The History of Bakke Graduate University
Bakke Graduate University (BGU), formerly Northwest Graduate School of Ministry (NWGS), was founded in 1990 by Overlake Christian Church in Seattle, Washington. The need for the School grew out of the annual pastors’ conferences held at Overlake Christian Church in the 1980s and 1990s. Its primary emphasis during this first decade was serving Northwest US pastors. NWGS received full US accreditation to the doctoral level in 1995.
A crisis in leadership at Overlake Christian Church in 1998 created the need for the school to have a new vision and ownership. The new Sr. Pastor, Rick Kingham, sought to find a group of owners for the school, who could expand its vision to include greater student diversity and a broader mission. The ownership of the School passed from Overlake Christian Church to an independent board organized through the cooperation of Northwest Leadership Foundation, International Urban Associates, Serve Seattle and the Coalition for Community Development and Renewal. Dr. David McKenna, former President of Seattle Pacific University, Spring Arbor University and Asbury Theological Seminary, accepted the position as Chair of the new "Year of Discovery and Transition" Board of Trustees. Dr. Ray Bakke, a global and urban expert, accepted the position of Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of Urban Ministry. Dr. Gwendolyn J. Dewey became the fourth President of NWGS following Dr. Bob Moorehead, Dr. Bill Payne and Dr. Tom Adelsman.
Under this new leadership, NWGS retained its strong commitment to biblical truth and practical ministry, but expanded its emphasis toward urban challenges and a global constituency. In October 2003, the International Urban Associates (IUA) merged with NWGS and IUA’s Executive Director, Brad Smith, became the school’s fifth President. As increasing numbers of students came from around the world, students from the Northwest became the minority. It was time to give NWGS a new name to overcome the US-centric name "Northwest" and to match its new emerging global identity. At the same time, NWGS was seeking a name that reflected its unique vision for serving servants of urban studies, theology and global business in integrated programs. In April, 2005, the Board of Directors unanimously approved changing the name to Bakke Graduate University. The name Bakke allowed this vision to be told through the story of the Bakke family that included three brothers who were leaders in global urban ministry, multi-national business and local church ministry, as well as a sister who exemplified women’s Christian leadership.
Today, Bakke Graduate University is a cutting-edge leader in developing a new model for educating leaders in business, urban studies and Christian theology, with students and faculty from over 40 nations and courses held on 5 continents.