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Palm Beach Atlantic University
Former names
Palm Beach Atlantic College (1968–2002)
MottoEnlightening Minds, Enriching Souls, Extending Hands
TypePrivate university
Established1968; 56 years ago (1968)
Religious affiliation
Interdenominational Christian[1]
Endowment$100.5 million (2022)[2]
PresidentDebra A. Schwinn
ProvostChelly Templeton
Academic staff
Location, ,

26°42′13″N 80°03′05″W / 26.7036°N 80.0514°W / 26.7036; -80.0514
ColorsNavy Blue & White
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IISunshine State

Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is a private Christian university in West Palm Beach, Florida. The university's nine colleges focus on the liberal arts with a select collection of professional studies. In 2022, its undergraduate enrollment was approximately 2,400.

Founded in 1968, the university grew out of a local Baptist church. It operated out of assorted buildings until the first purpose-built campus building was completed in 1982. A subsidiary campus operates in Orlando. Eighteen sports teams represent the university in NCAA Division II competitions.


Palm Beach Atlantic University was the vision of and was founded by Jess C. Moody in 1968 while he was the pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach. He served until the first class graduated in 1972 and resigned from the presidency to focus on his duties at First Baptist Church. Two laymen of the church, Donald Warren and Riley Sims, became involved as trustees before the university began and continued to contribute time and support for many years. Warren served as chairman of the trustees for 38 years until 2007.

In July 1972, Warner E. Fusselle, previously president of Truett-McConnell College, became the second president of the university and led the accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which was achieved in December 1972.

George Borders, Vice President of Student Affairs at Stetson University, became the third president of Palm Beach Atlantic University in 1978. He was popular with students and the Florida Baptist Convention. After his resignation in 1981 to become the president of the Florida Baptist Foundation, Claude H. Rhea became president. During his presidency, the university developed the Rinker campus and expanded its academic programs.

Paul R. Corts, previously president of Wingate College, was the fifth president of Palm Beach Atlantic. He presided over the addition of two graduate programs, from 1991 until 2002. He resigned in 2002 to accept a position as Assistant Attorney General for Administration with the United States Department of Justice.

David W Clark, President of FamilyNet, and founding provost of Regent University became the sixth President in 2003. During his presidency enrollment grew from 2,600 to 3,291. Five new buildings were completed including the Warren Library, a mini campus in Wellington was built, and 96 acres (390,000 m2) for a new athletic campus were acquired. The university budget grew from $43 million to $73 million. Over 4,600 or 40 percent of all degrees were awarded during his tenure. President Clark announced his retirement during the 2008–2009 academic year the end of June.

On July 1, 2009, Lu Hardin took office as the seventh president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. A former Arkansas state senator, Hardin had previously served as the president of the University of Central Arkansas.[3] Hardin resigned the presidency of PBA on March 4, 2011,[4] shortly before pleading guilty in federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas, to two federal felony charges (wire fraud and money laundering) which occurred during his tenure at UCA.[5]

On March 10, 2011, William M. B. "Bill" Fleming, Jr., the university's vice president for development, was named interim president by the university's board of trustees.[6] After a nationwide search, Fleming, who had served as interim president for more than a year, was elected by the trustees as the university's eighth president, beginning his presidency on May 8, 2012.[7]

On January 16, 2020, Debra Schwinn was announced as the new president of the university, following Fleming's retirement. Schwinn took office on May 4, 2020.[8]


Palm Beach Atlantic University

PBA's campus is located in West Palm Beach. The first structure built specifically for PBA, the W.G. Lassiter Jr. Student Center, was completed in 1982. This was followed by Johnson Hall and Sachs Hall in 1989. A new campus was established in Orlando in 2002 and in Wellington in 2002. The Wellington campus ceased operations in 2017.

Residence halls include Baxter Hall, Coastal Towers Apartments, Johnson Hall, Oceanview Hall, Pembroke Hall, Rinker Hall, Watson Hall, and Weyenberg Hall.

Classroom buildings include the Vera Lea Rinker School of Music and Fine Arts, the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy, Borbe Hall, MacArthur Hall, Rinker Hall, Oceanview Hall, The Greene Complex for Sports and Recreation, Memorial Presbyterian Church, Fern Street Theatre, Holy Trinity Church, and the Okeechobee Building.

