The Bill & Vonette Bright Scholarship Fund: A Bold Vision

Bill and Vonette Bright played a critical role in reopening King’s in 1999, when just 17 pioneering students began their studies in the Empire State Building.

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The King’s College has the distinction of having been founded twice: first, in 1938 in New Jersey, and second, in New York City in 1999. King’s had been forced to close in 1994 due to financial issues. Yet the College’s legal charter remained in force, making it possible to reopen when the timing and finances fell into place.

That moment came when Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru); his wife Vonette; and J. Stanley Oakes, also of Cru, joined forces with the third president of King’s, Dr. Friedhelm Radandt. Together, they carried forward the reopening effort with a daring vision for a Christian college in New York City that would prepare students for leadership.

Bill Bright was responsible for recruiting the first board member for the College’s new iteration, John Beckett. Bright had described his vision for King’s to Beckett this way: “In 10 years, we’re going to be in 100 cities, we’re going to have 10,000 satellite organizations, and we’re going to be educating 2 million people.” Now, more than twenty years on from that second founding, Beckett explains, “In several lifetimes we may be catching up to just a little bit of that original vision. But somebody has got to cast a vision.” Praise God for Bill Bright’s foresight. And for Vonette’s passion for prayer.

This combination of vision and prayer formed a solid foundation for the Brights, Oakes, Radandt, and a team of volunteers to create a world-class college in New York City that would combine academic rigor with earnest character formation. Radandt would continue as the College’s third president when King’s reopened; otherwise, the College’s assets were only a library, a name, their charter, and an idyllic property in Tuxedo, N.Y. The steering team eventually determined that reopening the College north of the city in Tuxedo would distract from the mission Bright and others were developing and opted instead to rent the space in the Empire State Building, with Campus Crusade for Christ providing the needed financial backing.

In the heart of New York City, King’s became a fitting training ground for students not only to land internships and jobs, but also to refine and mature their Christian faith.

That first school year, 1999-2000, began with 17 brave students, several faculty members, and a handful of staff—most of whom were ministry-supported and had moved to NYC from Cru locations around the country. Accreditation soon followed, as did the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) major, which is today a cornerstone of the school’s core curriculum.

Bill and Vonette Bright visit The King’s College in 2001

The board of the newly-constituted King’s made the decision that students would not have to profess faith to matriculate at the school, but the school would be explicitly Christian in its faculty, staff, and curriculum. It would be a priority for faculty and staff, who all sign a statement of Christian faith, to challenge students to consider Christianity. This decision has led to a number of students accepting Christ. It’s also provided the space for students from devout Christian families to personally own their faith for the first time.

Bill and Vonette remained intimately involved in the development of the school as it grew in size and stability. Once, during Vonette’s tenure as a trustee, the board was struggling to confirm a future source of funding; some board members were scheduled to meet with prospective donors the next day. By faith, Vonette declared, “Mark this day”—giving the clear impression that the Lord would be going before them and turning the couple’s hearts and resources toward the College. This is exactly what happened.

Even as the world seems to be falling apart, The King’s College is staying focused on Kingdom work, with faculty and alumni advancing human dignity, economic flourishing, religious freedom, and spiritual transformation across industries and academic disciplines. Now located near Wall Street in the Financial District, the College remains committed to the truths of Christianity and a biblical worldview. And the mission of transforming society through these truths is being achieved. With excellence and attention to hearts as well as minds, King’s has a 99% placement rate within six months of graduation (14% higher than the national average), and 87% of students complete internships before graduating (compared to 61% nationally).

But you can imagine how expensive attending school in New York City is, especially at a school like ours with small class sizes and 14:1 student to faculty ratio. Tuition and housing is now around $55,000 per year, and costs of transportation and food add another several thousand to that figure. Although every student at The King’s College receives some form of scholarship to attend King’s, many must also work two or three jobs if they have no support from home. Given the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, it is now tougher than ever for many high school students and their families to afford college.

And yet, more than ever, America needs a college that helps students search earnestly for truth, challenges them to think critically about difficult issues, and equips them to change culture for good, and for God’s glory. The King’s College is that college.

But students need more financial help to make attending the school a reality. The King’s College awards $10 million dollars in scholarship each year. Will you join us in making that possible every year? We invite you to catch Bill Bright’s bold vision and give generously to the Bill & Vonette Bright Scholarship Fund at The King’s College.

During the Bright Scholarship Fund Giving Week, May 8-16, 2021, we are raising funds to support more student scholarships at King’s. Your gift will have a multiplying effect as you prepare students to lead well into the future.

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