Press Releases

« back

Former Multnomah President Dr. Joe Aldrich Dies, Leaving Legacy of Leadership and Prayer


Dr. Joseph C. Aldrich, Multnomah's third president, passed away on the morning of Thursday, February 12 after a 15-year battle with Parkinson's disease. The 68-year-old Aldrich was a national leader among evangelicals, founder of several ministries, author, and passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

In his passing, he was surrounded by his wife, Ruthe, his two children, Kristen and Stephen, and other members of his family.

Dr. Joe's Multnomah Presidency

Dr. Aldrich, or "Dr. Joe" as he was simply known by students and colleagues, served as Multnomah's president from 1978 until 1997 when he retired due to health concerns. He was remembered for his leadership through an important period of transition while maintaining a commitment to biblical education as evidenced in the school's slogan, "If it's Bible you want, then you want Multnomah!"

Dr. Joe brought about significant progress for Multnomah during his 19 years as president. Highlights include:

  • Construction of the John and Mary Mitchell Library in 1980.
  • Founding of Multnomah Graduate School of Ministry in 1987, renamed Multnomah Biblical Seminary in 1993.
  • Charter membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in 1988
  • Renaming Multnomah School of the Bible to Multnomah Bible College and Seminary in 1993.
  • Construction of the Scruggs Married Student Apartments in 1995.
  • Accreditation of Multnomah Biblical Seminary through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in 1996.

Dr. Joe's examples of leadership set the standard for innovation in Bible education at Multnomah. His efforts to develop and solidify the institution set the stage for Multnomah's present status as a regionally accredited university.

More Than a College President

While Dr. Joe's leadership is a significant chapter in Multnomah's history, he also played a part in the formation of many other ministry endeavors. Multnomah Press grew into a prominent Christian publisher during his tenure and has since become Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House Publishing.

The author of many works, his book Lifestyle Evangelism, though controversial when first published, became a classic. Through the book, Dr. Joe was able to have a lasting impact on the students who read it for his classes and thousands of others around the nation who began to think about evangelism as something they could do with joy.

Dr. Joe was a pioneer in the prayer-summit movement, shepherding pastors into what is known today as International Renewal Ministries (IRM). Since the first Prayer Summit twenty years ago, there have been about 2000 summits in 40 states and 30 other nations.

Dr. Joe made great efforts to help pastors succeed in their ministries. He organized the first Pastor's Enrichment Congress, which Multnomah sponsored in the early eighties. From that, he launched the Elder-Deacon Seminars, the Women in Ministry Conferences, and inaugurated a Church Secretary's Seminar. All of these were tools to support the local church.

Bringing pastors and leaders together from all over the world was never more evident than his significant role in bringing Billy Graham to Portland in 1992, Graham's final Crusade in the Pacific Northwest. Not satisfied to simply partner with Graham administratively, he canceled classes during the crusade days so that all students, faculty, and staff could assist in person.

His love for students and his lasting imprint on Multnomah and the lives of countless others is memorialized in the naming of the Joseph C. Aldrich Student Center (JCA) dedicated in 2007.


"Dr. Joe Aldrich was a man of passionate leadership expressed in unpredictable ways," Dr. Daniel Lockwood, current president of Multnomah said. "He exuded a loving desire for God. You would catch it in his prayers, glimpse it in the way he related to students, and see it in his demeanor."

"Dr. Joe was passionate about prayer," Dr. Lockwood said. "Prayer was a central spiritual discipline in his own life and marked everything he did."

"Dr. Joe brought about the birth of the prayer summit," current IRM Executive Director Dennis Fuqua said. "He had this 'crazy' idea to get as many pastors as possible into an unscripted prayer setting. There was no agenda, no telling God what He should do. I can see him weeping as he prayed, 'We're not worthy.'"

"Dr. Joe was able to relate to the rich and the poor in spirit alike. He loved people where he found them," said Dr. Garry Friesen, professor of Bible at Multnomah and former academic dean during Dr. Joe's presidency. "His family chapel was the high point of the week because of his wonderful teaching and speaking ability. He was in demand across the country as a speaker, and had a blend of greatness and humility rarely seen in leaders."

The Wisdom of Dr. Joe

Like Dr. Willard Aldrich's "If it's Bible you want, then you want Multnomah!" and Multnomah founder Dr. John Mitchell's "Don't you folks ever read your Bibles?" Dr. Joe had some of his own well-known pearls of wisdom. Usually very witty, his self-described "pithy grabbers" are often repeated by former colleagues and students alike. Some of these include:

  • God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.
  • The main thing is to always keep the main thing the main thing.
  • The trouble with the living sacrifice is it keeps crawling off the altar.
  • Agree to agree on the essentials; agree to disagree on the nonessentials.

A Memorial Service for Dr. Joe

Lake Grove Presbyterian Church
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Friday, February 20, 2009
2:00 PM

What You Can Do

Dr. Joe's legacy was far-reaching. Those who wish to share their memories of Dr. Joe or extend condolences to the Aldrich family can do so in three ways:

All condolences will be gathered, printed, and sent to the Aldrich family. Memories submitted to the MU Blog will remain available for the public to read.