125 Years

Nyack College looks back—and forward


When asked to describe the spiritual atmosphere at Nyack College (Nyack, N.Y.), Rev. Kelvin Walker, the campus pastor, said, “There is a hunger; there is a ‘God we want more; we want to go deeper’ attitude.” And he has been doing all he can to guide students into that “deeper” relationship with God, an ongoing mission of faculty and staff since the school’s founding in 1882.


Dr. A. B. Simpson, the founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance and of Nyack College, had the hope to one day open a school to train missionaries. Once the urgency and passion of starting that school were laid on his heart, Simpson brought his vision to God every day. More than a century later, his small institute for training laypeople to become missionaries has grown into Nyack College.

Although Simpson originally envisioned a school where people could train to be missionaries without having to go to seminary, the current Nyack College catalog includes 50 undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition to Bible and ministry, the school offers degrees in liberal arts and sciences, social and behavioral sciences, business, computer science, communications, education and music. It has campuses in Nyack (called the Rockland campus); Manhattan, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; San Juan, P.R.; and Kiev, Ukraine, with a total of 26,000 alumni.


Michael Scales, president of both Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary, is excited about the evolution of the college from a small missionary school to an academic center of increasing influence.

“I believe we are seeing the fulfillment of Dr. Simpson’s vision as we get back to our roots: trying to develop community by being the hands and feet of Jesus,” Scales says. “We believe that our core values have been in our DNA since the beginning: being socially relevant, academically excellent, globally engaged, intentionally diverse and personally transforming. If you look at Dr. Simpson’s ministry, he expressed his passion for community development through orphanages, rescue missions and teaching programs. There are many different kinds of ministries. We want to get back to the idea of what he [Simpson] was about, and that is exhibiting the love and compassion of Jesus.”

Others who are able to testify to the campus atmosphere and students’ passions are the missionaries-in-residence (MIRs) at Nyack College. They have experienced the spiritual atmosphere firsthand and have partnered with Pastor Walker and Wanda Walborn, the director of spiritual formation, to create an environment where students are urged to dig deeper in their relationship with God.

The MIRs built relationships with many students on campus, mentoring young men and women in their personal, spiritual and professional lives. They made a habit of inviting students to their home for discussions, meals and games.

When asked if he felt pressure to talk to students about becoming missionaries, one of the MIRs answered, “I don’t think I feel pressure, but I feel a strong sense of urgency and compulsion to do so because that’s where my heart is, and I believe that’s where God’s heart is.

“We are hoping Alliance missions will become much more culturally diverse. So in chapel, I really challenged the students. I hope that some kids will step up to the plate who never thought before that [they could be global missionaries]. Their concept of missions was reaching their unreached neighbors. Hopefully, we are planting seeds that will germinate so that one day we will have a diverse, multicultural set of missionaries going across the seas.”

The MIRs try to fulfill that passion by speaking to students during chapels, in the lunchroom and during mentoring sessions. They have introduced opportunities for short-term missions that they hope will fuel a passion for a long-term missionary career.

Also looking toward the future, Scales divides his time among the many Nyack campuses and has several ambitious projects on the horizon, including developing doctoral programs and online degrees, building a new Manhattan campus, revamping the Rockland campus and starting centers for Christian Global Studies around the world. In every location, he makes it clear what he hopes for and expects from graduates. “When students walk across the stage and I shake their hands and give them their diplomas, I want them to continue to mesh their faith in Jesus in every touch point of their lives, wherever they go and wherever they are. And that means being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

What’s in a Name?

The name of Nyack College has changed numerous times. Before it was established, Simpson referred to the school as the Missionary Training School for Christian Evangelists. He later decided on The Missionary Training College for Him and Foreign Missionaries and then changed it to The New York Missionary Training College. Soon after, he replaced the word “college” with “institute,” and three years later, in 1887, it was changed to The Missionary Training Institute of Nyack. From 1956–1971, it was called the Nyack Missionary College. After going through a few more changes, in 1971 the school received its present name, Nyack College.

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