A man of momentum
In 1998, President David Brandt came to a surging but grieving university. As he leaves this summer, George Fox remains on the upswing.
by Rob Felton | firstname.lastname@example.org
President H. David Brandt is a man who understands that momentum is more than a matter of mass and velocity. As a physicist-turned-president, he knows institutions must move forward to thrive.
Brandt was hired in 1998 to lead a university on a decade-long growth spurt. George Fox quadrupled in size under former president Ed Stevens, but terminal cancer tore Brandt’s hard-charging predecessor from office. Stevens died just months before Brandt’s arrival. The new president brought firm leadership shaped by career experiences at five Christian colleges across the nation. Drawing upon his professional and academic background in analytical problem solving, Brandt guided George Fox into its second decade of significant growth.
Raised in a Mennonite family, Brandt understood the nonhierarchical Friends ethos that flavored the evangelical Christian campus. The son of a machinist, he considered the use of “Dr.” in his presidential correspondence to be ostentatious and instructed his staff to strike it. On campus, he encouraged employees to address him as Dave. Undergraduates affectionately called him H. Dave.
Students fueled Brandt’s passion. His wife, Melva, advised him that the best way for him to cheer up was to spend time with students. The Brandts often hosted meals at their home, and he was known for stopping and chatting with students on walks across campus. When it came time to publicly announce his retirement, undergraduates at chapel were the first to hear.
Off campus, Brandt built a significant network of personal and professional relationships. Last winter, he signed more than 2,200 Christmas cards.
Brandt was a leader on and off campus, taking national posts with the Council of Independent Colleges and the Christian College Consortium. He was one of 50 college presidents honored with a presidential leadership award by the Templeton Foundation for commitment to character development on campus. His influence was recognized beyond evangelical circles. The University of Portland awarded him an honorary doctorate in May, offering public acclaim for “a wonderful teacher, a man who has with vision and character, energy and verge, elevated his own university into the front ranks of colleges in the Pacific Northwest.”
Nearly a decade after taking the presidency, Brandt leaves a university that continues to expand its academic offerings, enrollment, and campus borders. On the following pages are milestones of the university’s momentum.
Expansion of academic programs
“Ultimately, I’m a program person,” says Brandt, who has overseen the addition of 15 undergraduate programs and nine graduate programs. Two of the new programs — engineering and nursing — are now among the top-five-largest majors on campus. The graduate student population has grown to nearly half of the overall student body. Both the MBA and the master of arts in teaching programs enroll more than 200 students.
Undergraduate programs added since 1998
- Allied health
- Athletic training
- Health administration *
- Music education
- Organizational communication
- Political science
- Project management *
- Social and behavioral studies *
- Social work
- Theatre arts
- * adult degree-completion programs
Graduate programs added since 1998
- Doctor of education
- Doctor of management
- Doctor of ministry
- MA in Christian ministries
- MA in ministry leadership
- MA in organizational leadership
- MA in school counseling
- MS in school psychology
- MA in spiritual formation
Brandt made marketing a university priority, championing an integrated marketing campaign that changed the public face of the university. The university replaced its 30-year-old institutional logo and sports logo, created new recruitment materials, revamped its stationery package, redesigned its website, and converted its university tabloid, LIFE, to a full-color magazine,Journal. The efforts won awards from several professional organizations, including the “best in show” award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District VIII.
Perhaps the first thing a person sees upon entering Brandt’s office is a newspaper article on the wall describing George Fox’s 2004 baseball NCAA Division III national championship. It’s one of Brandt’s favorite memories. “(The championship) was a healthy thing for campus,” says Brandt. “In the United States, intercollegiate athletics is part of your positioning.”
The annual budget has grown from $30 million to more than $52 million during Brandt’s tenure. Ensuring the university’s financial health became Brandt’s first priority after enrollment stagnated in 2001, leading to the elimination of 21 positions. He made moves to stabilize enrollment, enhance marketing, and prioritize fund-raising. Since 2002, traditional undergraduate enrollment has increased 26 percent and graduate enrollment has increased 10 percent. Donations to the university are averaging $4.3 million annually.
As the university has grown larger, Brandt has backed programs to maintain the university’s Christ-centered mission. One significant effort is a faculty orientation program, in which new professors take classes in Christian theology, Friends distinctives, and how the Christian faith relates to different academic disciplines. At the end of the program, they write a paper explaining how they integrate faith into their teaching. “This new program has had a profound impact on who we are,” Brandt says.
Campus Expansion & Master Plan
Brandt leaves behind a Newberg campus poised for additional growth. The campus will soon reach 109 acres — more than a third larger than it was in 1998. The pledged donation of 23.8 acres north of campus by board member Ken Austin and his wife, Joan, will allow the university to construct a new athletics complex with a track oval and fields for soccer, baseball, and softball. Work on infrastructure will begin this summer.
