Community Features

Point Loma Legends – Professors with 20+ Year Legacies

By: Grace Chaves

Picture this: it’s the night before your next semester starts at Point Loma Nazarene University. You and your friends are back together, you’ve settled into your dorm room, and you stare at the ocean view surrounding your campus. You take a deep breath and breathe in the glory of a sunset at the Greek. But your body shakes as the nerves set in with the classic question of a college student: “What will my new professors be like?”

This question has plagued students for years, and it’s the reason why websites like “Rate My Professors” exist. Professors are the people you have to do life with daily, so naturally, fear may grip students before they walk into their first Monday morning class.

Some professors give students (quite literally) a run for their money. But there are others who alter their students’ college experience and sometimes even their lives. We might call them Point Loma Legends.

Several professors at PLNU have been here for over 20 years, impacting and changing their students’ lives each semester. “The Point Loma archaics,” as psychology professor Tim Hall calls it.

Hall has been at PLNU for 28 years. He spent 21 years as a coach for Point Loma’s men’s and women’s soccer teams but retired in 2017 from coaching to serve in the classroom. However, his journey with Loma began long before he became a professor. Hall was an undergrad student and got his master’s degree here nearly three decades ago.

“This place has really impacted me in a deep way,” said Hall. “I met my wife here, and this place is where my growth started to happen. This is where I started getting serious about my relationship with God. This place became much more than just a school—it touched me. Point Loma got inside my inner man to the point where it wasn’t about academics or getting a degree, but it helped change me and grow. That’s why I wanted to teach here.”

Applying for a job here is the easy part. But what makes a professor want to stay after so many years? Is it the ocean view or the friends they’ve made along the way? No. According to the professors, it’s the students.

First-year student, Vivyan Gripp, took Tim Hall’s psychology class last semester and expressed how Hall has deeply influenced her college experience. She said he normalized talking about mental health, and was “so encouraging and kind through a really hard time in my life.”

It’s these students who bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives to this campus. But often, it’s not students learning from their professors, but professors learning from their students, according to Hall.

Kinesiology Professor Rich Hills is another “Point Loma Legend” who has been here for several decades. He’s been a faculty member since 1981 and is currently the director of Outdoor Adventures.

“I’ve been here for 43 years,” said Hills. “I certainly wouldn’t have stayed just for the job or for the location. Those things are great, but I stay because of the students. I can look back on almost any decade, and a whole group of my athletes comes to mind. That’s what keeps me going—having relationships with the students.”

Hall echoed Hills’ response, saying, “I stay because of the students. Loma doesn’t exist without them. I have great colleagues and friends here that I love, but the students are the ones who have impacted my life deeply. The opportunity to build relationships with them is one of the reasons why I stay. I feel like I’ve grown more from students than I’ve helped them grow.”

Another professor, Philip Tyler, has been at Point Loma for 23 years as a violin teacher and now orchestra conductor. It was his uncle, Keith Pagan, Professor Emeritus of Music, who drew him to PLNU. After Tyler finished his doctoral program at Florida State University, he came to PLNU to play at a violin recital. He fell in love with the school and became inspired to teach here.

“When I came to PLNU in 2001, my new colleagues assured me that ‘this is a good place,’” said Tyler. “Although my time here has seen rough times and many changes, it continues to be a good place.”

However, Tyler didn’t just stay because it’s a good place. Like Hall and Hills, Tyler stayed because of the students.

Tyler continued, “Students give me energy. I charge my batteries with their dreams, ambitions, and curiosity. Every fall, when the apprehension of jumping back into the pressure of another academic year grips me, seeing my new and returning students blows all that angst away.”With Homecoming around the corner, these professors will doubtlessly see returning students in the coming days. What will they say to these students who have been impacted by their legacy? They each had a similar response: stay close to God, stay curious, and keep Christ at the center of your life. That’s been the key to their success.