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Heritage Snapshot: Part 162

By Richard Schaefer
Community Writer
01/25/2023 at 04:14 PM

Wil Alexander, Ph.D., was Director of the Loma Linda University Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness from 1996 to 2002 and 2004 to 2005; Professor of Theology and Clinical Ministry from 1973 to 2001; Professor of Family Medicine from 1980 and Honorary member of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine Alumni Association from 1993 to the present.

After his ordination in Lynwood, California, in 1954, Wil Alexander joined the faculty of Loma Linda University as an associate professor of practical theology. For the next nine years, he taught courses in counseling, guidance, evangelism, preaching, and speech. Before rejoining the faculty of Loma Linda University in 1973, he earned two master's degrees, and a doctor of philosophy degree, and wore many professional hats: chair of Department of Church and Ministry, Seminary, Andrews University; chair, Department of Religion, Andrews University; pastor, White memorial Church, Los Angeles; and public relations secretary, Southern California Conference. 

Wil Alexander served as the first Dean of the Faculty of Religion at Loma Linda University after the separation from what is now La Sierra University in 1990. At the time of the separation, some wanted to see members of the religion faculty hired separately by the various schools on the Loma Linda campus. While maintaining a strong relationship with the clinical faculty of the University, Wil successfully preserved a unified religion faculty as the new dean. During his leadership, from 1990 to 1993, the University offered an M.A. Program in Biomedical Ethics for the first time. This program is more focused on ethical issues in health care and research than the earlier more general M.A. program in Christian Ethics. The University also started an MA program in Clinical Ministry in March 2003. (The Faculty of Religion was reorganized as the School of Religion in 2007.)

The process of integrating the University’s motto, To Make Man Whole, into its academic programs, curricula, and campus life, has been a long and protracted one. Until recent years, Loma Linda University taught “wholeness” to future healthcare professionals, and incorporated physical, cognitive, emotional, social-relational, and spiritual aspects of brokenness, illness, and healing as a component of total-patient care. Between 1990 and 1995 the University expanded this concept. Wholeness has become an essential goal in the education of all healthcare professionals encouraging each graduate to integrate personal faith and witness into his or her career. Furthermore, the University administration sees “wholeness” as a necessary personal goal for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators. 

To achieve this outcome, the University appointed a University-wide task force on Spiritual Life and Wholeness in March 1991. As the premise developed, on December 16, 1993, the University appointed Wil Alexander to be Special Assistant to the President for Spiritual Life and Wholeness. In May 1996, he founded and became director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness, a base from which to foster and nurture spiritual life and wholeness in health care professionals, their families, and their patients. School-based Spiritual Life and Wholeness Committees then focused on discipline-specific aspects of wholeness. 

On Aug. 17, 2004, the Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center (LLUAHSC—pronounced “Lew-ask”) Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to restructure the Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness as a Center of LLUAHSC (now known as Loma Linda University Health). The vote expands the role of the Center to serve all LLU Health organizations and to provide greater administrative representation for both health care and educational entities. The Center is still considered one of the two Centers sponsored by the School of Religion. Dr. Alexander is the author of numerous articles and three books. His distinguished career has earned him numerous awards, including Loma Linda University School of Medicine’s Senior Educator of the Year Award, La Sierra University Alumnus of the Year, and the Loma Linda University Distinguished Service Award. 

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