APU Celebrates the Inauguration of Adam J. Morris

by Nathan Foster

Azusa Pacific University celebrated the inauguration of its 18th president, Adam J. Morris, PhD, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. More than 2,000 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the university filled the Felix Event Center to watch as Morris was officially sworn in to take the helm of APU. “During my interview process with the Board of Trustees, I told the leadership of this great university that I wanted to be part of something so big, that only God could do it,” Morris said. “It’s that hopeful expectation of what God will do in our midst that motivates and encourages me to join each one of you on this epic adventure called Azusa Pacific University.” Watch a recap of the entire program or view President Morris’ address.

The festivities began with a processional as APU’s dedicated faculty marched down the aisle donned in regalia from their respective alma maters. Albert Tate, Board of Trustees vice chair, delivered an invocation and acknowledged special guests in attendance, including several university presidents, elected city leaders, and superintendents of local K-12 school districts. Many more special guests livestreamed the inauguration online.

APU’s renowned chapel band took the stage to lead the crowd in worship, followed by special remarks from Shirley Hoogstra, JD, President of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU); Barry Corey, PhD, President of Biola University; and Richard Felix, PhD, President Emeritus of APU. Hoogstra wished Morris success in leading the university into a new era. Corey spoke of how instrumental Morris was in his role as executive vice president and chief transformation officer of Biola, helping the institution thrive missionally, academically, and financially in the ever-changing landscape of Christian higher education. Felix offered personal advice, having served as APU’s president from 1990-2000, encouraging Morris to stand on the shoulders of the 17 presidents who came before him. Felix said he was confident that APU had chosen the right person for the job, saying “His breadth and depth of experience is remarkable. His ability to deal with various and complex issues is simply amazing. He has a firm grasp of the challenges that face all Christian colleges across America today and seasoned wisdom in the pursuit of God’s calling for this assignment.”

The investiture of President Morris was led by Board of Trustees Chair, Thomas G. Miller. All 19 members of the Board took the stage and held onto a cord, which ran through a Bible that once belonged to Cornelis P. Haggard, APU’s 13th president. Morris placed his hand on the Bible with his wife, Faith, holding her hand underneath. “By the power conferred upon me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby instate you as President of Azusa Pacific University. And now, Adam, may the power, peace, and presence of God uphold, sustain, direct, and keep you always. To Him be all the glory,” Miller said. Lucie Moore, JD, prayed for Morris and APU as his tenure as president officially commenced.

Morris delivered his inauguration speech, revisiting the history of APU, back to its roots as the Training School for Christian Workers. “The institution grew to become Pacific Bible College, then Azusa College, followed by Azusa Pacific College, and today, Azusa Pacific University,” he said. “APU’s history is replete with remarkable men and women of God whom He has used to advance His mission throughout the world.” Morris spoke of the impact these great leaders had, including Felix, Haggard, William Marshburn, Cliff Hamlow, Carolyn Koons, Ron Turner, Nobel Henson, and past president Jon R. Wallace. “Pausing this morning to remember anecdotes from APU’s past is both healthy and wise. It’s Biblical and it’s fitting for a day like today,” Morris said. “The Psalmist writes, ‘I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you’ve done; I ponder the work of your hands.’ (Psalm 143:5) Recalling moments from our past is really an invitation to reflect on God’s goodness, faithfulness, and to acknowledge all that God has done.”

Morris spoke about the priorities for the year ahead, including developing a financial roadmap, reinvesting in infrastructure, bringing clarity to the strategic plan, spending time cultivating community well-being, and building an executive team to chart the course into a future full of possibilities. “There is much to do, and I couldn’t be more optimistic for our future, but I would be remiss today if I didn’t ground us yet again in our sacred, time-honored mission,” he said.

“APU is an institution that is unapologetically Christ-centered, with a deep commitment to academic excellence, a global Great Commission mindset, and a passion to touch the lives of our beloved and diverse student body.”

Morris gave examples of several students who are doing exemplary work, readying themselves to become difference makers in their respective fields. Having spoken earlier about the revival that had taken place in Azusa so many years ago, Morris called for the same thing to begin on campus today. “I’ve begun to pray for revival at Azusa Pacific University. I invite you to do the same,” he said. “It’s hard for me to put into words the strong sense that I have that God is about to do something new, and even miraculous, in our midst. But I can tell you that I sense it. I believe it’s coming.”

Morris was presented with gifts embodying APU’s four pillars of Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service from the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, and student body. The gifts included a Bible, bookends engraved with Psalm 119:66, a statue of Jesus washing the feet of another, and a wooden table decoration representing the different backgrounds of APU students.

The Inauguration ceremony closed as President Morris was joined by his parents, children, and grandchildren on stage as Tate and Coba Canales, EdD, dean of spiritual life, prayed over the Morris family. “We ask that your love would fill them. We ask that your hope would guide them. We ask that your peace would sustain them. We pray that this presidency would be marked by your presence and your revival, in Jesus’ name.”

Nathan is the public relations manager in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.