Catch the Current
The Future of the Christian University: An Interview with Dr. Robert E. Cooley
Dr. Robert E. Cooley served as the second president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, from 1981 to 1997. Born in Michigan, Dr. Cooley has established himself with an unusually broad background of training and experience. He is much sought after as a consultant and advisor on issues of higher educational leadership and board governance.
Cooley completed the Bachelor of Arts degree in biblical studies and archaeology at Wheaton College, Illinois, and the Master of Arts degree in religious education at Wheaton Graduate School. Dr. Cooley then earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Hebrew Studies and Near Eastern Archaeology at New York University.
Cooley is recognized widely for his research and writing in the field of archaeology. He has overseen a number of excavation projects in the U.S., and during the past fifty years he has directed excavations at locations such as Tell Dothan, Khirbet Haiyan, et'Tell, and Khirbet Raddana (Ramallah) in Palestine, and at Tell er-Retaba in Egypt. In addition to his excavation activities, Dr. Cooley has directed more than eighty study trips throughout the Middle East.
As a working scholar, Cooley has been active in a variety of professional societies, in numerous public, community and state civic activities, and served Christianity Today as a Senior Editor. He is the past president of The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and has served on boards of trustees at European and American institutions. He lives with his wife, Eileen, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their son, Jerry, and his wife, Amy are medical doctors in Charlotte. They have two grandchildren, Emma and Ethan.
Robert Crosby, a Patheos columnist (Catch the Current), contributor to Christianity Today, and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University had the opportunity recently to interview Dr. Robert E. Cooley, on "The Future of the Christian University."
Tell me about your work with Christian universities and seminaries. What is the scope of it?
Since retirement from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I have been working with In Trust, Inc., which is the governance organization for leadership in theological education and good faith governance. At the same time, I have been consulting with universities and seminaries on matters of governance especially as these schools have confronted change. Then I have worked with philanthropy groups advising them in their works as it relates to theological education.
Most of my current activity is related to the responsibility that schools have to respond to the changes in the macro-environment; on the interface between institutional governance zones and the need to maintain financial viability; and, to address the changes that are being manifest in the world of Christian higher education.
What are the most significant changes you see coming in Christian higher education?
I would suggest four or five: First of all, I see a demographic shift coming in student communities with diversity and issues of pluralism accompanying that shift. And since our American higher education system has been based largely upon Anglo-European traditions, we are facing the realities of a global culture. This is bringing change in areas such as faculty selection, teaching-learning designs, and specialized student services.
Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today—The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel.
Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press). Crosby's column, "Catch the Current," is published every other Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.