This is not a history that I wanted to write—at least not yet. When I moved my family to Portland in the summer of 1994 to become a charter faculty member of Cascade College, the future looked bright. After the closure of Columbia Christian College in 1993, much excitement had been generated among Northwest supporters of Christian education when Oklahoma Christian University agreed to lend its accreditation to a branch campus to operate on the site of the former college.
As one of the “pioneer” faculty members, I was encouraged by the support expressed for the college by the church members in the Portland/Vancouver area. I was even more impressed by the devotion to the college expressed by the former students of Columbia Christian College, many of whom sacrificed a year of their college careers to help bring about the opening of a new college on the site. I still remember vividly the opening ceremony in the courtyard where area church members gathered to lay hands on, bless, and pray for those of us who would be working at the college. The faculty and staff who assembled were not thinking short term; they wanted to help build a foundation for a quality Christian college.
It is my hope that readers of this brief history of Cascade College will come away with the idea that the faculty and staff (all of those who worked at Cascade during these fifteen years) did indeed accomplish the goal of laying that foundation for excellence. Readers should also see evidence that the faculty and staff fulfilled their mission statement of “transforming lives for faith, scholarship, and service.”
While we recognized the economic realities and enrollment pressures that come with a small undergraduate college, those of us who worked at Cascade were still shocked and saddened at the announcement that the Boards of Oklahoma Christian and Cascade had made the decision to end baccalaureate programs on the campus at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year. As one might imagine, the remainder of that last year has been hard. It is a testimony to the dedication and character of the 3 faculty, staff, and students that the year has been a positive one with many highlights. The S.I.F.E. team won their regional competition and represented the Northwest at nationals—again. The men’s soccer team qualified for the conference playoffs. The men’s basketball team came within one win of qualifying for playoffs, and the women’s basketball team won the Champions of Character award for the Cascade Conference. Alpha Chi members won awards and scholarships at the national convention—again.
In the midst of finishing strong, faculty and staff advised students about their transfer options and counseled with each other about what we would do next. Through the generosity of Cascade board members, we shared free lunches in the Dave Geiger dining hall, which gave us a last opportunity to experience the closeness of Christian community that we had enjoyed during our years at Cascade. Faculty and staff members who wished to were given the opportunity by the chapel committee to give one last chapel talk.
In my final talk with the students, I shared my personal grief at Cascade’s closure and mentioned C. S. Lewis’s reflections on his own grief at the loss of his wife, Joy, from cancer. Lewis noted that he at first mourned what he did not have—more time to enjoy life with his beloved. Later, he took a different perspective and began to focus on what he had been given—three years of married bliss with his beloved. God, Lewis commented, was the giver and Joy was the gift. I suggested to the students at that last chapel that we thank God for the gift of Cascade, whether we enjoyed her for one, two, three, four—or 15 years. May we focus on what God has given us, not what has been taken away. Speaking for myself (and, I suspect, for other Cascade faculty, staff, and students), what God has given us is the great gift of living and working in the “Northwest corner of heaven.”
Tandy, Gary L., "The Northwest Corner of Heaven: A History of Cascade College" (2009). Faculty Publications - Department of English. 1.