Remembering President Murray W. Dempster

Dear Vanguard Community,

Murray W. Dempster, Ph.D., the eighth president of Vanguard University, towering Pentecostal academic and longtime Assemblies of God minister, passed into the arms of Jesus on Sunday, December 17. President Dempster committed 40 years of his life in service to Vanguard and shepherded the transition of then Southern California College (SCC) into the Spirit-empowered comprehensive university of liberal arts, sciences and professional studies that is Vanguard today.

Dr. Dempster’s longtime relationship with SCC/Vanguard began as an undergraduate student receiving his B.A. in Biblical Studies in 1968. He would go on to serve Vanguard in numerous capacities including: Dean of Men, Director of the Graduate Program for Religion, Professor of Social Ethics, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, President from 2000-2008 and Chancellor for one year. 

After earning his Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California, Dr. Dempster would blaze trails for generations of Pentecostal academicians. A prolific author, editor and speaker—Dr. Dempster’s work and contributions in social ethics informed by the Word and the Spirit, global Pentecostalism and social concern are read throughout the world and remain in the minds and hearts of generations of Vanguard alumni. As a member of the Vanguard faculty, he provided memorable courses in philosophy, theology and ethics in both the undergraduate college and graduate school. 

“As with so many whom he touched and influenced, Murray was a teacher, mentor and friend. His passion for integrating faith and philosophy motivated me to study and teach Christian Ethics,” said Vanguard President Michael J. Beals, Ph.D. “He was a larger-than-life figure that inspired us as undergrads preparing for ministry to be better, to do better, to keep justice always in the frame. He made generations of Vanguard students, faculty and staff proudly Pentecostal and confidently academic. I can picture Murray in heaven, with that infectious laugh, seeing clearly what he taught us to believe. Peace, friend.”

The fruit of Dr. Dempster’s life and ministry are still felt in halls and classrooms at Vanguard, as students engage with academic centers started under his leadership: The Center for Women Studies (now the Global Center for Women and Justice), the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, and the Lewis Wilson Institute for Pentecostal Studies continue to provide scholarship in support of the university’s mission to pursue knowledge, cultivate character, deepen faith, and equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.

The entire Vanguard Community lifts up his wife, Coralie, and son, Marlon ‘87, and the entire Dempster family in our prayers. 

Information about Dr. Dempster’s memorial service will be shared with the Vanguard Community when it becomes available.