Pacific Union College

Pacific Union College (PUC) is a private liberal arts college in Napa Valley, California. It is the only four-year college in Napa County. It is a coeducational residential college with an almost exclusively undergraduate student body.

Pacific Union College
Pacific Union College's Healdsburg Bell
Seal of Pacific Union College
Former names
Healdsburg Academy
Healdsburg College
MottoThey shall be all taught by God.
(from John 6:45)
TypePrivate Liberal Arts College
Established1882; 139 years ago (1882)
Religious affiliation
Adventist Christian[1]
PresidentRalph Trecartin[2]
Location, ,
United States

38°34′09″N 122°26′29″W / 38.5693°N 122.4413°W / 38.5693; -122.4413Coordinates: 38°34′09″N 122°26′29″W / 38.5693°N 122.4413°W / 38.5693; -122.4413
Sports6 varsity sports teams
MascotPioneer Pete
Pacific Union College logo.jpg

PUC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and maintains various programmatic accreditations for specific programs. It is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was the 12th college or university founded in the state of California.[5] Enrollment at Pacific Union College is roughly 1,600. The school offers roughly 70 undergraduate majors and one master's program organized in 20 academic departments. The campus occupies 150 acres (0.61 km2) of the college's 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) in property.


An early image of Pacific Union College's campus overlooking the Napa Valley

Pacific Union College has had a total of twenty-four presidents. The first eight of these served while the school was still in Healdsburg. In 1983, Malcolm Maxwell became the first alumnus to lead PUC, serving for a record 18 years. Ralph Trecartin, the current president, took office in July 2021 after serving as the associate provost and dean of the College of Professionals for Andrews University.[6]

Pacific Union College was founded as Healdsburg Academy in 1882 in Healdsburg, California, in northern Sonoma County.[7] It was renamed Healdsburg College in 1899.[7] Sidney Brownsberger was its first President.[8] It is the twelfth oldest institution of higher education in the state of California, and the second founded by the Adventist Church, the first west of the Mississippi River.[9]

In 1909 the college moved to its current location in Angwin, on Howell Mountain in neighboring Napa County, where the school had purchased the 1,636-acre Angwin Resort for $60,000.[10] One reason for relocating to Angwin Resort was its beautiful rural setting,[11] overlooking California's Napa Valley wine country, which continues to be a defining characteristic.[12]

In 1933, Pacific Union College became the first higher educational institution affiliated with the Adventist Church to achieve regional accreditation when it was awarded accreditation by the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools.[13] The year before, PUC had become the first school to receive denominational accreditation.[13] Pacific Union College also was the first Adventist school to form international affiliations; it affiliated with what is now Avondale College in Australia in 1954.[13]

In 2006 the faculty, administration and Board of Trustees underscored PUC's commitment to undergraduate education by making a formal decision to remain a college and not change its name to university, as other small private colleges had done. This decision was based on the institution's commitment to quality liberal arts undergraduate teaching.[14]

In the summer of 2006, PUC's Board of Trustees announced its intention to enlarge its endowment through the sale and development of a portion of its land holdings into an ecovillage. The initial plans called for 591 homes and improvements to local businesses and shops.[15] In response to community input, the number of units proposed was later reduced by 200, to 391.[16] The plan was abandoned in October 2010.[17]

In early 2014, there was a controversy when a long-time department chair announced his resignation in response to president Heather Knight, preparing to remove a 26-year, tenured professor in his department for "lectures on sex that administrators said clashed with church teachings."[18] Her actions were viewed as a reinterpretation of the school's policy on academic freedom which were previously interpreted to allow variations from church teachings. Knight withdrew her threat to fire the professor but "doubled down" on her reinterpretation of academic freedom despite a major outcry from faculty, students and alumni.[19]

Academic Dean Nancy Lecourt stated that the conflict originated from tension between the school's commitment to promote the church and professors' freedom to teach, stating, "How do we get students thinking? We poke at them, we introduce them to new ideas, and we ask difficult questions... But how do we get them thinking without losing their faith?"[18] Following the school's re-evaluation of academic freedom, a professor, Greg Schneider, stated, "This damages the fabric [of the school's academic focus], and it's going to take some reweaving." Schneider, who had taught at PUC for 37 years, planned to retire soon and asked, rhetorically, "Can I still, with my whole being, communicate to my students that this is where you ought to be?"[18]

In June 2014, the College received a $2.4 million unrestricted donation from a local resident.[20] It was described as the single largest cash gift in the college's history.


