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Appalachian Bible College


Originally named Appalachian Bible Institute, this nondenominational, independent Christian college was established in 1950 by Rev. Robert Guelich, pastor and founder of Independent Baptist Church of Pettus, Raleigh County, and Rev. Lester E. Pipkin. The 120-acre campus sits at the junction of State Route 16 and U.S. 19, near Beckley, in the community of Bradley. Eleven major buildings compose the campus, including a combined chapel and music hall, administration-library-dining complex, women’s dormitory, men’s dormitory, classroom building, and gymnasium-conference center.

The school first took impetus in the late 1940s, when Guelich and a deacon in his church, John R. Price, saw the need for a Bible school in southern West Virginia. At the time, students in Guelich’s church who wanted to take Bible classes had to travel 135 miles over mountainous roads to attend a Bible institute near Pikeville, Kentucky. Guelich persuaded Rev. Pipkin, who lived in Minnesota, to relocate to West Virginia to help with the proposed school. They converted a vacant two-story building in the Boone County town of Sylvester into a dormitory, dining hall, and office, and furnished it with war surplus materials. Classrooms were set up in the basement of Guelich’s church in Pettus, four miles away. On September 5, 1950, the Appalachian Bible Institute opened with an enrollment of seven students. Pipkin served as the first president of what the students named ‘‘the longest campus in the world.’’

At the outset, the school’s board of directors adopted principles that have guided its growth. The independent school’s curriculum would emphasize Bible study and prepare students to serve in church-related ministries. The school would be frugal and support its mission with help from churches and individual Christians.

During the early years, Pettus Independent Baptist Church paid most of the school’s expenses, and transported students in the church bus from classrooms to the dormitory. In 1953, the institute graduated six students in its first class. The school continued to attract students and faculty. By 1954, with a student body of 40, it needed more space.

With the help and financial support of FayRal Development Corp., a business group from Fayette and Raleigh counties, the school bought a 95-acre farm near Bradley, in Raleigh County. The new campus opened in the fall of 1956.

The institute continued to grow. In 1978, the board of directors changed the school’s name to Appalachian Bible College, which reflects the four-year degree curriculum chosen by most students. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges. In 2009, school enrollment was 300, representing 33 states and 10 countries. One-third of the students were from West Virginia. Gifts from churches and individuals subsidize tuition rates. Graduates serve as missionaries, pastors, ministers of music, Christian school teachers, and counselors for independent Baptist and Bible churches.

In fall 2021, the school’s enrollment was 199, increasing to 232 the following year.

Appalachian Bible College website


  1. Coberly, Fern Hanlin. Appalachian Bible College, 1950-2000. Virginia Beach: Donning Co., 2000.