Sep. 21, 2017
Ken Bascom, a beloved Biola administrator who played a crucial role in planning and developing the university’s building projects over the past four decades, passed away unexpectedly on Monday at the age of 62.
A graduate with deep family ties to the university, Bascom (’72) devoted much of his life to furthering Biola’s mission — not least by helping to build and beautify the university’s physical campus. In his role as senior director of facilities planning and construction, he oversaw the construction of more than 600,000 square feet of new buildings in the past dozen years alone, including the library, Hope Hall, Horton Hall, the Crowell School of Business building and the recently completed parking structure and Talbot East building.
“One cannot walk these beautiful campus grounds without seeing the physical marks of Ken's giftedness everywhere,” President Barry H. Corey said Monday in an announcement to the Biola community. “But far more profound is the godly and gracious influence he has had on countless people over many decades.”
Bascom’s connections to Biola dated back to the school’s earliest days. His grandmother took classes at the original Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1914 (six years after its founding), and his parents, Harry and Alma Bascom, met at Biola in 1947. As a third-generation student, Ken met his wife, Greer, in the summer of 1968. The couple married in 1970, and later had two children, Joel and Faith, both of whom graduated from Biola and married Biola graduates. All told, Bascom had 39 relatives who attended Biola over the past century. [The family was honored with a Legacy Award from the Alumni Relations office during the university’s centennial year in 2008.]
Bascom’s career at the university began in 1970, when he was hired as a 20-year-old student worker on the facilities grounds crew. Though he had originally planned to go into teaching — earning a B.A. in history from Biola in 1972 and an M.A. in history from California State University, Fullerton — he decided to stay in facilities and eventually moved into the department’s administrative offices as the first “campus coordinator.” There, he quickly became involved in planning and managing the construction of several significant projects, including the redevelopment of the creek and the completion of Metzger Hall.
Other significant projects followed, including the university’s well-known Bell Tower in 1986, Thompson Hall and the Welch and Li apartments in 1991, and the library in 2001. The past decade in particular brought unparalleled growth to campus, with Bascom playing an essential role in the design, approval and construction process of several major facilities and renovation projects.
“What you build says a lot about who you are,” Bascom told Biola’s Inside Story newsletter in 2010 on the occasion of his 40th anniversary. For Bascom, the desire to reflect Biola’s values in its building projects meant being a wise steward of resources, planning well to meet the needs of future generations, and incorporating artistic elements to inspire spiritual reflection.
“His construction projects blended knowledge of theology, art, bricks and mortar, and the needs of students, faculty and staff — along with the wisdom to create a collection of buildings that wonderfully serve the mission of Biola now and will for decades to come,” said Greg Balsano, vice president of university services, Bascom’s longtime supervisor.
“I often referred to Ken as ‘Mr. Biola,’ a name that reflected the lifelong loyalty and commitment he gave in service to Biola. He certainly gave his best to his work.”
Bascom’s contributions to Biola extended far beyond his official role.
He was a resident historian who sought to keep the university connected to its heritage, whether by giving public presentations, writing historical articles, offering campus tours or helping to establish the library’s museum-like Heritage Room. He was a worship leader who led singing at employee meetings and took joy in introducing the community to little-known hymns.
He also played an instrumental role in defining the school’s future for years to come by serving as co-chair of the search advisory committee that selected President Corey as the university’s eighth president in 2007 — making Corey the fourth Biola president under whom Bascom served.
“Biola University has lost more than a treasured colleague and friend,” Corey said Monday. “Ken Bascom was like an honored family member for so many in this community. Biola will long remember and continue to benefit from Ken’s deep wisdom, Christian character, keen knowledge, and passion for our God-given mission. Many of the ideals Biola embodies — biblical witness, passion for Christ, gospel proclamation and service to others — these were true also of Ken. In our 104-year history, few have modeled a deeper loyalty and longstanding commitment to serve the Lord at Biola University than Ken Bascom.”
UPDATE: A memorial service to be held on Sunday, July 1 at 3 p.m. in Sutherland Auditorium. Biola is compiling a commemorative book for Ken's family. Please email your reflections or memories of Ken to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch a video below of Ken Bascom giving a tour of the most recent project on which he worked — Talbot East building.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu