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I was a student at FC from 1950 to 1952. Knowing that I planned to transfer to Biola University in preparation for Christian ministry after my two years at FC, my advisor and I came up with a pre-theology major to keep me on course. It consisted mainly of sociology, philosophy, history and speech, along with some electives like music appreciation and economics.
Although I can’t remember the name of my advisor who was so helpful in setting this up, I will never forget Mr. Denver Garner, my speech teacher. Mr. Garner was a handsome, debonair gentleman who had a lot going on outside the classroom. One such activity was auctioneering. Another was selling firewood from the huge yard of his home on Brea Blvd. I liked Mr. Garner and I knew that he liked me. He took a special interest in me as his student, knowing that I was preparing for the ministry. Before I gave a speech he would always remind the class that he was holding me to a higher standard. Others might get away with saying “jist” instead of “just,” or “becuz” instead of “because.” But not Bemis, “because he’s going to be in the pulpit someday!”
Mr. Garner might have had something to do with my being selected as one of three commencement speakers at my graduation. My talk carried the title, “What Can We Believe?” It was short, but to the point, using the words, “God” and “Bible,” as a challenge to seek a personal relationship with one’s Creator. Dr. Lynn Sheller, President of the college and the one authorized to give final approval to my speech, attempted to steer me away from referring to the Bible, thinking it obsolete. But reason prevailed and, in light of my major and a lengthy discussion, he finally allowed me to give the speech as it was written.
My wife and all three of our children also attended Fullerton College. Quita and I met at Biola University and were married in 1955. We spent our first Christmas together as missionaries in Cuba during the Castro revolution. When Fidel took over the government two years later and announced his Marxist-Leninist leanings, our State Department ordered all Americans out of Cuba. We reluctantly came home where I assumed the directorship of Practical Missionary Training, Inc. After eighteen years in that role, we moved to Dallas, TX, to fill the position of personnel director of CAM International, a foreign missionary organization. Five years later, we responded to the call of our home church in Fullerton (FEFC) to become its first associate pastor under Pastor Chuck Swindoll. After serving in that capacity for eight years, I was asked to start a new church in Brea and serve as its senior pastor. The new church flourished, but preaching every Sunday was not my gift (sorry, Mr. Garner!), so I resigned after three years and finished out my pre-retirement years in the business world.
I have only positive memories of my two years at FC. I feel that I received a quality education which more than adequately prepared me for Biola University and beyond.