What John Mark Founded

Today Biola held a special farewell reception for John Mark Reynolds, who is becoming provost of Houston Baptist University after 18 years as director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola. The Dean of Humanities emceed the university-wide event, at which the president gave Reynolds a genuine Jim Rice homerun baseball that he caught himself (!), Torrey prof Joe Henderson sang “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” and incoming Torrey director Paul Spears unveiled the Founder’s Award, which will be given every year to an outstanding alum (more on this later: we still have a long weekend of graduations and receptions ahead of us).

I spoke on behalf of the Torrey faculty to say goodbye to John Mark. Here’s what I said:

John Mark Reynolds came to Biola in 1995 on an externally-funded post-doctorate fellowship. He was sent by Philip Johnson, was excited about working with JP Moreland, and according to legend he had nothing but a desk and a trash can in the corner of the Provost’s office. Without much of a track record, without any natural connection to the culture of Biola, and without any guarantee of continued employment, Reynolds made a quick reconnaissance of the situation on the ground in La Mirada, and overnight he invented a plan.

With his right hand he took hold of the thirty units of Bible that every student earns here at the one-time Bible Institute. With his left hand he scooped up the scattered general education units that every undergraduate earns here at an accredited university. He saw that they belonged together, that Bible and general education longed to be one, that they needed each other. So he melted them down in the crucible of Socratic inquiry and poured them into the mold of the great books tradition of the western world. The result was a sixty-unit something-we-know-not-what; a unique and unparalleled educational experience.

He convinced the school to let him have a handful of students, for purposes of experimentation. I see a few of them are here today. He named this thing Torrey, after Biola’s most famous founder, the soul-winning, revival-sparking Magellan of evangelical Christianity, the Yale-educated disciple of the un-educated Dwight L. Moody.

Reynolds thought he could act as a midwife, helping Biola give birth to a new expression of all that was best in its own heritage.

He was right. The Torrey Honors Institute was born. Like the young Samuel, it grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. It thrived, prospered, and succeeded. More than a dozen faculty, hundreds of alumni, thousands of class sessions later, we are going strong. We have a lot of desks now, and plenty of trash cans. Under John Mark’s leadership, Torrey has served its students, its university, and the broader Christian community faithfully.

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