Celebrating Professor Cora Alley's 40 Years of Service at HIU

Posted: May 10, 2017

Q:  What lead you to become a professor?

I began my teaching career as a “star-gazer,” expounding the legends behind the constellations as a Girl Scout camp counselor when I was 15 years old.  It was there that I began to understand the captivating power of a good story.  My love for storytelling lead me to major in English in college, specifically comparative literature and mythology.  In grad school, the world of “live storytelling” in theater arts became my academic love; my emphasis was playwriting and directing. 

I became a Christian when I was seventeen.  In discovering the wonder of a relationship with God, I came “up close and personal” to the greatest storyteller of all:  God Himself!   It is not a coincidence that God, who made us to learn through stories, chose the vehicle of story to teach us His divine truth when He walked among us. The parable is God's idea; that is why we flock to stories, and that is why they have the power to mold us.

Is it any wonder that Satan works hard to fill our minds with bad stories?  I pray that my students learn to take the pulse of the stories they write (as though their stories were living things); may they always feel the heartbeat of God at the center!  Let’s silence the whine of bad stories with the roar of God's truth.

 In 1976, I jumped at the chance to teach the science of writing, the craft of literary analysis, and the art of storytelling at Pacific Christian College (now HIU)   When I began my ministry at HIU, I was the youngest member of the faculty; now I am the longest-serving, full-time faculty member at Hope, about to complete my 41st year!  Daily, I count it one of the greatest honors of my life to teach students how to weave the “Story of God” into the “story of their own lives.”


Q:  What made you choose to teach (and continue teaching) at HIU?

Sacred Trust

People often ask me, “How can you do the SAME job in the SAME place for your entire professional life?”  My answer is always the SAME:  “It is never the SAME”! Every wide-eyed, enthusiastic incoming class of students brings fresh perspectives, bubbling with dreams for building a better world that glorifies God.  I may have taught my subject before, but I have not taught it to this student before—that makes it a NEW adventure for both of us!  I consider it a “sacred trust,” which my students and I enter into when we begin our journey together.  Whether it is in the classroom, over a cup of tea in my office, or charting the course of their lives during an academic advising appointment, that “sacred trust” between us is a holy bond that I take very seriously.

Great Commission 

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” These are the opening words of “The Great Commission” in Matthew 28: 19.  My ministry at HOPE has brought all nations within the reach of my influence, as each semester begins with a delightful blend of students of all nationalities, speaking many languages, and representing a patchwork quilt of colorful cultural heritages.  I love the diversity in the Body of Christ.  I marvel at how quickly we all meld into one family of believers; we seem to know instantly that we will spend eternity together; we might as well start the feast now! 

Great cloud of Witnesses (Heb. 12:1)

For 30 years, I had the honor of calling the names of graduates and announcing their honors. My favorite moment was that knowing glance that came when we locked eyes:  “I did it!” came beaming my way; “I knew you could!” was my steady reply!   I will always cherish my role of announcing over 8,000 students as they stepped onto that graduation platform.  Students became graduates; graduates became alums, and they took a part of my heart with them with every step.  They have become my “Great cloud of witnesses,” so to speak; I have done all I can to be worthy of their trust.  So many have returned to grace my life with their visits, letters, Christmas cards, phone calls, and photographs of beautiful babies!  I have had the privilege of being called a “Grand Professor” when I have the children of my former students in class.  I recognize the name, and I smile as I say, “Your parents were flirting in my class!” 


Q:  How has being a professor at HIU impacted your life?

HIU has given me roots and wings.   I have been allowed to soar on wings as I travel throughout this magnificent world: speaking, writing, training, teaching, mentoring, publishing, and meeting countless old friends for the first time, but I have always seen the “night light” of my roots at HOPE burning brightly in my office up on the 3rd floor of the Nutwood building.  Whether I am dissecting the Socratic argument in C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, or teaching a freshman composition class exactly where those bits of punctuation really belong. I love to learn; I love to teach, and I live to express that learning through the spiritual lens of Christian truth.


Q:  What do you enjoy about teaching here?

The Body of Christ

My colleagues at HOPE have become family.  As the years marched by, our family of brothers and sisters in Christ grew to fill my life in ways I could never have imagined!  The scriptures promise this: “…so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.” (Rom. 12:5) Some of my dearest life-long friends are people I get to work alongside!  What a privilege; what a joy!

