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Announcing a $100,000 Matching Grant: An Interview with Gordon M. Rick


Since we started our three-year Grow the Vision campaign to raise one million dollars, Spectrum readers have been very generous.

In the first year, we have already received over $800,000 in donations and pledges. Thank you very much! We are ahead of schedule.

Continuing that momentum as we approach next month’s General Conference Session, we are announcing Dr. Gordon M. Rick’s $100,000 matching donation to close the gap and finish the campaign early. Can you give a little or a lot to help us meet the match? With your help, we can finish this work and renew our focus on the scholarship, journalism, and creative work that makes Spectrum treasured by so many, including Dr. Rick. Read our conversation to learn about what he values so much. The match starts now and will run through June 30. Any contributions count toward the match.

Donate or pledge now.

Alexander Carpenter: Our records show a long history of your involvement with the organization. How is it that you developed such a strong interest in the Association of Adventist Forums and Spectrum? What is your earliest remembrance of the organization?

Gordon Rick: Boy, at my age it’s challenging trying to be clear about that. Additionally, as a true Canadian, I really don’t care much for talking about myself. However, since I have so many fond recollections about the Forum, it is much easier to talk about one of my favorite topics.

If I remember correctly, my first contact with an AAF meeting goes back to January 1970, when I was a graduate student at Loma Linda University. In Southern California, the Ontario Seventh-day Adventist Church and the AAF co-sponsored an Intensive Weekend on Church and State Issues on the topic of “Federal Aid to Church-Related Institutions: Pro and Con.” One of the speakers was Neal Wilson, who I think had been recently elected president of the North American Division, and I remember being struck by the openness of his presentation and his transparency in answering the very penetrating questions from the audience.

Another early remembrance is getting to know Dr. Mollerus Couperus, the first editor of Spectrum, as he served as a member of my thesis committee for an MS in oral pathology at the LLU Graduate School in 1972.

I remember, too, the enthusiasm of Dr. Paul Damazo in the early days of the Spectrum Advisory Council—it just felt so natural to be supportive and it provided a seemingly reliable place to “invest” in contrast to the church’s Davenport debacle that involved such gross financial mismanagement of church funds by church leaders.

AC: What was your first official responsibility for AAF?

GR:  I think that goes back to 1982. In November 1981, AAF President Glenn Coe organized a Forum “Leadership Conference” in Takoma Park, Maryland, that my wife and I attended along with several LLUSD faculty colleagues. We returned in September 1982 for the first National AAF Conference, and following the meeting, Glenn charged Dr. Chuck Woofter and me with AAF chapter development. Although we helped reorganize the Loma Linda chapter in 1982 with Dr. James Dunn as president, it never really flourished for a number of reasons, including the plethora of open, progressive programs regularly available on campus. In October 1982 we met at Fraser Valley Adventist Academy in British Columbia with a group of about 60 interested attendees, and by January the Southern BC chapter was born with my younger brother, Glen, as the initial president, pro tem. Later my father also served as leader of the chapter for several years. (In 2003, the chapter cohosted the First International AAF Conference at Camp Hope, just up the road from my Canadian birthplace, which was both exciting and rewarding for me.)

As a side note, it was very rewarding for my wife and I to sponsor Ray Cottrell’s trip back to that 1981 AAF Leadership Conference. It was his first visit to his old stomping grounds following his move to Calimesa a few years earlier upon his retirement from the Adventist Review—he was so ecstatic to be able to go!

Subsequent national conferences were held at Loma Linda (1984), Atlantic Union College (1987), and Seattle. Because they were always the spiritual highlight of the year for me, I was greatly disappointed when the conferences were discontinued for largely financial reasons.

Fortunately, in 1976 I had moved to Calimesa and a short time later Dr. Robert Sutton and I started a weekly forum-like Sabbath School class. We took advantage of our proximity to LLU and LSU and regularly hosted speakers such as Rick Rice, Bailey Gillespie, Raymond Cottrell, etc., and that helped fill the void left when the Forum conferences ceased. I’m very pleased to report that, over forty years later, that class is still meeting weekly with Dr. Elmar Sakala as one of the leaders.

