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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (Nov. 7, 2014)— California Baptist University honored President Ronald L. Ellis for two decades of service in a series of events this week under the theme "Celebrating 20 Years of Great Commission Leadership."

Receptions by faculty, staff and students expressed thanks to Ellis for his vision for turning a small Baptist college into a thriving university.

Dr. DawnEllen Jacobs, CBU vice provost and professor of English, recalled that Ellis brought a plan to transform the institution when he became the fifth president of California Baptist College on Nov. 1, 1994.

"There were about 40 of us when he came in 1994," Jacobs said. "We cared about our teaching and enjoyed relationships with our students, but President Ellis brought a sense of purpose and a vision for something more. Under his leadership, we matured as a faculty. We became a university."

"I was present at the board of trustees' meeting where he was elected," said Dr. Mark A. Wyatt, vice president for marketing and communication. "All of us who have observed and have been part of the CBC/CBU family over the past two decades know the amazing impact that Ron Ellis has had on this place."

Speaking at a reception with CBU staff, Ellis compared building the university to assembling a puzzle.

"Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is how we have built CBU," he said. "There are the building blocks: getting the right people—getting champions to direct key programs and offices and efforts; getting the right programs to offer in the marketplace. Of course, getting the housing to come online, the food, the classrooms. It's kind of like a big puzzle. It's really difficult to do if you don't know what the picture looks like."

CBU's board of trustees honored Ellis at a dinner at which about 120 friends of the university gathered, including present and former trustees, donors and community leaders.

Dr. Mary Crist, professor of education in the Division of Online and Professional Studies, brought remarks as a faculty member who has served throughout the Ellis presidency.

"Dr. Ellis is a man of faith and vision, an inspirational leader, and a man with a good sense of humor," she said. "He came here because he felt God's call to lead a Baptist college, especially one that was struggling. God equipped him with a vision needed to be a phenomenal "turn around" present. The results are obvious today."

Mike Poma, recently elected chair of the board of trustees, commented that it is an exciting time to be part of such a vigorous enterprise.

"I am eager to see what unfolds at CBU in the days and years ahead as the Lord blesses this university through one of the most effective leaders in higher education today," Poma said.

Walt Crabtree, immediate past chair of the board, announced gifts from the trustees to Ellis and remarked, "I have been looking forward to this evening for quite some time. As you know, it is an occasion that has been two decades in the making."

Others who brought testimonials during the dinner were: Dr. E. Glen Paden, retired pastor and president emeritus of the California Baptist Foundation; Dr. Anthony Dockery, pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in La Puente and a former chair of the CBU board of trustees; and Dr. Ronald O. Loveridge, former mayor of Riverside and professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside.

Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, chancellor of the University of Richmond and a longtime friend and mentor of Ellis, was keynote speaker for the celebration dinner.

Ellis also will be honored by CBU alumni during homecoming festivities Nov. 7-8.

Under Ellis' leadership, California Baptist College officially became California Baptist University in 1998. New schools and colleges have been established, including the School of Music, School of Nursing, College of Engineering, the College of Allied Health and the College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design. Today, the university comprises 10 colleges and professional schools, offering 158 undergraduate majors/concentrations and 41 master's degree programs.

Enrollment has grown from 808 in the fall of 1994 to 7,957 in the fall of 2014, more than a 900 percent increase. About 75 percent of CBC/CBU alumni graduated during the Ellis presidency.

To view the video retrospective of Ellis' leadership, click here.