A view of Irwin Hall from PUC's campus mall

Pacific Union College is the only four-year college located in Napa County, California.[21] Pacific Union College offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and pre-professional programs. It has been recognized for its strong undergraduate program.

There are approximately 1,500 students,[22] and the school maintains a student/teacher ratio of 13:1.[22][23] PUC's most popular departments are Business, Nursing, Biology, and Psychology & Social Work. It has a very strong pre-med program, and is the largest source of students for Loma Linda University School of Medicine. According to the Angwin Community Council, the college "has been the training ground for an inordinately large number of outstanding physicians, dentists, nurses, teachers and theologians...among its well over 50,000 alumni..."[12]

PUC, along with Washington Adventist University (formerly Columbia Union College) in Takoma Park, Maryland, is one of two baccalaureate liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Adventist Church, according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.[a]


Pacific Union College school offers over 70 undergraduate majors and one master's program, throughout 20 academic departments. The school operates on a quarter-based academic calendar.[22]

Like many universities, some classes offered by PUC are taught abroad including a course in "Sex Trafficking in Kolkata, India" taught in India, a class on tropical biology taught from a boat on the Amazon River, annual foreign study tours led by professors in the history department, the annual Honors Program summer course in Italy, among others.

PUC requires students to pick from a variety of fitness classes as part of its general education curriculum. Offerings have included fencing, trikke, pickleball, swimming, water aerobics, polo, canoeing, ski, snowboarding, soccer, dance, yoga, and more.[24]

Some departments at Pacific Union College require students to submit a senior thesis project to complete their degrees.[25] Studying abroad is also a requirement in many programs.

Honors ProgramEdit

Pacific Union College offers an Honors Program to high achieving students modeled on a great books curriculum.[26] The program replaces the general education curriculum with a series of seminars studying great books. Students in the program participate in a study tour set in Florence, Italy, before their junior year as part of a seminar studying the definition of beauty centered around Renaissance Art.[27] Students in the program are required to complete a senior capstone project.[26]


The U.S. News and World Report ranked Pacific Union College as one of their "Top Tier Schools" in the Western Baccalaureate Colleges category for 17 consecutive years until 2010.[7][28] In 2011, U.S. News began ranking Pacific Union College as a National Liberal Arts College. U.S. News also ranks PUC second among liberal arts colleges for diversity, after La Sierra University.[29]


Pacific Union College is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), the regional accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its region.[30] In August 2011, following a six-year review process, WSCUC "awarded Pacific Union College uninterrupted [re-]accreditation through 2018."[31] The college was first accredited by WSCUC in 1951.[32]

In addition to institution-wide accreditation by WSCUC, many of PUC's programs and departments are accredited by their programmatic accreditation bodies. These include the Music Department and the Paulin Center for the Creative Arts which are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, the Department of Business Administration and Economics which has been accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education since 2002, when it became the only Adventist college to receive such accreditation; the Education Department which is accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the Nursing Department which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the National League for Nursing and the State of California's Board of Nursing, and the Social Work Program, which has been accredited since 1982 by the Council on Social Work Education.[33][34][35][36][37][38]

Campus and facilitiesEdit

The college is located in Angwin, on Howell Mountain above the Napa Valley,[7] 70 miles (110 km) north of San Francisco, 60 miles (85 km) from the Pacific Ocean, and 180 miles (290 km) southwest of the skiing resorts in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. The main campus is on about 150 acres (0.61 km2) of the college's 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) property.[39] The school has over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails on the remaining property.[39]

Thirteen wineries are located in or near the town of Angwin, many of which offer tours and tastings.[40]

During the summer of 2011, PUC refurbished both the interior and exterior of the Nelson Memorial Library at a cost of over a million dollars.[41] The previous winter, Pacific Union College renovated the Dining Commons, a major center of student life, in a "rustic yet contemporary aesthetic," Napa Valley style.[42] The onsite restaurant at PUC serves exclusively vegetarian and vegan menu items in a socially responsible manner.[43]

Entrance sign on the campus of Pacific Union College

Pacific Union College also operates non-traditional learning programs on off-site locations including the Yuba Community College in Clearlake, California, Travis Air Force Base and in the City of Napa.[44]

