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J. Calvin Holsinger III, Educator and Founder of Chi Alpha, Dies

In addition to being a lifelong educator, Dr. Holsinger was the originator and developer of the Chi Alpha Campus Ministries program.

Dr. J. Calvin Holsinger III, long-time Assemblies of God college educator and the founder of the Assemblies of God ministry to college campuses, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, passed away on Friday, Dec. 15. He was 89 years old.

Having just graduated from Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) University in 1948, the 20-year-old Holsinger was hired to teach at Central Bible Institute (later, College) in Springfield, Missouri. Student president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship while he attended Pitt, he had a strong conviction that the Assemblies of God needed a ministry to students on the secular college campuses as well.

In the fall of 1952, the Assemblies of God pastors in the Springfield Section for the Southern Missouri District asked Holsinger to develop a campus ministry for two local college campuses in Springfield — Drury College (now University) and Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University). He was given a desk at the district office, the title of "Chaplain," an assignment to develop a program, and one other title: "volunteer."

After one year of holding meetings with college students, Holsinger developed a name for the new group: Chi Alpha — in the Greek, this is represented by the letters XA, pronounced Chi Alpha, but meaning Christ’s Sent Ones. During the 1953-54 academic year, the students at Southwest Missouri State officially became the first Chi Alpha group in the nation.

From that first Chi Alpha group, the ministry has grown so that by the 2016-2017 school year, Chi Alpha has 317 chapters on campuses in the United States, served by more than 1,000 affiliated staff, and involving 28,000 students. It is a branch of AG U.S. Missions and is also recognized as the fourth largest evangelical campus organization in the United States.

Current national Chi Alpha Director E. Scott Martin has a deep appreciation for Holsinger.

"Dr. J. Calvin Holsinger was a pioneer in our Movement, discerning the strategic mission field of the secular university and challenging and equipping Assemblies of God students to assume their role in reaching the campus for Christ," Martin states. "We are grateful for his foresight in developing the ministry of Chi Alpha over 60 years ago.”

Following the founding and leading of Chi Alpha (1953-1958), Holsinger moved on to become a church planter and teach at several secular and AG schools, including Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, and 30 years at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. Most of his career he served as chairman of the Social Studies Department at Evangel University until retirement. Among other recognitions, he received the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Sears Foundation Teaching Excellence Award, and the Assemblies of God Educator’s Award.

Holsinger was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Adena, in 2013. He is survived by his daughter, Cori Hartje of Redmond, Washington, and two grandsons, Ryan and Kent.

There will be a celebration of life for Holsinger at 2 p.m., Jan. 20, at Maranatha Village Chapel in Springfield. Burial will be in White Chapel Cemetery, also in Springfield. 

 IMAGE - Calvin Holsinger (center) conducting a Bible study with students at Southwest Missouri State College; 1953