AC:  Are there any other interesting AAF experiences in your past?

GR:  Well, I’m glad you asked because there is an incident that occurred that is just a solo Forum example of the great worldwide Adventist family. When I was scheduled to present a research paper at the first meeting of the International Association of Oral Pathologists in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1981, I asked Dr. Couperus, who was then also serving as AAF director of international relations, if there was anyone he thought I should visit while in Scandinavia. He immediately mentioned Dr. Alan Wiik, a prominent rheumatologist in Copenhagen, who was the president of the AAF chapter in Skodsborg, the suburb where the Adventist Sanitarium was located. Since I was also scheduled to visit Copenhagen in conjunction with an upcoming NIH International Fellowship with Dr. Jens Pindborg, who many considered the leading oral pathologist in the world at the time, I promised I’d try to meet Dr. Wiik. Unfortunately, however, Dr. Couperus had no contact information for him. This was my first trip to Europe and I didn’t know Danish, but I was able to find him thanks to the Copenhagen phonebook’s listing of the profession/occupation of at least some individuals. Professor Pindborg was on staff at the Royal Dental College, which in Danish was listed as Tand Laege Hyskole (literally Tooth Doctor High School). So, when I looked in a payphone phonebook, I was chagrined when there were several listings for “A. Wiik,” but fortunately, only one also listed “laege,” so I gave it a try. I placed the call early on a Sabbath morning and Dr. Wiik answered the phone. Fortunately, he caught on quickly who I was and gave me directions how to get to Skodsborg by train, and a short time later I met him and his wife, Edith, who was a professor in the physical therapy program at the Sanitarium. They graciously hosted me in their home that day and many times during my fellowship in Copenhagen the following year, as well as several subsequent visits to Denmark. I have enjoyed reciprocating during their visits to California, and over the years we have also met at several locations around the country in conjunction with various professional meetings. Sorry to be so long-winded, but this forum-based friendship has been one of the most special relationships in my life—“God is so good!”

AC:  What a great story that highlights a facet of the Forum that is not frequently thought of or discussed. Are there any other ways you’ve been involved with AAF?

GR:  Yes. When I moved from the Loma Linda area to San Diego in 1985, I started attending meetings of the famous AAF San Diego Chapter (later the San Diego Adventist Forum) that had been run by Jim and Averille Kaatz for many years. It wasn’t long before Jim invited me to join the SDAF board of directors, and I’m still serving there nearly 40 years later. After a few years on the board, I proposed that the chapter sponsor a national AAF conference, and happily the idea took root. And after a couple years in the planning, we managed to pull it off in 1996 with a very robust attendance in spite of essentially no support from the national AAF officers, and they were shocked to learn that we ended up in the black!  The experience emboldened me to then propose that the chapter sponsor an annual retreat at Pine Springs Ranch and, again, the idea met with little resistance. And since the first one in 1997, there have been at least nine such retreats, which helped bridge the gaps between national conferences—“God is so good!”

AC:  Weren’t you also involved later with more national AF conferences?

GR:  Yes, in 2001, then-AAF President David Larson invited me to serve as AAF vice president, and I agreed with his promise that my primary responsibilities would be leading the rewriting of the AFF Constitution and Bylaws and the planning of annual national conferences to be co-sponsored with local AAF chapters whenever possible. David was true to his word, so during the next few years, the annual national conferences were reinstated: 2002 San Francisco; 2003 the first International Conference in Hope, BC; 2004 Hueston Woods, OH; 2005 Silver Spring, MD; 2006 Chattanooga, TN; 2007 Coeur d’Alene, ID. That was a somewhat stressful and very time-consuming task that was also immensely rewarding when you could see and feel the joy exhibited by happy conference attendees! I was delighted when Brent Stanyer took over the chairmanship of the Conference Committee in 2010 in Monterey, CA, and 2012 in Portland, OR. After another gap in the annual conference schedule, the San Diego chapter was again able to stimulate and co-sponsor another conference in San Diego in 2014. There was also a 2017 conference in Portland, OR, followed by the 2018 conference celebrating the 50th Anniversary of AF at La Sierra University. Incidentally, it was at that 2003 International Conference in Hope, BC, that Chuck Scriven and Becky Wang connected or reconnected and Forum’s role as matchmaker was born.

