Dr. Duke said the university has 130 full-time employees on the faculty
and staff, as well as a few part-timers. University officials indicated
that the school's payroll runs about $5 million.
An article in the Dec. 31 edition of The Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News stated
that university officials said that 39 other faculty and staff members were
terminated last year because of a cut in the university's subsidy from the
Tom Delamater, AU's director of development, said provisions will be made
for alumni to receive transcripts.
Dr. Duke announced the decision to faculty and staff members in a meeting
Dec. 30. Some students who were still on campus during the winter break
Meetings also took place Jan. 2 with discussions centering on the disposition
of the university's remaining assets such as library books, computers and
other equipment. No decisions were reported.
Ambassador is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association
of Colleges and Schools, Atlanta, Ga., but operated for years with only
state approval to grant degrees. During that time it was owned and fully
subsidized by the WCG.
"In 1990 the church's cash subsidy to Ambassador was $14.5 million,"
said Dr. Duke, who has served as president since September 1995.
"University administrators began working at that time on a plan that
anticipated gradual annual reductions in subsidy from the church,"
he said. "By last year the church's subsidy had been reduced to $5
During the current school year the subsidy was eliminated entirely.
"The church's ability to assist the university has been affected by
diminishing income in the wake of major doctrinal changes announced by the
WCG in late 1994," the news release stated.
The changes involved viewing the annual festivals and weekly Sabbath as
traditions rather than requirements and teaching that biblical dietary laws
do not apply to Christians. Church members, who in the past were subject
to paying or saving as many as three tithes on their incomes, were no longer
required to tithe.
Previously the church had also adopted the Trinity doctrine, contrary to
the teachings of WCG and Ambassador founder Herbert W. Armstrong.
In December 1994 the late WCG pastor general and successor to Mr. Armstrong,
Joseph W. Tkach, announced that the church had been wrong in its understanding
of New Testament teachings and that the church would no longer teach that
members should keep the Sabbath, tithe or refrain from eating unclean meats.
"Observers in the evangelical Christian community hailed the WCG's
decision as unprecedented and historic," the news release stated.
Dr. Duke said Ambassador supported the changes in the WCG.
The release said the defection of ministers who wanted to adhere to Mr.
Armstrong's teachings and the subsequent formation of the United Church
of God impacted the university in several ways.
"The university was affected by the church split as many students whose
families left the WCG chose to withdraw from the university," the news
Enrollment, which stood at 950 in 1994-95, dropped to 750 the next year
and 650 this year.
WCG income dropped severely after the split, and that affected the church's
ability to support Ambassador, Dr. Duke said.
The WCG plans to emphasize the education of its youth and ministers in settings
other than a church-sponsored university.
The Star-News article said the church is investigating partnerships with
other educational institutions in which students wanting a religious education
could be taught by WCG professors and ministers.
The university administration will work with students to help them transfer
to other schools to complete their degree plans, the news release said.
Faculty and staff members who qualify will receive severance pay upon termination
of their employment.
"This is a sad and difficult time for us, but we have an obligation
to complete the academic year and provide for a smooth transition for our
students and employees," said Dr. Duke. "We want to make the next
several months as positive as we can for everyone associated with Ambassador."
Donald Ward, the former Ambassador president who oversaw consolidation of
the Pasadena and Big Sandy campuses at the Texas site in 1990 and the achieving
of accreditation and university status, said he was saddened by the news
of the closing.
"When I heard the news, I felt a lump in my throat and a tightening
stomach as the memories flooded back of all Ambassador has meant to the
Church of God and its constituency through the decades.
"I wrote a little memo to the United Church of God council lamenting
the closure, saying the spirit of Ambassador still burns in the hearts and
minds of those of us who devoted more than a quarter century of our lives
to teaching the truth to God's people and that same spirit still burns in
the hearts and minds of thousands of Ambassador graduates around the world.
"Who knows what God has in mind for Ambassador in the future. Long
The Big Sandy campus of Ambassador closed in 1977, when it consolidated
with the Pasadena campus at the California site. It reopened as a junior
college in 1981.
At one time Ambassador had three campuses: the original one in California,
which closed in 1990, a campus in Bricket Wood, England, which closed in
1974, and the Texas campus. The WCG has owned the Texas property since 1953.
The Big Sandy property first became an Ambassador campus in 1964.
Mr. Armstrong had announced plans to close the campus at the end of the
1985-86 school year, but after his death, in January 1986, Mr. Tkach decided
to keep it open.