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The Rev. Billy Graham - two points of contact with Evangel University

Published on Feb 22, 2018 by Paul K. Logsdon


The Rev. Billy Graham thanks President Robert H. Spence for the opportunity to speak at Evangel (then College).

SPRINGFIELD, MO — The Evangel University family joins with the world in mourning the passing and celebrating the life of the Rev. Billy Graham.

“Today we join the multitudes around the world who remember and honor a truly great soul, the Rev. Billy Graham,” said Dr. Carol Taylor, president of Evangel University.

“Named ‘One of the Ten Most Admired Men in the World’ 59 times by Americans, his clear message of the hope of the Gospel, lived with integrity, humility, wisdom and passion, won him the respect and friendship of all — from world and church leaders and celebrities to the unknown masses.”


1982 – Billy Graham at Evangel

Billy Graham, TFZ, RHS 1982 - 200dpi
The Rev. Billy Graham (center) shares a laugh with President Robert H. Spence on the platform at Evangel, while waiting to be introduced by the Rev. T.F. Zimmerman, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1959-1985). // PHOTO: The 1983 Excalibur (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The Rev. Billy Graham visited the southwest Missouri region just a couple of times in his life.

The one time he spoke publicly was Dec. 9, 1982, at Evangel University (then-College) for a special convocation in its new campus chapel. That appearance was a momentous occasion in the community, and the standing-room-only crowd of approximately 2,400 were enthusiastic in their response to his appearance.

Then-President Robert H. Spence welcomed those in attendance by saying, “During the course of our academic year and all of its activities there are numerous special events, events that have great academic significance, some that have great cultural significance, great spiritual significance, great athletic significance.

“But I believe as we look back on the 1982-83 academic year, we will look upon this occasion — the special convocation with Dr. Billy Graham — as certainly one of the great experiences not only of the year, but of the history of the three sponsoring institutions.”

The convocation was held for the students, faculty and staff of Evangel, Central Bible College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, three separate institutions at that time. Rounding out the crowd of were guests and dignitaries from Springfield and surrounding communities.

Throughout his years of ministry, Rev. Graham was known as a humble man. On that day at Evangel, he walked to the podium to thunderous applause and said, “I know you are applauding the gospel I preach and not me, and I accept it that way.”

Billy Graham speaks 12.09.1982 - 200dpi
The Rev. Billy Graham closing in prayer after he addressed a standing-room-only crowd at Evangel University on Dec. 9, 1982. // PHOTO: The 1983 Excalibur (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

He spoke on the topic, “Time is Short,” encouraging the students in particular to make good use of the opportunities afforded them at Evangel, CBC and AGTS to prepare for a life of service.

He also spoke of the timeless message that he shared throughout his decades of ministry. “I don’t have to change my messages. I don’t have to adapt and become relevant. If I preach the gospel I am relevant. The more we try to become relevant, the more irrelevant we become.”

Rev. Graham concluded his time theme with a challenge, “I say to you as wonderful Christian students, ‘Tomorrow belongs to you.’ It’s going to be a glorious and marvelous tomorrow for those of you that live in the will of God and take advantage of every second that God gives you. Shall we pray”

There were two more appearances by Rev. Graham during that 1982 visit to Evangel.

On the evening of Dec. 9, he spoke at a dinner with civic leaders from state and local governments, the business community and area churches.

Then on Dec. 10, Rev. Graham spoke to a Joint Faculty Meeting, which was a Q&A with faculty members from Evangel, CBC and AGTS.

“I found the 23-page transcript of that session to be an important historical document,” said Paul K. Logsdon, director of public relations for Evangel.

“At that meeting, Rev. Graham detailed his recent experiences behind the Iron Curtain, his thoughts about the arms race, his views of mixing politics and religion, and his relationships with U.S. Presidents back to Truman.”


2013 – Billy Graham sends thanks to Evangel

2013-11.04 Graham poses for EU
The Rev. Billy Graham had this photo taken and sent as a “thank you” to Evangel University on the occasion of his 95th birthday. // (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

On his 95th birthday, Nov. 7, 2013, the Rev. Billy Graham sent a special photo to Evangel University, just to say “Thank You.”

A few days earlier, more than a thousand students, faculty and staff were video recorded singing “Happy Birthday” and cheering for Rev. Graham during a chapel that was led by 1997 Evangel graduate and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association employee Robert T. Schlipp.


Schlipp was able to deliver the video to Rev. Graham for his birthday, and later that day, Schlipp wrote back to EU, “I just received an e-mail from Billy Graham’s son-in-law, Jim Wilson. Jim tells me that Mr. Graham ‘is always surprised when anybody, especially young people, think of him. The video was such a blessing & encouragement to him…’”

Wilson added, “Please know that Mr. Graham wants to thank you and your contacts at the school for their birthday greeting to him.”

After watching the video, Rev. Graham told Jim that he wanted to “get some sun,” and they took this picture as a way of expressing his thanks for wishing him a happy birthday.

Schlipp first met Rev. Graham while wearing purple spandex and playing the part of “Bibleman” on videos, in books and via hundreds of live performances across the USA from 2003-2011.

In early 2013, he was approached by the Graham organization about working with the My Hope America program, and it was in that context that he appeared at Evangel.

“Billy Graham has impacted the lives of countless people around the world,” said Schlipp, who now pastors Radiant Life Church in Lodi, Calif. “I personally have been blessed to serve with him, and look forward to that glorious day when we are reunited and stand before our Lord.”

Evangel’s President Taylor concluded, “I can only imagine the reception Rev. Graham is experiencing in heaven, beginning with Christ’s ‘welcome home faithful one.’ Our prayers are with his family and associates at this time.”



Media interviews re: Billy Graham at Evangel University

• 2018-02.22 — Springfield News Leader

• 2018-02.21 — KY3 (NBC News) / KSPR (ABC News)

• 2018-02.21 — KOLR-10 (CBS News)

• 2018-02.21 — KRBK (Fox5 News)

• 2018-02.21 — Missouri Net — (Provided by KOLR)