A permanent home for Sailfish athletics is in the form of a 78-acre Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus at 3401 Parker Avenue in West Palm Beach — just a short drive from Palm Beach Atlantic University. The campus, located between I-95 and Parker Avenue just north of Southern Boulevard, provides facilities for training and hosting intercollegiate and intramural and club sport competitions. The facility opened in September 2014 and was completed in August 2017. [9]


Palm Beach Atlantic University offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs through nine schools:

Academic freedom

In 2023, English professor Samuel Joeckel was fired following allegations from a parent that he was "indoctrinating" students by including racial justice texts in a composition class. Joeckel said that he had a racial justice unit for the last 12 years of his 20 years teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and that students were instructed to come to their own stance and conclusions. He has filed a discrimination complaint with EEOC with hopes to establish adequate academic freedom for university faculty.[10][11]

The university does not offer professors tenure.[11]

Ministry life

Chapel is held four times weekly in the DeSantis Family Chapel, Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m., as well as other times, dates and locations that are listed on the chapel calendar. Chapel is a requirement for all full-time undergrad students. Students must attend 24 chapels per year. [12]

"Workship" is the school's community service program that seeks to respond to human needs with Christ-like action in the community and throughout the world, with the intention that such community service might help students discern their vocation and develop a lifelong habit of servant leadership.[13]

Mission Trips are offered yearly for students. Mission teams travel to countries all over the world and minister through evangelism, performing arts, street ministries, construction, medical outreach, sports workshops and more. The teams travel during the summer on a multi-week trip and on a one-week Spring Break trip. [14]


Main article: Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish

The Palm Beach Atlantic athletic teams are called the Sailfish. The school's colors are navy blue and white. The university is a member of the NCAA Division II ranks, primarily competing in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) since the 2015–16 academic year as a provisional member for most their sports (achieving D-II full member status in 2016–17);[15][16] while its men's and women's track & field teams compete as NCAA D-II Independents as the conference does not sponsor these sports. The Sailfish previously competed as an NCAA D-II Independent from 2003–04 to 2014–15; and in the Florida Sun Conference (FSC; now currently known as the Sun Conference since the 2008–09 school year) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) from 1990–91 to 2002–03.

Palm Beach Atlantic competes in 18 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, beach volleyball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.


The new Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus has beach volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis, and running trails as well as a new state of the art weight and training rooms. The new 34,000 sq ft (3,200 m2) building houses locker rooms, meeting rooms as well as athletic offices.[17]

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "Palm Beach Atlantic University's new president has controversial past". Palm Beach Post. Archived from the original on November 16, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Palm Beach Atlantic University Fact Book". Palm BEach Atlantic University.
  3. ^ "Campus Community Gets First Glimpse of New President".
  4. ^ "University President Lu Hardin Resigns".
  5. ^ Brantley, Max (March 7, 2011). "Lu Hardin pleads to wire fraud, money laundering". Arkansas Times. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  6. ^ Abramson, Andrew (March 10, 2011). "Palm Beach Atlantic University appoints vice president to fill top job temporarily". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  7. ^ "William Fleming named PBA President - Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "Debra A. Schwinn Appointed 9th President of University | Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  9. ^ "Rinker Athletic Campus - Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  10. ^ Marra, Andrew (May 1, 2023). "PBAU professor fired over teaching of racial justice files discrimination complaint". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Jaschik, Scott (February 19, 2023). "Professor's Job Endangered for Teaching About Race". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  12. ^ "404 Error - Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved June 14, 2015. ((cite web)): Cite uses generic title (help)
  13. ^ "Workship | Palm Beach Atlantic University".
  14. ^ "404 Error - Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved June 14, 2015. ((cite web)): Cite uses generic title (help)
  15. ^ "Sunshine State Conference Expands to 11 Institutions" (Press release). Sunshine State Conference. August 10, 2017. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  16. ^ "Sunshine State Conference Expands to 11 Institutions".
  17. ^ "404 | Palm Beach Atlantic University". ((cite web)): Cite uses generic title (help)
  18. ^ "Live, From West Palm Beach, It's Commencement - Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  19. ^ "Jennifer Rothschild - About". July 14, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2017.