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
ColorsNavy Blue & Gold
Sporting affiliations
NAIAGSAC (primary)
NAIA – CCC (wrestling)

Vanguard University of Southern California is a private Christian university in Costa Mesa, California. It was the first four-year college in Orange County. The university offers over 39 undergraduate degrees and emphases in 15 different departments. The university also offers adult-learning programs in its professional studies department and features six graduate degrees. It is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.[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. The university comprises the Undergraduate College and the School for Graduate and Professional Studies.


Vanguard 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.

Organization and administration

In addition to its founding president, Harold K. Needham, Vanguard University of Southern California has had nine subsequent presidents: Daniel W. Kerr, Irvine J. Harrison, John B. Scott, O. Cope Budge, Emil A. Balliet, Wayne E. Kraiss, Murray W. Dempster, Carol Taylor, and Dr. Michael J. Beals, who took office on August 1, 2013. [5]


In 2019, the school was ranked #43 in U.S. News & World Report' Western Regional Colleges ranking,[6] and was named by The Princeton Review as one of its 124 “Best Western” Colleges.[7] Vanguard was named in the 2012-13 list of Christian Colleges of Distinction and was 99th on the Forbes list of best universities in the West.[8]


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 & 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, softball, stunt, track & field, volleyball and wrestling.


In 2014, Vanguard won the NAIA Division I men's basketball championship in Kansas City, Missouri.[9] In 2008, the women's basketball team won the NAIA Division I National Championship in Jackson, Tennessee.[10]


Notable alumni and faculty


  1. ^ "Statement of Accreditation Status". Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Archived from the original on 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
  2. ^ a b "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. ^
  6. ^ "Regional College West Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  7. ^ "Best Western". Princeton Review. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  8. ^ "Vanguard University". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-06-06.
  9. ^ "Vanguard Wins First National Championship, 70-65". NAIA. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Championship Records DI". NAIA. Retrieved 1 November 2014.

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