Learning from Five Presidents
I knew five men who served as President of my seminary – one while I was a student, three while I was on the faculty, and one who was Interim President between two Presidents. While they were very diverse, each had his strengths, and each made lasting contributions to the school. Each impacted the lives of future ministers. I considered each to be my friend. I learned from all of them. One took the first Chapel of each semester to welcome the new students and pronounce them, “Southwesterners . . . You’d rather die than dishonor the name!” He was so punctual that one day he went to the pulpit while a long-winded Chapel speaker was continuing past his time, put his arm around the man, and said, “Excuse me brother, but I’m going to go ahead and lead our closing prayer while you finish your sermon.” I loved him. He taught me to honor the clock. Another was loved by everyone on campus. He would enter the Auditorium from a side door, three minutes before the beginning of Chapel, index card in hand, shake hands with whoever was praying that day and be on the platform by the top of the hour, in time to begin. He modeled proper time management for me. Another President would enter the auditorium for Chapel from the back door, work his way down the aisle, shaking hands, speaking to everyone within sound range, calling some by name. He never applied to be President. When asked in the interview why he wanted to be President, he is reported to have replied, “I’m not sure I want to. You invited me. Why do you want me?” Love it. He taught me not to be afraid of honest answers. Still another President, entered the auditorium for Chapel from the back door, shaking hands with a few, calling fewer by name, some incorrectly (such as Dr. Don Crawford), taking the platform to be in charge, often commenting on the sermon, after the day’s preacher had finished. He was always gracious with me, even when we disagreed, which we did on several occasions. He taught me how to disagree without being disagreeable. One Interim President and I shared a three-office suite, only he took up two of the three, so as to have room for all his slides of the Holy Land, that he showed in class and in dozens of churches. I enjoyed watching students enter his office to discuss a bad grade on a test, likely made because they dropped their pen and missed getting a thousand years of history in their notes. Most came out weeping. They learned that while they were saved by grace, they had to pass by works. Even though we differed considerably in age, he taught me how to be a colleague. I’ve learned that one does not always get to choose with whom he works, but one can always work with respect and honor, whomever are his associates.