Palm Beach Atlantic College
In the 1960s, the Reverend Jess Moody (1925- ), pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach from 1961 to 1976, had a vision to found a Christian college. Moody explored the idea with five outsiders, including the Rev. Billy Graham, and Marjorie Merriweather Post, who offered her home Mar-a-lago for a girls’ college. Instead, Moody enlisted the help of his congregation. Dr. Donald Warren (cardiologist) and deacons Riley Sims (Burnup and Sims Corporation) and Marshall Edison “Doc” Rinker, Sr. (Rinker Materials) were among those who donated large amounts of time, money, and influence.
Palm Beach Atlantic College opened in 1968 in the only available building, First Baptist’s original church at 1101 Olive Avenue in downtown West Palm Beach. Although many of its first students—88 the first year—were poor, the college required them to donate five hours each week to the needy in one of the nation’s first “workship” programs. Palm Beach Atlantic was founded as an interdenominational Christian school.
During the first years of Palm Beach Atlantic College, a shortage of funds was ongoing. Moody’s wife, Doris, served as the first dean of women, without pay. Moody put out a call to local retired professors to start the faculty. The first girls’ dormitory was an old apartment building. Moody convinced retired Judge B. F. Paty, Sr. to let the boys live for a year in a house he planned to tear down. Several women, including Mrs. Marshall Rinker, Mrs. Dan Wiggs, and Moody’s wife and mother, donned bonnets and gathered unpicked produce from the fields of Glades farmers.
Gradually the campus grew, and in 1972 Palm Beach Atlantic College achieved accreditation. Moody, who had served as president since inception, returned to his pastorship. Dr. Warner E. Fusselle was the second president (1972-1977), followed by Dr. George Borders (1977-1981). Dr. Warren served as chairman of the trustees until 2007, when a library named for him was under construction.