55 Years of God-Sized Dreams at Palm Beach Atlantic University

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, Palm Beach Atlantic University President

This year, Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University celebrates its 55th anniversary and the incredible journey that PBA embarked on in 1968. 

PBA Celebrates 55 Years

In 2023, PBA students enjoy a beautiful campus along the intracoastal waterway that houses a spacious Warren Library, a newly renovated campus bookstore, a 400-seat DeSantis Family Chapel, a 76-acre Rinker Athletic Campus and more. However, although PBA’s campus looks vastly different than it did 55 years ago, the mission determined by the founders of PBA has remained the same throughout its history.


Miracles & Wonders

The university we know today has developed and prospered from small beginnings. In the book Miracles & Wonders, a detailing of PBA’s history, Dr. Donald Warren, PBA’s founding chairman of the board, shares firsthand accounts of PBA’s formative years. He describes feeling “a great deal of anguish concerning why God had called [him] to such an impossible task.” Dr. Warren was a respected cardiologist with a thriving medical practice in West Palm Beach, but when Dr. Jess Moody, senior pastor at First Baptist, commissioned him to join the mission of starting a Christian college in South Florida, Dr. Warren reluctantly agreed, saying “why not us and why not here?”

With seemingly improbable needs for finances and sponsors, the founders wondered if their dream for a Christian college in the midst of the socially turbulent 1960s would ever be accomplished. However, Warren said the doubt and uncertainty reminded him that PBA was not his or anyone else’s. It was God’s. 

William Yarick, a member of PBA’s founding class, shared his gratitude for the individuals who believed in PBA’s mission and vision from the very beginning, stating that “a lot of people invested in the college with a vision for the future, and as you can see today, it has turned out to be quite a vision fulfilled.”

As a Christ-first university, the mission to produce leaders who seek wisdom, serve in their communities and have a heart for the Lord can be seen in the university’s motto: Enlightening Minds, Enriching Souls and Extending Hands. 


God-Sized Dreams

Dr. Jess Moody, founding president of PBA, and his wife, Doris Moody.

With the celebration of 55 years of PBA, we can reflect on the seemingly impossible dream that God brought to fruition and the traces of divine intervention throughout PBA’s story. Now, more than five decades later, PBA continues to dream “God-Sized Dreams.” Our strategic vision includes a multi-phased master plan to maximize available land – it plans for a new six-story, flagship business building, a health sciences complex, a student and alumni welcome center and a state-of-the-art performing arts center. As PBA continues to grow and expand, we are doing everything we can to be at the highest level of excellence, and this plan exemplifies that. 

Dr. Warren encapsulated PBA’s story well, stating that it “is not one of great human achievement, but one of God working through mere mortals in the past, present and future to accomplish the ‘impossible dream.’ Many people have contributed immensely to [PBA’s] cause and they are to be commended. But the main credit should go where it is due: To the God of mercy, of miracles, and of wonders, who met us around every corner.”


Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, a physician, researcher and innovator, is president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. (www.pba.edu)  

For more articles by Dr. Schwinn, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-debra-a-schwinn/

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