AC: Additionally, it was at the joint Adventist Forum and Association of Adventist Women conference in Monterey, California, that Doris and I met. After we got married, we drove up the Pacific Coast highway to attend the Portland conference just a week after our wedding in 2012. Conferences are truly a place for making connections. But also, honoring our community members. You also have a rare Adventist Forum “Oscar” award. How did that happen?

GR:  Well, that was a huge surprise! Judy & I were pleased to receive an invitation to the premiere of Martin Doblmeier’s documentary film on Dietrich Bonhoeffer at LLU on September 27, 2003. During the course of the evening, Martin was awarded the first AF “Oscar” for his brilliant production. Then I received one as well. The wording on my “Oscar” reads “For Outstanding Performance in International Conference Leadership – Gordon Rick – AAF/ Spectrum 2003.” It had really been just a work of love so I was totally speechless!

AC:  If I recall correctly, you also became much more involved in the operation of the San Diego chapter?

GR:  Well, yes, when Jim Kaatz was finally able to convince the SDAF board that he and Averille would be retiring, I reluctantly accepted the chapter presidency when it became obvious that the chapter would terminate if I didn’t. Jim had developed a loyal subscription base for audiocassette and later CD recordings of the chapter meetings, but there was no chapter website. So, my major task as president was to develop one, and luckily I was able to work with Jonathan Pichot who at that time was also redoing the national AF/ Spectrum website. After Rich Hannon digitized the analog recordings of several decades of meetings using the audiocassette masters that I hand-delivered to his home in Utah, nearly 50 years of chapter meetings were finally downloadable from the chapter website—it makes me tired just thinking of it all again now!

AC:  I believe I have also heard that you were involved to some degree in Adventist Today?

GMR:  Well, in addition to being financially supportive from its beginning, we hosted a promotional meeting in our home in Del Mar, which may have been Dr. Elwin Dunn’s introduction to the publication.

AC:  So, I’m curious what is prompting you to donate a $100,000 matching fund grant to help secure AF/ Spectrum’s financial future—it seems like you might want to start tapering off at this point in your life?

GR:  No, to the contrary, Alexander. When I recently learned of the new “Grow the Vision” campaign to move AF/ Spectrum into new territory and offer expanded resources and programs, I became very enthused when I visualized the possibilities. To see the significant success of the website in engaging a younger population than the more typical white-headed AF crowd is very exciting. Envisioning Forum chapters around the world publicizing and somehow Zooming/live streaming their meetings through the central website is similarly exhilarating.

AC:  Thank you, Gordon, for sharing your infectious enthusiasm for the Forum and Spectrum. Before we conclude, it would be interesting to learn a bit about your professional career as well. As you look back, what are some of the highlights from your perspective?

GR:  Well, I truly have had a richly rewarding career, both academically, politically, and in private practice—how much time do we have?

Academically, life went completely the opposite of any thoughts I had prior to starting dental school when I was sure I would return to my native British Columbia and serve out my career as a local community dentist, possibly specializing in pediatric dentistry. That all started to change in 1967 during the summer of my junior year in dental school while I was serving as a student missionary at Monument Valley Hospital when I received a letter from LLUSD Dean Charles Smith offering to sponsor me in an oral pathology residency if I would join the LLUSD faculty. When I hesitated to accept his offer, he said he’d give me a year to think about it and advised me not to become burdened with the debt of starting a dental practice. I could handle that idea, so I applied for and was accepted into a one-year dental externship program in BC that provided dental care throughout the province, primarily for kids aged three to grade three in remote logging, fishing, and mining communities without adequate dental resources. I was assigned to coastal BC, primarily Vancouver Island, including communities with no road access. Consequently, I had to charter floatplanes to get my Vietnam battlefield-era portable dental equipment and supplies onsite to set up the temporary makeshift clinics after landing on the ocean. Although this ended up being one of my favorite professional years and at least partially satisfied my interest in working with children, by the end of the year I concluded that an academic career would likely be more challenging and satisfying long-term, so I accepted Dean Smith’s offer (even though my mother never forgave him for stealing me away from Canada). Certainly, the three-year pathology residency was challenging and there were also many challenges during my 41 years on the faculty—from 1969 to 2010—that included about ten years as department chairman—“God is so good!”

