Fifty Years with a Fuller Degree: One Alum's Story
When Walter Zurfluh (MDiv '55) attended the 50th reunion for Fuller's class of '55 last month, he noticed that a few things had changed around the seminary since his time. Clothing, for one thing. "Neckties and sport coats were required classroom attire in my day," he says. "That's a bit different now."
They don't take roll in class and chapel anymore, and students no longer must sit in the classroom alphabetically. (Zurfluh was always relegated to the back.)
There were 13 on the faculty then; now there are 80. The student body numbered 300 then; now, 1,800 students take classes at the Pasadena campus alone. Including all extension sites, today's enrollment stands at more than 4,000.
With these numbers, no longer can the president of the seminary host all of the graduating class at his home for tea—as Dr. Charles E. Fuller did when Zurfluh graduated. "What a great highlight that was, spending a Sunday afternoon at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Fuller," he says. "Dr. Fuller was such a warm and humble person, and he took a personal interest in every student."
Much has changed at Fuller in 50 years. Yet in more significant ways, Zurfluh notes, the seminary has not changed. Now as then, the faculty are scholarly yet down-to-earth. They continue to take a keen interest in their students. Most important, says Zurfluh, President Richard Mouw and Senior Professor Ray Anderson spoke to the class of '55 about Fuller's unchanging focus, at its foundation, on the Word of God.
It was this focus on Scripture that Zurfluh values most highly from his time at Fuller--a focus that prepared him well for 34 years of service with Eastern European Mission (EEM) and another 15 with Biblical Literature Fellowship (BLF).
During his first years with EEM, from 1957 to 1962, Zurfluh and his wife, Nancy, served as missionaries among East German refugees in West Berlin. "Those were times we won't soon forget," he says. "We were there when the Berlin Wall was built; we were there for the standoff at Checkpoint Charlie." Tens of thousands of East Germans surged into West Berlin every month, and Zurfluh and his wife held evangelistic meetings for both children and adults in the refugee camps. "There was a lot of spiritual interest then," Zurfluh says. "People were open, as they often are in such times of intense crisis."
Zurfluh appreciated his seminary degree in this work. "My Fuller education stood me in good stead as I interacted with the Germans, so many of whom were very well-educated," he says. "It prepared me to counter the intellectualism I was often up against."
Moving back to EEM's head office in Pasadena in 1963, Zurfluh continued his work with the organization until 1992. Today, he and his wife serve with Biblical Literature Fellowship, which produces Christian literature in French, including Sunday school materials for churches in the French-speaking countries throughout Africa and Europe.
In this work, too, Zurfluh says his Fuller education stands him in good stead. Professors like Everett Harrison, Wilbur Smith, Clarence Roddy, and Edward Carnell have had a significant influence in his life and work over the years. "They impressed upon me a deep reliance on God's Word," says Zurfluh, "which I carry with me to this day."