here and they meant a lot to us. Dr. [Jim] Schettler was very instrumental for us. Dr. Rand was extremely influential because I went back home and started a Christian school; she was very influential for me. I fought tears all day—actually, I let them flow a few times. I’m just very, very grateful that I got to be part of this.”
While many audience members expressed thankfulness for being included, students especially were glad to see the culmination of hours of work presented flawlessly. The grand atmosphere of the Gala was established by its stage, specially built for the celebratory program and one of the most challenging that Scene Shop has ever constructed. “I really appreciate all the hard work,” said Ben Andrews (Jr., FL). “[Those involved] did a fantastic job. The stage looked beautiful, all the lighting and the videography for the filming was fantastic, and the singers, all the presenters—everyone did a great job. I know it took a lot of different moving pieces, and the fact that it pulled off so smoothly was fantastic.”
Reminiscing about the evening, Dr. Shoemaker commented, “Our entire college community right now—those people that participated [in the Gala] in particular—is honoring the past, the legacy of God’s blessing on this place. And that, the coming together of the current college community connecting with the past, is what makes the 50th year so special. It’s not just about the past—it’s about, ‘This was our history and we stand on the shoulders of greatness and on God’s blessing.’”
Friends and family of PCC, thank you for celebrating 50 years with us. We praise God and look to His leading for the 50 years ahead. To God be all the glory!