Loma Linda historian named president of Loma Linda chamber
The story of how Loma Linda University historian/public relations man Richard Schaefer ascended to the presidency of the Loma Linda Chamber of Commerce represents the kind of grassroots political victory that Clinton, McCain, and Obama would certainly covet in this hotly contested election year.
Mr. Schaefer took a decidedly laid-back approach to campaigning: He basically did nothing. When asked what kind of platform he ran on, he states he didn’t have one. When he got the call notifying him of his election, he turned it down.
But a short time after he declined the offer, a former chamber president called Mr. Schaefer in an attempt to persuade him to accept the post.
“He talked me into it,” Mr. Schaefer admits. “Since I’ve been promoting Loma Linda for almost 42 years, I knew I could do the job.”
Those who know Mr. Schaefer have little doubt that he can do the job. He’s been a member of the chamber’s board of directors since 1988 and a passionate supporter of all things Loma Linda—both community and campus —since he was a child. In fact, Mr. Schaefer—whose twin brother, Bob, is a retired building contractor—first dreamed of working at the University in his teens.
“I had fantasized about working here ever since I was 14,” he remembers. “I just didn’t know what I would be doing.”
He found out in July of 1966 when he was hired to work in the University relations office. A year later he started the Trading Post, the weekly classified advertisement paper the University publishes. “I think it’s the best-read publication in Loma Linda,” he notes.
But Mr. Schaefer’s real callings—history and public relations—didn’t reveal themselves until his supervisor, Oliver L. Jacques, encouraged him to become involved with the community. “I have public relations in my blood,” Mr. Schaefer insists.
He means that literally. “I’ve been a commissioner with the Forest Falls Fire Prevention District for 20 years,” he explains, “a board member for two United Way chapters (San Bernardino and Redlands), and a director for the Loma Linda Chamber of Commerce for 20 years.”
He pauses for a moment, then continues. “I started the State of the Community Luncheons for the Chamber 17 years ago,” he recounts. “We have four or five speakers representing the University, the Pettis VA Hospital, the City of Loma Linda, the Academy, and sometimes a state politician representing this area. We recently had Dr. Bill Emmerson, a School of Dentistry graduate who is now a member of the State Assembly from the 63rd district, and the Honorable Robert Dutton, a senator from the 31st district.”
When Mr. Schaefer speaks of his accomplishments, one doesn’t get the feeling he’s gloating or patting himself on the back. Instead, he seems to be recounting, with modesty and humility, the fact that his career has been a major source of joy in his life. But when pushed, he will admit to having done some fairly remarkable things.
He goes on to point out that his career in public relations “would be the envy of any PR man.” Or woman, for that matter. “Thanks to the infant heart transplant program and the Proton Treatment Center, I’ve worked with all the wire services and broadcast networks, plus news magazines and the Voice of America.”
Getting back to his unorthodox campaign style, Mr. Schaefer insists that even though he didn’t have a program, he does have assertive goals for his presidency. In fact, he not only has plans, he also has a theme.
“The theme for my presidency is ‘moving boldly into the future’,” he reveals. “Every president has a theme, but I don’t think the folks down at the chamber know mine yet. Moving boldly into the future is what this place has been doing for more than 100 years!
“I have two goals,” he shares. “Both of them are designed to increase membership. First, I want to increase individual membership in the Chamber. We currently have 279 members, most of whom are businesses or organizations. We only have 60 individual members. This comes under the heading of people being involved with their community. Second, I want to start a junior chamber. There is no such thing in this valley. I would like to involve the students in elementary schools who are studying civics. We are going to gather information from other cities on how to do this.”
Mr. Schaefer was born at Loma Linda Sanitarium and Hospital on July 3, 1941, at midnight. His brother Bob entered the world 60 minutes earlier on July 2. Back then, “the San” was located on top of the famous mound—Loma Linda’s first English-language name was Mound City—overlooking the San Bernardino Valley. Since then, he’s watched the community change.
“When I was young, Loma Linda was kind of an isolated community,” he observes. “The world extended from Mt. View Avenue to Waterman Avenue. In the almost 42 years that I’ve been working here, I’ve seen the institution grow by at least 1,000 percent!”
In addition to his lengthy career in public relations, Mr. Schaefer has written, or contributed to, numerous books on the history of Loma Linda and the colorful cast of characters who founded and nurtured its growth. His most noted book, Legacy, has enjoyed enormous popularity. “It has sold almost 300,000 copies,” he notes. “I’ve been told that a best-seller, in the world of Adventist publishing, is defined as any book that sells 6,000 copies.” That makes Legacy a best-seller 50 times over!
Legacy recounts the story of Loma Linda University Medical Center’s first centennial from its founding in 1905 to the year 2005. As Mr. Schaefer notes in the preface to the centennial edition, “The story contains all the elements of human interest: humor, tragedy, compassion, the supernatural, inspiration, hope, and love of the highest order. It is an ongoing story that would be unbelievable if it were not so well-documented.”
In addition to Legacy, Mr. Schaefer wrote a biography of Dr. Harold Shryock and co-authored the life story of Dr. George Rue.
Mr. Schaefer also authored A Century of Caring to mark the School of Nursing’s 100th anniversary, and was a major contributor to the School of Dentistry’s 50th anniversary commemorative book, Service is Our Calling. “I wrote most of it,” he says, “but not the biographical sketches of the four deans. The sketches were written by School of Dentistry staff members.”
Currently, Mr. Schaefer is hard at work on two new books. The first, a 100th anniversary book in honor of the School of Medicine’s 2009 centennial, is entitled Of the Highest Order. The title is adapted from a quotation by Ellen White in which she both mandated and predicted the quality of training provided at the School.
The second may well turn out to be his magnum opus. The Glory of the Vision—as Mr. Schaefer’s unabridged history of Loma Linda University and its associated entities will be called—will be a substantial work: “It’s a 1,200-page, two-volume set with 600 historical photographs, 2,300 footnotes, and almost 200 consultants,” he says.
A palpable sense of the vision and destiny that forged Loma Linda University hangs in the air whenever Mr. Schaefer speaks. He has been here nearly half the time the institution has been in existence; he remains one of its most ardent supporters and promoters.
Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. In his new role as president of the Loma Linda Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Schaefer will be able to tell the story on an even wider stage, and spread enthusiasm and love for the place he loves wherever he goes.
“I believe Ellen White would be proud of Loma Linda,” he beams. “I believe this is God’s institution!”
By James Ponder