—1976 to present—
These leaders in Adventist education are the six WWU presidents who are living as we celebrate the WWU 125th anniversary. They are each on campus for this special homecoming weekend.
N. Clifford Sorensen ’58 was president of Walla Walla University from 1976 to 1985 and interim president from 2001 to 2002. Throughout his distinguished career in Adventist education, Sorensen taught and served as vice principal and principal at the secondary level, was chair of the WWU School of Education, was the superintendent of education for the Southern California Conference and the executive secretary of the Adventist Board of Education for North America, served as conference president in British Columbia, Canada, taught and served as interim president at Atlantic Union College, and was part of the administrative team at Columbia Union College. Under his leadership at WWU, the gymnasium and swimming pool were developed, Canaday Technology Center was built, and the School of Nursing in Portland was relocated to a new campus.
H. Jack Bergman ’48 was president of WWU from 1985 to 1990. Prior to accepting the presidency of WWU, he taught history at the University of Puget Sound and Willamette University, was a professor of history and chair of the history department at Western Oregon University, and was dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at WOU. Under his leadership at WWU, departments were established for recruitment, retention, and development, the student missionary program flourished, and the programs of engineering, business, biology, nursing, and social work experienced growth.
Niels-Erik Andreasen was president of WWU from 1990 to 1994. Prior to his time at WWU, he taught at Avondale College, Pacific Union College, and at Loma Linda University where he was also dean of the School of Religion. He left WWU to be president of Andrews University, where he served for 22 years. During his leadership, WWU administrators worked to secure a ten-year regional accreditation term, grappled with struggling campus industries, and planned and raised funds for the Lindgren Chemistry Wing addition to Rigby Hall and expansion of the School of Engineering into Chan Shun Pavilion.
W.G. Nelson was president of WWU from 1994 to 2001. Throughout his distinguished career in Adventist education, Nelson was a secondary teacher and principal, a secondary and college residence hall dean, academic vice president at Southwestern Adventist University, professor in and chair of the Department of Leadership and Administration in the Graduate School of Education at La Sierra University, and dean for academic affairs at Kettering College. During his leadership, WWU students were noted for their dedication to serving the Adventist church and the world as student missionaries and task force workers and financial support from alumni, constituents, and patrons funded campus infrastructure improvements including completion of Chan Shun Pavilion for the School of Engineering and Lindgren Hall at the Rosario Marine Laboratory. Also during his time at WWU, the School of Social Work and Sociology opened campuses in Missoula and Billings, Montana.
Jon Dybdahl was president of WWU from 2002 to 2006. Dybdahl has been a pastor and evangelist at Thailand Mission, professor and chair of the theology department at Southeast Asia Union College, professor of theology at WWU, and professor of theology and president at Thailand Mission College. He was also director of the Institute of World Mission, chair of the Department of World Mission, and professor of world mission at Andrews University. He recently served as president of Gospel Outreach, which sponsors more than 2,000 workers in the 10/40 window. Notable efforts during his leadership at WWU, which came to complete fruition shortly after his retirement, include construction of the new administration building, the name change from Walla Walla College to Walla Walla University, and construction of the Jesus Among Us statue on the Kretschmar Lawn. Also during his time at WWU, Mountain View Apartments opened near campus.
John McVay has been president of WWU since 2006. Prior to his time at WWU, McVay taught in the religion department at Pacific Union College and was a professor of New Testament, associate dean, and then dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Under his leadership, a wide array of improvements to campus infrastructure have been completed including the new Administration Building, new cabins at Rosario Marine Laboratory, remodeled facilities for the College Place campuses of the School of Social Work and the School of Nursing, remodeling of the gymnasium and locker room facilities, and completion of the College Avenue/Rose Street Construction Project. McVay led the university through the name-change process, and led in the formation of the Life. Changing. comprehensive campaign and the 2013-2023 Sabbath Jubilee strategic initiative.