Prairie College has been in party mode all summer, having commemorated our 100th anniversary with a week of celebration in July. The College welcomed 800 alumni and friends home to Three Hills, AB for reunions with former classmates, and concerts and sessions with some of Canada’s leading speakers and artists.
And there is much to celebrate! 17,000+ graduates have come through Prairie’s halls and have gone on to work on every habited continent. Through the years, Prairie’s mission has remained the same: To know Christ and make Him known.
It was this goal that in 1921 caused local farmer J. Fergus Kirk to write Midland Bible Institute in Kansas City for a Bible teacher. Leslie Earl Maxwell responded to the letter with enthusiasm, planning to stay for just a few years to informally teach the small group of students, then move into mission service elsewhere. The first class was held on October 9th, 1922 with eight students. To everyone’s surprise, students just kept on coming. Unbeknownst and completely unfathomable to them in 1922, Kirk and Maxwell would spend the rest of their lives establishing Prairie Bible Institute, together welcoming and teaching thousands of students from around the globe.
The peak of Prairie’s enrollment was in the post-war years, with 900+ service men and women coming to the College to learn and then return to their service locations overseas to evangelize to the people they had come to know while they were stationed. Prairie’s strong mission emphasis caused Prairie graduates to continue to spread around the globe…from war-torn France to the savannas of Africa to the jungles of South America and to remote Asian villages.
Vocational training would be added to Bible courses in the ‘90’s with the Prairie Aviation Training Centre. PATC celebrates its 30th anniversary this year having sent hundreds of graduated pilots to both dusty airstrips and to the cockpits of jumbo jets throughout its history. Through a partnership established with Mission Aviation Fellowship in 2017, PATC has been able to strengthen its operations and reach.
Prairie would add sport as another avenue of ministry and growth for students, today part of the Alberta College Athletic Conference. The Explore Program, focusing on outdoor leadership and wilderness skills, was born in 1998, followed by programs such as Discover intercultural studies, Practical Nursing, Primary Care Paramedic, Digital Media, and Prison Ministry; all avenues to address a great need in the world and to provide students with marketplace employment while still providing biblical training.
As the College celebrates its centenary, President Mark Maxwell (grandson of co-founder L.E. Maxwell) cannot help but marvel at God’s faithfulness to the school, through the joys and difficulties of the last hundred years. “Words fail to adequately reflect the events of the past century at Prairie, and to capture the potential for the next century.” Says Maxwell. “As I reflect on Prairie’s early days, I am repeatedly impressed with the fact that L.E. and the team around him did a very good job. We look toward the next century and will continue to build on Prairie’s solid foundation, to continue to be a team working in harmony, with strong programs, and to welcome students from around the world so that they can go out and meet the greatest needs of the world. We are planning for a total revamp of our campus facilities through our $100M Centennial Campaign to set the school up for a productive second century.”