David and Alice Noebel: A Story of Understanding the Times

Summit’s story is part and parcel with the family whose vision gave it birth. That family is the Noebel family — David, Alice, Brent, and Joy. But that is to jump ahead. Doc and Alice’s story began when Doc took a job working on his future father-in-law’s farm in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They attended the same church, and Doc spent the next six years wooing Alice, according to Joy. They married in 1957 after completing undergraduate degrees at Milwaukee Bible College (now Hope College). Doc was just a few days shy of his 21st birthday. “She is the light of his life,” Joy said of her parents.

For many years in Summit’s early history, the Noebels called two locations home. As soon as school let out in the spring in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the family drove to Manitou Springs, Colorado, staying just until school started up again in the fall. “We did that for years and years,” Joy recently recalled. “That was life.” That all changed in 1977 when the doors closed on American Christian College in Tulsa and the family moved permanently to Colorado. But from its beginnings, Summit has always been a family affair.

Challenges and Promises

Early on, Doc adopted three Scripture passages as his own, and in time they became Summit’s scriptural foundation as well:

  • 1 Chronicles 12:32: “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
  • Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . . .

Doc and Alice saw on many occasions the “divine power” Paul speaks of. The days following the closing of American Christian College weren’t easy. One Friday Doc came home from work worried. He had just received a phone call from the local bank, telling him he needed to make a payment of $90,000 by Monday, or Summit too faced closure. “Well, we’ll pray about it, and on Monday we’ll see what happens,” Alice assured him. When Doc opened his mail Monday morning, he discovered a check for $93,000. A friend of Summit had passed away and had left Summit the donation, which arrived just in time to pay the bank. “That was really something that no one else could have pulled off,” Doc said. “So we figured, ‘Well, the Lord’s got something for us to do.’”

Joy recalled the greatest challenge her parents faced was the debilitating diabetes of her older brother, Brent. “Diabetes then was like cancer is now,” Joy explained. Even though he was a talented basketball player and inherited his father’s sharp mind, Brent’s condition deteriorated through the years. He eventually lost his eyesight, was forced to undergo kidney dialysis, and endured frequent hospital stays. Brent’s passing was deeply painful, but the Noebels found comfort in knowing his suffering was finally alleviated. “They cared for a very sick child their whole lives,” Joy said. “I think that when we lost Brent, their faithfulness wasn’t just because they lost a son. It was forty years of faithfulness: the faithfulness to see God’s hand.”

Work and Integrity

Aside from his brilliance, Doc was also known for the financial prudence with which he managed Summit. Being a jack of all trades, Doc was lecturer, handyman, and worship leader, and Alice, Brent, and Joy worked too, most days for at least ten or eleven hours. “Now the staff has shifts,” Joy laughed. “There were no shifts for us. Well, there was one shift: it was us!” Joy especially admired how her mother worked side-by-side with Doc, which often put her in the kitchen feeding students, working with women staff, and playing piano for worship. “There is something about my mom,” Joy admitted. “Everything that she does is behind the scenes. My dad was able to accomplish the things that he accomplished because of my mom.”

Joy admits her childhood — spending her summers working, not vacationing — was not the norm for most American kids. But she cherishes the integrity with which her parents operated and how it altered the lives of thousands. Their commitment to Summit flowed from their commitment to Christ, and that’s left an indelible impression on her, even into adulthood. “My folks have put their entire life into Summit,” she said. “Mom and Dad gave everything. They didn’t even know it was sacrifice because that’s just how they lived.”