Albion Field StationEdit

The Albion Field Station, in Mendocino County on the Pacific coast and the Albion River is owned and operated by Pacific Union College. The Station is designed for educational purposes, its tide pools, estuaries and diverse fauna offering ideal learning opportunities.[45]

Angwin-Parrett FieldEdit

Pacific Union College owns and operates Angwin-Parrett Field, a public use airport located on its campus.[46] The airport was the landing spot during George W. Bush's presidential visit to the Napa Valley in 2006.[47] The airport also supports PUC's bachelor of science degree in aviation and offers ground schools and flight instruction to the community.[48]


Much of the school's 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) in property is undeveloped and known as the 'back40' where an extensive network of trails is maintained. Two annual bike races are held: The Napa Valley Dirt Classic [5] and the Howell Mountain Challenge [6]. Two runs, Angwin to Angwish [7] and the Napa Valley Off-Road Triathlon [8], occur annually on the 'back40'.

The 2009 Tour of California, an international cycling road race wholly contained within California, raced through PUC.[49]

Pacific Union College ChurchEdit

Astronaut Jose Hernandez speaks at Pacific Union College

Pacific Union College Church is the campus church, built in 1968.[50] It has 1,800 members in addition to PUC students. The church houses Pacific Union College's notable pipe organ built by Rieger Orgelbau of Austria and installed in 1981.[51][52] The church complex also has classrooms for theology classes and houses PUC's Office of Service, Justice, and Missions.

Paulin HallEdit

Paulin Hall is the home of Pacific Union College's music department as well as the Paulin Center for the Creative Arts, which offers enrichment classes to the community taught by the music and art faculties.[53][54] Paulin Hall regularly hosts approximately 10 concerts a year featuring student performers as well as guest performers from around the world.[53]

Rasmussen Art GalleryEdit

The Rasmussen Art Gallery, located in the heart of the Pacific Union College campus mall, offers students and community a stimulating and enriching cultural dimension in the visual arts. The gallery's exhibitions provide exposure to contemporary work as well as to historically significant art. The gallery hosts six shows each school year and features work from invited artists as well as from faculty and students. Previous exhibitions have included artists such as Vernon Nye, Pirkle Jones, John Maxon, Nathan Greene, Arminee Chahbazian, Earl Thollander, and hosts of others. The gallery is run by the visual arts department. The gallery is open regularly 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during exhibitions.[55] Gallery admission is free to the public.

Student lifeEdit

Pacific Union College's stated focus is on undergraduate education. In the fall of 2011, 1,567 students were enrolled at PUC.[56] As a residential college, the vast majority of these students live in one of seven on-campus residence halls or school-owned apartments.


Pacific Union College embraces diversity as part of its mission and as a prerequisite for a liberal arts education.[57] In its Diversity Statement, Pacific Union College states that it understands diversity to include aspects listed in the WSCUC Statement of Diversity: race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, gender, age, religious belief, sexual orientation and disability.[57] It goes on to state that PUC supports a campus climate of "genuine appreciation, rather than mere tolerance, for community members representing the full range of human diversity."[57]

The U.S. News & World Report ranks Pacific Union College second out of 219 ranked National Liberal Arts Colleges for Campus Ethnic Diversity.[58] It also ranks PUC as a top 100 National Liberal Arts College for Economic Diversity and Most International Students.[59][60]

In May 2013, a story in the school's student newspaper, the Campus Chronicle, reported on the school's non-religious population. It noted that although the student population "often identifies as religious," the official count that only 1.1% of students identify as non-theistic is probably understating the figure. The college is home to an active Secular Student Alliance "for atheists, agnostics, nontheists, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers and other non-religious students."[61] The club states that "there is a large and growing non-theistic population on the campus" and that it aims "to represent this population of scholars at PUC while articulating our secularistic world-view and rejection of a higher power to the student body."[61]

Student AssociationEdit

The Pacific Union College Student Association (PUCSA) was started in 1887, just five years after the college was founded. It consists of an executive branch and a Student Senate. PUCSA funds publication of the school newspaper, the Campus Chronicle, directory, Funnybook, and yearbook, the Diogenes Lantern. Recently, the Funnybook ceased print publication and is now accessible exclusively through its website.