During those years, I also had the opportunity to serve in various capacities in a number of professional organizations: the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, six years on the American Board of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology (the group charged with certifying the competency of oral pathologists) concluding as president in 2000, the International Association of Oral Pathologists, the Southern California Academy of Oral Pathology, and the American Cancer Society (at the state and local levels), to name several. After founding the California Society of Oral Pathologists, I served as president for a number of years. With the late Dr. William Jarvis, I was a cofounder of the Southern California Council Against Health Fraud and served as vice president as it went on to become the California Council and then the National Council Against Health Fraud. It is an anti-quackery organization whose activities include identifying fraudulent healthcare workers such as the classic 1961 case of a murder conviction on the basis of words alone of a chiropractor who recommended useless treatments that led to the death of a nine-year-old girl with cancer.

The NIH International Fellowship with Professor Pindborg was also a very stimulating and satisfying professional experience. My research interest is odontogenic tumors but my primary professional educational focus has been the early detection and diagnosis of oral cancer, and it has been a rewarding experience to sponsor an ongoing lectureship series on oral cancer at LLU.

Throughout my career, I was involved in the private practice of both clinical and surgical oral pathology. From 1973 through 1985 I commuted to La Jolla to practice one day per week while teaching full-time (4 days/week) at LLU. From 1985 through 2013 I spent more time in practice and less time at LLU, including from 1988 through 2013 as the sole proprietor of Scripps Oral Pathology Service, and I fully retired in 2017. It is the proceeds of the sale of that practice that is the source for this matching fund donation to AF.

Upon retirement, one of the final challenges was finding a home for the archive of 250,000+ surgical specimens that accumulated during the laboratory’s first 57 years. Because of the significant research value of the collection, the American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology enthusiastically accepted my donation and paid for its relocation to the University of Chicago School of Medicine Human Tissue Resource Center where it is curated under the direction of Mark Lingen, DDS, PhD for use by researchers and educators around the world.

AC:  That definitely sounds like a varied and interesting career. Is there any final comment you’d like to share?

GR:  In addition to Forum and professional satisfactions, Judy and I had a unique experience while on safari in conjunction with attending an IAOP meeting in Cape Town. We struck up a conversation with a camp guard at Kichwa Tembo in Kenya and learned he was an Adventist, and we exchanged contact information with him. A few years later we received a letter from him requesting help with the building of a church since they were meeting under a tree and for which they had property in Olibor Soito. We were not able to gain any official help from the local or union conference officials in the area, but through a very long process, we were able to get funds to them that were raised in our local Tierrasanta Church in San Diego, and miraculously they now have a church in which to worship!

I also found it rewarding to work with Maranatha a few years ago on a project to upgrade the lodge at Camp Hope in British Columbia where I attended Junior Camp about 70 years ago!

This past summer, Judy & I relocated to a retirement home we built on southern Vancouver Island a few years ago—so for me now I have come full circle—“God is so good!”


I hope you enjoyed reading Dr. Rick’s personal and organizational history. I’d love to hear how God and this community have blessed you. Reach out here: and please join the Adventist Forum board, Dr. Gordon M. Rick, the Spectrum digital crew, and help us meet that match, finish this work, and Grow the Vision!

Donate or pledge now.


Alexander Carpenter is executive editor of Spectrum

Title image credit: Loma Linda University / Spectrum

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