On Tuesday, March 18, a special chapel service was held at Lancaster Bible College to remember the life and legacy of former LBC President, Dr. Gilbert A. Peterson, who went to be with the Lord on Thursday evening, March 13. Dr. Peterson served at LBC as President for twenty years (1979-1999) and as Chancellor for another six years (1999-2005).
Dr. Peterson’s administration will be remembered as one of recognition and extension, fulfilling the command of Isaiah 54:2 to “lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.” The first decade of Dr. Peterson’s administration came to a close with two major building projects on campus—a third married students’ apartment and the much-awaited classroom building, presently known as Sabastian Academic Center—both serving as evidence of “lengthening thy cords.” During his tenure, LBC “strengthened [its] stakes” through accreditation renewals by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; the purchase of the former Landis Valley Farm, which enlarged the campus to approximately 100 acres; and, perhaps most importantly, by facing the formidable challenge of turning aroung a debt-strapped institution to become debt-free by 1994. Later in 1994, the Pennsylvania Department of Education granted approval to LBC to begin a graduate school, which was Dr. Peterson’s dream since assuming the presidency. The first classes began in January 1995 with 41 students studying toward one of two degrees, a Master of Arts in Bible or a Master of Arts in Ministry.
A champion for biblical higher education, Dr. Peterson revealed his views on the centrality of biblically-sound and culturally-relevant instruction in a classic 1961 article in Religious Research Digest: “There is no substitute for a thorough knowledge of the Word of God and the truth of God that it reveals. Courses in direct Bible study and doctrine provide one with the necessary foundation. In addition to this, a [three-hour] course in Apologetics is needed where the needs of men, the Christian answer to these needs, and the reasons for the uniqueness and truth of Christianity are presented.”
During the chapel service, LBC President Dr. Peter W. Teague reflected on his relationship with his predecessor: “Gil Peterson leaves behind an incredible legacy, for which he always gave the Lord the credit. He was a model, a colleague, a truth-teller, a mentor, and most of all, a friend.”
Dr. Harold Kime noted that Dr. Peterson was “an Elijah who led LBC out of peril and positioned it to be an institution that could impact the world for Jesus Christ for many years to come.”
Quoting Sir Isaac Newton, who said, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants,” President Teague added, “I am so privileged to stand on the shoulders of President Gilbert A. Peterson, a giant of a man.”
Flags will fly at half mast this week at Lancaster Bible College in honor of its fourth president, Dr. Gilbert A. Peterson, a man whose leadership will impact the history of the institution and the Bible College movement far beyond just the years he faithfully served it.