Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
The New "Game-Changer" President of Gordon College
Christian colleges and universities are primed to be the most significant players in helping people of faith appropriate their theological commitments within the context of advances in science, the arts, humanities, and the spectrum of human endeavor. This is one contribution Christian colleges and universities can make to the wider church. We can lead the way for other Christian institutions seeking to integrate faith and culture.
You've interviewed hundreds of extraordinary leaders. How has the study of leadership prepared you for the practice of leadership? Did you foresee this turn of events in which the object of your study would become your own role?
Even I have been surprised at the serendipity of this appointment. Yet I feel a real sense of calling to it. The research I've done on senior leaders has, I think, prepared me well to be as thoughtful as possible entering into the presidential role. At the same time, there's a lot to learn. I'm deeply fortunate to have fantastic colleagues at Gordon who will help me learn about the institution and the important work they're doing in so many areas.
Among all the people you've interviewed and studied, whose style or whose example might you look to emulate the most in your new role?
I'd like to mention three, but they're all aspirational. In no way am I saying that I am the equal of these folks. But I've interviewed extraordinarily capable leaders, many of whom are also people of faith. They have made a real impression on my life.
One person who enormously impressed me is George Bennett, the founder of State Street Investment Corporation, who at one time managed the endowment of Harvard University. When I interviewed him, I think he was ninety-three. So he had seasoned, sage counsel to offer on a whole host of issues. He spoke about the importance of being faithful in a cultural environment that wasn't always receptive to your faith. That's the context in which most Christians exist today. So I want to attempt to demonstrate the kind of warm and generous spirit that characterized George Bennett's leadership.
Another person who really impressed me is Dr. William Roper, dean of the school of medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, a very learned man who also recognized the importance of being deeply committed to your family while also taking on major leadership roles. He was the director of the Centers for Disease Control for a number of years, and it was at a time when he had young kids. I have a seven year-old and twins who are one. I want to be a great college president, but also a great father and husband. He seems to have done that well.
A third leader who impressed me a great deal was Dr. Condoleeza Rice. She has an amazing work ethic, and developed relatively straightforward strategies that have made her effective even in the midst of extreme time demands. She is very fast, and has held many leadership roles. She began her leadership career as the Provost of Stanford at a young age. I'm no Condi Rice, but I learned a great deal from her.
Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony, says that you are "likely to become one of the great college presidents of this generation." You've long been touted as a star in the making, and come to the helm with great expectations. How will you stay rooted? How will you keep your eyes focused on the humility of faith and the call to imitation of Christ?
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.