Velcro Kids

The Christmas cards that grace our home each December celebrate a lifetime of “Velcro Kids”—these are students who blew into our lives, shared their hearts, and simply STUCK to us, like Velcro!  They have become “family”—we celebrate triumphs and tragedies together.  We may not have brought our “Velcro Kids” into this world, but we have had the privilege of equipping them to go into this world.        


In the 90’s I was the writer, director, and producer of a traveling drama troupe called ACTS:  “Actors Committed To Service.” Every year, six profoundly talented HOPE students formed an acting troupe and literally “acted their way through college” in exchange for their tuition, room, and board.  These young men and women performed in churches and played “theater sports” with youth groups throughout the school year, then piled into an HIU van and pulled a trailer full of lights, sound, and sets across the country—performing for youth camps and churches from Alaska, to Florida; they even surfed the beaches in Hawaii!  I would often pile into the van with them and experience the hilarity that only comes when there are too many miles yet to go and not enough chocolate to go around.  I would not trade one moment of those ten glorious years!  My office is still decorated with the smiling faces of those theatrical wonders—“Velcro Kids” one and all!

Online Teaching and Course Writing

I have always been in awe at being allowed to earn my living preparing young men and women to be world-changers for Christ, but that awe was multiplied when the walls of my classroom exploded, and I began teaching online!  I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting working professionals, who balance work, family, and school.  These adult learners are heroic, and I enjoy being their cheerleader! I embrace the challenge of translating on-ground course material into online the format; I think course-writing is fun!  I have been delighted to discover that all my years of “right-brain, creative” energy has not quieted my “left-brain, techno-savvy” skills!  


Q:  What are a few of the highlights of your career and/or milestones?


My career as a storyteller may have begun telling simple star legends back in my Girl Scout days, but that creative calling has blossomed into my ministry as a Christian playwright for audiences of children, youth, and adults all across the world. I married the “love of my life,” Steve Alley; we have been partners in ministry ever since the first day we met way back in 1973, when the pastor Tim Coop put our two hands together and said, “See if you two can work something out for children’s church.” Not only did we work out a skit-based “children’s church” curriculum entitled, SKITuations, but we’ve also worked out a life together for the past 42 years! The Lord blessed us with one son, Jason—who married his lovely Emily—and, in turn, they gifted us with our magnificent grand daughters: ten-year-old Teagan Noelle and four-year-old Shiloh Brielle Alley. 

Dramatic Sermon Illustrations

My years of writing original, Christian drama skits and pageants resulted in my being the featured playwright on Group Publishing’s Preaching Plus with Dr. Leonard Sweet.  I sample the collection of my dramatic works in my undergraduate and graduate classes as I help students see how dramatic storytelling touches the teaching style of Jesus, the “Picture Preacher.”

Women's Ministry Speaker

I love to encourage women!  Our role is so vital in marriage, in raising our children – “little miracles,” in the church, and in the work world.  I have been blessed to speak to thousands of women at conferences, retreats, and special events.  Each one of my varied retreat topics involves the women of the host congregation as players in a "skermon" (skit and sermon in one) designed to illustrate the theme.  

Author and Christian Educator

My brilliant husband, Steve, and I were approached to write the children’s companion curriculum for the Disney release of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  We wrote various lessons for various venues to help children understand the Christian parallels in the film.  We were asked to do that again for the release of Prince Caspian as well.  Together with Eastside Christian School in Fullerton, Steve and I wrote a 1,000-lesson, Christian school Bible curriculum entitled, “Biblical Choices For A New Generation,” published by Standard Publishing.     


Q:  Have you held any other positions while at HIU?

Church Dramatist 

For 10 years, (’95-2005) I served as Director of Dramatic Arts at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, California, where I was privileged to work together with the senior pastor to illustrate the Gospel through drama for this fast-growing congregation of 5,000.   That experience has proven life-changing and I continue to be a consultant in church drama for those who seek to bring the Gospel to life through sacred theater events in the church and in the community.


My Second Wind!

My husband and I are enjoying our 42-year-long honeymoon; our family is our delight, and every new dawn is a vote of confidence from God that we have another day of ministry ahead of us.  We have both found our 2nd wind for the journey. In this season of my life, my singular focus is to serve God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The talents God has entrusted to me have been the “wind in my sails” in this action-packed adventure of living with a mission.  People have asked me, “Are you going to slow down?”  With a bit of a smile, I answer:  “Only when I’m driving, and then only if the light is red!”   So far, I see no red lights in my future; I’m having too much fun!