Vanguard University
Vanguard University of Southern California
Former names
Southern California Bible School (1920–1939)
Southern California Bible College (1939–1959)
Southern California College (1959–1999)
MottoTruth. Virtue. Service
TypePrivate university
Religious affiliation
Assemblies of God
PresidentMichael J. Beals, Ph.D.
Location, ,
United States
ColorsNavy Blue & Gold
Sporting affiliations
NAIAGSAC (primary)
NAIA – CCC (wrestling)

Vanguard University (officially Vanguard University of Southern California) is a private Protestant university in Costa Mesa, California. It was the first four-year college in Orange County. Vanguard's required core curriculum includes courses on American politics and history, theology, fine arts, and public speaking.[1]


In summer 1920, Harold K. Needham, D. W. Kerr, and W. C. Pierce opened Southern California Bible School, an institution intended to prepare Christian workers for the various ministries of the church.[2][3][4] The school moved from Los Angeles to Pasadena in 1927, and was chartered by the state of California in 1939 to grant degrees. Given this new distinction, the former Southern California Bible School became Southern California Bible College, the first four-year institution of the Assemblies of God.[2] In 1943 the college received recognition by the government for the training of military chaplains. It moved to the present campus in 1950, becoming the first four-year college in Orange County. Its name was changed to Southern California College nine years later when majors in the liberal arts were added to the curriculum.

Regional accreditation and membership in the Western Association of Schools and Colleges were granted in 1964. In 1967 the college received recognition and approval of its teaching credential program from the California State Board of Education. In June 1983 the Graduate Studies Program received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. A Degree Completion Program was started in 1994 for adult learners. On July 1, 1999, university status was achieved when Southern California College registered with the Secretary of State's Office as Vanguard University of Southern California.


Vanguard's campus is in Costa Mesa, California, centrally located in Orange County and about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Two graduate programs, organizational psychology and clinical psychology, are housed nearby at a satellite campus in Santa Ana, California.

Structure and accreditation


The President's Cabinet is responsible for oversight and management of the university.[5] The university is divided into four schools: College of Arts and Sciences, Patty Arvielo School of Business and Communication, School of Education, and School of Theology and Ministry.[6]


It is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.[7]

University presidents

List of presidents

Harold K. Needham served as the founding president of Vanguard University. Subsequently, nine people have served as presidents of the university: Daniel W. Kerr, Irvine J. Harrison, John B. Scott, O. Cope Budge, Emil A. Balliet, Wayne E. Kraiss, Murray W. Dempster, Carol Taylor, and Michael J. Beals, who assumed the office on August 1, 2013. [8]

Notable presidents

Harold K. Needham

Needham was one of the founders of the university.[2] He served as its inaugural president.[8] Needham chapel, Vanguard University's chapel, is named in his honor.

Michael J. Beals

Beals received a BA from Vanguard in 1981 and a PhD in Christian Ethics from Fuller Theological Seminary.[8] Before assuming the university's presidency, he served as the senior pastor of a Pentecostal church for 23 years.[8] As president, Beals has overseen the construction of the 42,000 sq. ft. Waugh Student Center and 61,000 sq. ft. Freed Center. Additionally, he oversaw the recruitment of the largest incoming ungraduated class in the university's history.[9] In 2016, Beals, along with other conservative Christians,[10][11] publicly opposed California Senate Bill 1146 authored by Democrat Ricardo Laura.[12] He asserted "[SB 1146] seeks to restrict the state religious exemption that allows Vanguard and other faith-based institutions the right to operate according to our religious mission and identity. SB 1146 erodes the religious liberty of all California faith-based universities."[12]


In 2019, the school was ranked #43 in U.S. News & World Report's Western Regional Colleges ranking,[13] and was named by The Princeton Review as one of its 124 “Best Western” Colleges.[14]


The Vanguard athletic teams are called the Lions. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) for most of its sports since the 1986–87 academic year; while its men's and women's wrestling teams compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC).

Vanguard competes in 20 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, track & field, volleyball and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, beach volleyball, cross country, dance, golf, soccer, sideline dance,[clarification needed] softball, stunt,[clarification needed] track & field, volleyball and wrestling.[15]


In 2014, Vanguard won the NAIA Division I men's basketball championship in Kansas City, Missouri.[16] In 2008, the women's basketball team won the NAIA Division I National Championship in Jackson, Tennessee.[17]


Beginning in 2024, the Freed Center will serve as the primary facilities for the university's athletic programs.[18] The center will contain a 1,900 seat gymnasium, along with weight and training rooms.[18] Dean Harvey Field serves as the university's baseball field.[19] The university's also has a softball field and soccer complex.[19]

Notable alumni and faculty


  1. ^ "Core Curriculum (Traditional Undergraduate Majors) < Vanguard University". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  2. ^ a b c "Vanguard University - History". Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  3. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 2002, p. 711
  4. ^ Peterson's, Peterson's Colleges in the South, Peterson's Publishing, USA, 2008, p. 88
  5. ^ "Vanguard University -Office of the President". Retrieved 2023-10-08.
  6. ^ "Academic Structure < Vanguard University". Retrieved 2023-10-08.
  7. ^ "Statement of Accreditation Status". Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Archived from the original on 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
  8. ^ a b c d "Vanguard University - President Michael J. Beals". Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  9. ^ "10 Years in Review" (PDF). Vanguard University.
  10. ^ Dreher, Rod (2016-08-09). "SB1146 Vs. Religious Liberty". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  11. ^ Nissen • •, Dano (2016-07-27). "LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill Stirs Controversy at Religious Schools". NBC Los Angeles. Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  12. ^ a b "California Bill Threatens Christian Higher Education". PENews. 2016-06-10. Retrieved 2023-10-07.
  13. ^ "Regional College West Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  14. ^ "Best Western". Princeton Review. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  15. ^ "Vanguard Athletics". Vanguard University. Retrieved 2023-10-08.
  16. ^ "Vanguard Wins First National Championship, 70-65". NAIA. 26 March 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Championship Records DI". NAIA. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Freed Center". Vanguard University. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  19. ^ a b "Facilities". Vanguard University. Retrieved 2023-10-09.

33°39′47″N 117°54′00″W / 33.6630°N 117.9000°W / 33.6630; -117.9000