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John Townsend '54

John Townsend

For more than 33 years, Pastor John ‘54 and Carol Townsend opened the doors of their ministry—and their hearts—to people from all walks of life, all races and all faiths in the Wilshire Boulevard district near downtown Los Angeles.

Rev. Dr. Townsend had not been a pastor at the historic First Baptist Church for very long when the Watts riots broke out.

“In that summer of 1965, we could see the city burning from our apartment,” Townsend said.

During that time of racial and social tension in Los Angeles, the Townsends built a congregation that was “multicultural, before multicultural was cool.”

“I was one of those pastors who never had to leave to pursue new challenges, the challenge came to me,” he added, chuckling. The First Baptist Church in Los Angeles was an early leader in multicultural outreach, sponsoring more than 250 Cuban refugee families and introducing headsets for Spanish and Korean translation in the early 1960s.

Townsend remained involved in the Redlands community while living in LA, and served as a Trustee at the University of Redlands for 18 years. He also served in the process of selecting several presidents, as well as its current chaplain, John Walsh.

The Townsends also stayed in touch with an old friend, Alton Robertson. Last year, the Townsends returned to Redlands, to enjoy an active retirement at Plymouth Village.

John and Carol continue to enjoy University events and offerings such as vespers at the Memorial Chapel, Redlands Symphony performances and occasional lectures or seminars.

Although she never attended the University, Carol calls herself “an alum by affection.” This year, the couple celebrated their 46-year wedding anniversary.

This past year, John and Carol also arranged a charitable gift annuity for the benefit of the University.

This gift, funded from the proceeds of the sale of their home in Los Angeles, will pay them a fixed income for the rest of their lives, with the remaining amount of the gift eventually flowing to the University to assist deserving students.

“The University of Redlands gave me as a student a foundation for lifelong learning, and a career, and gives a shared interest and meaningful involvement for Carol and me as a couple. Today it gives us a source of inspiration, education and enjoyment—the annuity we purchased is one way we can give back and show our appreciation,” Townsend said.

This gift not only helps the University, but it pays the Townsends partially tax-free income, guaranteed for life. “It gives us an interest rate better than anything you can get elsewhere!” Townsend quipped.


The University has a long tradition of encouraging and supporting study abroad.
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More than 47 percent of Redlands undergraduates participate in study abroad programs.

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