Student organizationsEdit

There are more than 50 clubs, Honor's Associations and Student Ministries active on campus at Pacific Union College. These include the Secular Student Alliance [9], Biology Club, Asian Student Association, Pre-Med Club, Korean Adventist Student Association, Dramatic Arts Society, Musical Arts Symposium, Homeless Ministry, Psi Chi, College Democrats and others. In addition to the Campus Chronicle, there are several other student-run publications a literary periodical, Quicksilver.


In 2008, Pacific Union College students founded the first campus branch of REVO,[b] an international philanthropy movement.[62] It is Pacific Union College's student-run philanthropical organization and selects a cause each year to support with fundraising and awareness events.[62] During its inaugural year (2008-2009 school year), REVO raised over $10,000 for a shelter and vocational center for trafficked and abused children in Lima, Peru, during the 2009-2010 school year it raised money for the Napa Valley Food Bank.[63] In 2011, REVO announced that it had raised over $10,000 for its project for the school-year ending that year, a self-sustaining community kitchen in Argentina's Salta province through ADRA.[64]

Dramatic Arts SocietyEdit

The Dramatic Arts Society is a campus club that was formed in 1990 by students Kimberly Howard and Joel Kindrick. The club's constitution states that it must be student run, with a faculty adviser overseeing activities, and that its mission is to give students opportunities in the performing arts field. Hundreds of students are now alumni of this club with many going on to professions in the entertainment field.[citation needed] Among the many DAS productions over the years have been: Twelfth Night, Hamlet, The Crucible, The Misanthrope, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Fiddler on the Roof and original works like This Adventist Life and Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White.[11][65][66]

Groups for LGBTQ studentsEdit

A gay-straight alliance, GASP (Gay and Straight People), has operated on campus since 2008.[67] According to its blog, it serves "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students at the college" and is open to students and faculty who would like to become more familiar with the challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals.[68] The club is supported by the college president who meets regularly with its officers.[69]

SafePlace network symbol

SafePlace is a program run by a network of faculty members whose members commit to a willingness to engage in safe, supportive, and accepting private conversations with LGBT students.[70] Members signify their participation by placing a double triangle symbol on their office door. In 2012, the Student Senate passed a "Safe Place Policy Implementation Bill" which would have formalized the program through the Student Association.[71] The bill was vetoed by college president Heather J. Knight who argued that administration's goal was to make "every place on PUC's campus a safe place for same-sex-attracted students" and that the bill implied "that there are indeed places at PUC that are not safe for same-sex-attracted students."[72] OurPlace, a group exclusively for LGBT students, is also in operation.[67] Recent efforts by the student government have led to the planning of an administration-sponsored support program for LGBT students.[73]


Pioneers AthleticsEdit

Pacific Union College teams, nicknamed athletically as the Pioneers, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the California Pacific Conference (CalPac). Men's sports include basketball, cross country and soccer; while women's sports include basketball, cross country and volleyball.

PUC has been awarded the "California Pacific Conference Team Sportsmanship Award" five times since 2003, most recently for the 2010-11 school year.[74] In fall 2011, the coaches for varsity women's volleyball and men's soccer described it as "rebuilding" time.[75] This award signifies the school that displays outstanding sportsmanship and exemplifies the true spirit of the "Champions of Character" program set forth by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).[76][77]


PUC maintains an active intramural athletic program under the name[10][78] The intramural athletic program is the top intramural athletics program in the country according to College Prowler's "Best Intramural Sports" ranking.[79]


Pacific Union College has produced a large number of distinguished alumni for a school of its size. It has been noted for being the "training ground for an inordinately large number of outstanding physicians, dentists, nurses, teachers and theologians" who make up part of its over 50,000 alumni.[12] PUC's notable alumni include members of the United States Congress and California State Assembly; a Harlem Renaissance poet, a professional smooth jazz saxophonist, and others in the arts; multiple presidents of the World Seventh-day Adventist Church, judges, the founder of the Loma Linda University Medical Center, Glendale Adventist Medical Center, and Glendale Adventist Hospital; presidents of many institutions of higher education including the University of Houston. Notable alumni also include numerous scientists, professors, television personalities and a surgeon in the Japanese Imperial Army.


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  2. ^ REVO is an organization that helps individuals and groups raise funds and awareness for their cause. REVO is not an acronym; it is short for REVO-lution. REVO website Accessed 2011-09-10.


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Further readingEdit

  • Utt, Walter (1996). A Mountain, A Pickax, A College: Walter Utt's History of Pacific Union College (Third ed.). Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association. ISBN 0-9650789-0-6.

External linksEdit