Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels helps mark Judson's anniversary

Submitted by Judson University

Judson University's 600-seat Herrick Chapel was filled to capacity for its annual Founders' Day service on Oct. 25, which marked its 50th anniversary since the school was founded in Elgin in 1963. Willow Creek Community Church pastor Rev. Bill Hybels was the keynote speaker for the celebration.

Hybels' address invited both laughter and tears from the audience as he spoke about the vital importance of Christian education at every level, sharing stories of how it influenced the trajectory of his own life when he was a young man. Thanks to the encouragement of a second-grade teacher at his Christian elementary school and a professor from Hybels' days at Trinity International University, Hybels said he was able to hear God's whisper leading him to start a church rather than join his father's business.

Hybels' father was skeptical of his choice to leave behind the family business for church planting and asked his son, “You're going to bet the farm of your life on a whisper?”

Hybels said that he reflected on his father's question a few weeks ago as Willow Creek celebrated its 38th anniversary since Hybels founded it in 1975.

“I bet the farm of my life on God's whisper, and I'm so glad I did,” said Hybels.

Today Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington has a weekend attendance of 20,000. Hybels is also chairman of the board for the Willow Creek Association, a nonprofit fellowship of more than 12,000 like-minded churches located in 45 countries.

He concluded his speech by addressing the different members of the audience and their roles in staying true to God's whisper for Judson University in the 50 years since it was founded in Elgin. He commended staff and faculty for remaining true to the whisper of God heard by their predecessors when they founded the small Christian college in 1963.

“To board members and donors, through your ongoing support, you are creating an environment where any kid on any day can hear the whisper of God that will change their lives,” Hybels said. “And students, on any given day, God might reach down, tap you on the shoulder, whisper in your ear. My greatest prayer is that you would listen well and follow that call.”

Following the chapel service, Judson donors, staff, faculty and trustees gathered for a luncheon in the Dining Hall, where they heard from Northern Seminary's Vice President of Academic Administration Blake Walter. Before Judson University was founded in Elgin in 1963, it served as the undergraduate branch of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary for 40 years. Walter shared information that he found in Northern's historical archives, which illustrated then Judson College's humble beginnings, including professor salaries (an average of less than $6,000) and year-end receipts for university expenses (totaling less than $58,000) and a statement of faith written by Judson officials.

“Judson has 40 years of commitment that predates Judson's 50 years of success that we celebrate today,” Walter explained. “On behalf of my colleagues at Northern Seminary, we are proud of our shared heritage, and look forward to the many years to come.”

After Walter's speech, the audience heard from former Director of Advancement Lynn Wheaton, who highlighted memorable relationships between Judson University and its donors.

The luncheon concluded with the presentation of the Golden Eagle Award, given to alumni Bill and Sally (Ackemann) Boscaljon for their many years of service to the university. This award is the highest nondegree honor that Judson bestows, and is given to those who have done significant work to advance the mission of the university.

“We know that a lot of good people have done a lot of good things for Judson, and it is truly humbling to be singled out to receive this award,” Bill said in his acceptance speech.

Bill Boscaljon (Class of 1979) is an Iowa native who attended Moody Bible Institute before enrolling at Judson. An Elgin native, Sally (Ackemann) Boscaljon graduated from Judson in 1973 and earned her elementary teacher certification at Judson in 1998. They were married in 1979. Bill and Sally each were employed for various responsibilities on campus including Student Activities, the Bookstore, Plant Operations, the Alumni Office, the Health Center, and as houseparents in Volkman Hall. Sally has served on the Alumni Board and the Council for the Master of Literacy Program. Together they have enjoyed leading the coordinating committee for Judson's Golden Centennial Celebration. They are active members of First Baptist Church of Elgin. Sally teaches third grade in Elgin Area District U-46 and Bill is a supervisor at Ace Hardware.

Judson's Founders' Day festivities were preceded by the presidential installation of Gene C. Crume on Oct. 24. He is Judson University's sixth president. The three previous presidents, James Didier, Jerry Cain, and William Crothers, were all in attendance for the presidential installation.

Founders' Day is one of several events scheduled this fall to celebrate Judson's Golden Centennial. For more information on upcoming anniversary events, visit

The Rev. Bill Hybels, pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, was the keynote speaker at Judson University’s annual Founders’ Day service, marking the 50th year of the school’s founding. Courtesy of Judson University
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