Brandt helped create a blueprint for future development on the Newberg campus. After consultation with the university administration, the award-winning architectural firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca created a campus master plan that gives a 40-year vision for construction on campus. Several elements of the plan — including the construction of Le Shana Residence Hall and the Hoover Academic Building renovation — have already been completed.
The Newberg campus looks significantly different than it did when Brandt arrived in 1998. He’s overseen the 2001 construction of the Stevens Center*, the 2004 renovation of historic Wood-Mar Hall*, the 2006 renovation of Hoover Academic Building*, and the 2006 construction of Le Shana Residence Hall*. Brandt’s passion for aesthetics helped guide the design process. “We’ve set a standard for new buildings,” he says. The university also moved into new buildings at its Portland, Salem, Redmond, and Boise centers.
After two years of negotiation, Brandt completed a $3 million deal to purchase the eight-acre Providence Newberg Hospital property adjacent to campus. The 2006 acquisition will shift the center of the Newberg campus and provide space for the future development of a second academic quad for graduate programs. The hospital, named Villa Academic Complex*, is being renovated to provide much-needed classroom space.
*See map above
In the wake of former President Ed Stevens’ battle with cancer, the board of trustees delayed the public start of the university’s $17 million Legacy fund-raising campaign. When Brandt arrived, the trustees increased the goal to $22 million. Three years later, Brandt and the advancement team surpassed the goal, raising $23.5 million and providing funds for the construction of Stevens Center, the Wood-Mar Hall remodel, campus technology, the Annual Fund, special projects, and the endowment.
In Brandt’s second year, the university sponsored its first Serve Day. Every fall since, George Fox has sent more than 1,300 George Fox students and employees into the community to volunteer on about 60 service projects. Typical projects include painting, yard work, and assisting seniors. According to Campus Compact, a national coalition that promotes community service in higher education, the 1999 Serve Day was the first instance of an entire university shutting down for a day of volunteer service.
In his words
David Brandt reflects on his tenure and offers counsel to his successor
Although George Fox College changed its name to George Fox University in 1996, its academic structure had not changed significantly. After creating the position of provost to manage university internal affairs, Brandt approved a reorganization that created six schools, each governed by a dean. Robin Baker, who Brandt hired as provost, has been selected to serve as the next president.
George Fox University school structure
• George Fox Evangelical Seminary
• School of Arts and Sciences
• School of Behavioral and Health Sciences
• School of Education
• School of Management
• School of Professional Studies
Brandt’s influence on Christian higher education stretches from Newberg to Nairobi
In 1981 — while serving as dean at Messiah College — Dave Brandt was asked by Ray Hostetter, the college president, if he had interest in helping establish a Christian liberal arts college in Africa. At the time, Messiah was funding the education of about a dozen African students on its Pennsylvania campus.Many chose not to return home to Africa, but stayed in the United States after graduating.
The idea of offering Christian higher education in Africa excited Brandt. “It would be an education in the context of their culture and not in ours.”
Hostetter identified a small Nairobi-based ministry called Daystar Communications, which offered classes to Christian communication ministries. Brandt and his wife, Melva, flew to visit the fledgling institution. The school had just transferred leadership from Don Smith, an Oregon missionary with a background in cultural anthropology, to Stephen Talitwala, a Kenyan who had worked at the state-operated Nairobi University. Brandt spent three weeks working with Talitwala and the chief academic officer to establish a college governing structure.
Back in the United States, Brandt labored to secure accreditation — and thus international credibility — for the Kenyan college. “There were lots of across-the-ocean phone calls,” he says. He arranged for Messiah and other American colleges to annually loan faculty and established an American-based fundraising board.
In 1987, the Daystar graduates received Messiah diplomas. In 1994 — after Kenya began offering charters to private institutions — the government granted university status and accreditation to Daystar. It was the first Christian liberal arts college in the region, and perhaps on the continent.
Today, Daystar enrolls about 2,500 students on two campuses in Nairobi. Giraffe and zebra wander the campus perimeter of the Athi River campus, where students can look out over Nairobi to the Ngong Hills where Out of Africa was filmed.
“Money is always the issue,” says Brandt. “The people are poor.” Tuition and housing costs about $5,000 a year and most students can attend only with significant external financial aid. Brandt continues to serve on the U.S. fund-raising board and has returned to Daystar 21 times.
“I have a lot of my heart at Daystar,” he says. “It has become a university of significance in east Africa.”
Brandt’s perspective on four decades in Christian higher education
Two significant initiatives begun during Brandt’s watch will launch this fall
The Act Six leadership and scholarship program annually will provide 40 multicultural student leaders (10 per year) from the Portland area with four-year all-expense scholarships. Through a partnership with Portland Central Young Life, Act Six is designed to equip participating students to be leaders on campus and in their home communities.
The university’s China initiative is expected to annually bring several dozen Chinese students to campus. In April, Brandt signed a sister-school agreement with Hunan Institute of Science and Technology in Guangdong, China. Several other partnerships with Chinese universities are being explored. George Fox administrators are also considering creating a China Studies Center on the Newberg campus and locating a teaching site in China.