Fuller Seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area, as it was initially called, emerged from a series of discussions prompted by Bob Munger and Homer Goddard in response to a growing desire to provide evangelical theological education to equip the laity in the region. Local friends were excited by the idea of an Extension site in their area, and formed a steering committee to implement this dream. Paul Larson, Gilman Robinson, Larry Langdon, David Horner, John Koeker, and Kent Meads were among those who initially invested their efforts and energies into this educational adventure – along with a Fuller trustee who contributed the funds necessary to start the site. In 1971 Fuller Seminary in the Bay Area offered its first class, “Introduction to New Testament,” which was taught by Tom Gillespie at Westminster Presbyterian Church in San Jose.
Students traveled from Burlingame to San Carlos to attend classes, since professors often taught from their home church. Fuller faculty from Pasadena (including George Elden Ladd and Lewis Smedes) journeyed north to offer their expertise to students. Meanwhile, the volunteer steering committee and part-time staff kept the entire operation running out of their personal offices and homes. A trial course was taught in Sacramento by Dr. George Elden Ladd in the fall of 1976. Then in 1982, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church offered a classroom and some office space to Fuller Seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now students could walk into the classroom and see the bulletin board with their photos on it - a visual representation of the growing Fuller student body within their community!
For years the steering committee coordinated all the course schedules, arranged for faculty to teach in extension and handled all the finances for the growing program. But realizing that the program needed a full-time director, they hired Dr. Art Patzia in 1985.
In the spring of 1990, Fuller Seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area began offering courses in the greater Sacramento area on a full-time basis. Initially, all of the administration for the Sacramento site was handled through the Menlo Park office. As enrollments increased, the need for an on-site coordinator became apparent. In 1993, the Seminary hired a part-time coordinator to assist students in applying to the Seminary, registering for classes, promoting the Seminary in the Sacramento area, opening classes, etc. That same year, Fuller Theological Seminary in Northern California, as it was now called, began offering courses at Patten College (now Patten University) in Oakland.
Fuller Northern California (FNC), as it was now called, moved from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church to St. Patrick’s Seminary in1996. That same year, FNC relocated its Sacramento office to Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, which also provided space for classrooms and an on-site library. In 1997, FNC hired Dr. Curt Longacre as the Administrative Director to provide administrative oversight for Fuller Northern California.
In 2000, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) approved the Master in Divinity (MDiv) Cohort Program, which provides students with an opportunity to study together as a group (cohort) for three years. The MDiv Cohort program includes two retreats a year and mentoring. The seminary admitted 30 students to the M.Div. cohort program the first year.
Three years later, Dr. Art Patzia resigned his duties as the academic director to become a full-time resident faculty member in the San Francisco Bay Area campus. Dr. Curt Longacre became the director (academic and administrative) of Fuller Northern California.
In 2004, WASC and ATS approved the Sacramento campus to offer the Master of Arts in Theology, Master of Arts in [(Specialized Ministries)], Master of Arts in Christian Leadership, and Certificate programs in Christian Ministries and Youth Ministries, and two thirds of the MDiv degree program. (The remaining third is fulfilled through an MDiv degree site.)
Currently Fuller Seminary Northern California is the largest of Fuller Theological Seminary’s seven regional campuses, and the only one with two campuses (San Francisco Bay Area and the greater Sacramento Area).