In his words
David Brandt reflects on his tenure and offers counsel to his successor
Best day - “There have been some great, great days here. There is a lot of celebrating that happens around a university president. Every opening of school and every commencement . . . it’s a huge privilege to be at the center of those days.
“The day of the baseball championship Dana (Miller, vice president of advancement) phoned me and called the last out. That was really cool. The opening of school with the governor at the chapel celebration was special.
“Other highlights were the dedications of Stevens Center and Hoover Academic Building, engineering accreditation, the board meeting when they approved the nursing program . . . dinners with Mark and Antoinette Hatfield. There have been lots and lots of good days.”
Worst day - “There was a cluster of days when I realized how bad the operating deficit was and had to begin formulating a plan to eliminate it. That was tough.”
Won't miss - “Creating the annual budget. I’d like to give higher salaries, more equipment, and whatever people need to perform at the highest levels. Those are hard decisions. It is a lot easier than it was five years ago.”
President's wife - “Melva and I accepted my positions jointly. She feels called to her role. She sees her role as facilitating mine.
“Melva serves as one of my advisors. She has good instincts, which at various times have allowed me to avoid bad decisions. She listens well. I check with her to see what she heard.
“She’s always willingly opened our home for events and dinners. She enjoys that.
“Clearly, when dealing with more mature donors it’s almost essential that the spouse is part of a visit. She really is a part of the presidency. We see this as our job and not mine.”
Opportunities for the next president - “I think this is an opportunity to take a fine institution and lead it to greatness. We have established a set of programs that need to mature and become what they can be. The other opportunities are to implement the big pieces of the master plan.”
Advice to the next president - “Within our commitment to being Christ-centered, the strategic issues of highest importance for the next decade will continue to be globalization, technology, and racial and ethnic diversity. Pay close attention and treat them as the highest priorities.”
Challenges and opportunities - “The challenge is to maintain our historic orthodox Christian position, and the opportunity is to create a distinct institution that will stand out from the rest. Beyond that, there is one huge challenge — to raise capital funds. The master plan will require a lot of money. In an age where universities are raising huge sums of money, we have to join that pack.”
Best part of retirement - “Being able to control my schedule again and being closer to my grandchildren.”
What's next - “A trip to Italy.”
Back to story >>
Brandt’s perspective on four decades in Christian higher education
1963–66 - Instructor in physics
“I started out on the Wheaton faculty. I was a young kid . . . 25 probably. I went back to teach at my alma mater, and my heroes became my colleagues. It taught me how to be a colleague, something I was able to use later when I welcomed back young alumni. Wheaton established a certain part of my network that determined much of my future.”
1969–77 - Professor of physics, department chair, division chair
“At Gordon, I was able to be a part-time engineer in private industry (Raytheon Co., and International Telephone and Telegraph Corp.). I thoroughly enjoyed the Boston environment, the technology, and history. There was a wonderful (speaker) series on history and philosophy of science. I heard the biggest names in the world at those lectures. It helped me humanize my teaching. I became a much broader person at Gordon than before.”
1977-88 - Dean and vice president for academic affairs
“This was my first full-time administrative post. I was able to be part of a very vibrant growing institution. We more than doubled in size, from 1,000 traditional undergraduates to 2,200. It was an exciting time. I learned who I was as an administrator and what Christian higher education was all about in a big-picture way. That’s where my deep interest in globalization started. I had the opportunity to develop a brand new university (Daystar University) in East Africa. That was a huge part of my learning process.”
1988-95 - Vice president and provost
“Bethel gave me a shot at being a provost. The faculty was wonderful. I’m clearly an academic person. (My position as provost) helped me appreciate and understand the contribution of student life. It taught me a lot about multiculturalism, and it gave me a broader picture of Christian higher education. It was very hard work. It also put me into another kind of network, because of who the president was (George Brushaber, then editor of Christianity Today)."
1995-98 - President
“Tabor was my first presidency. It was the first time I did a capital campaign. It was successful. We were oversubscribed before the deadline. We worked like the dickens. It helped us appreciate the quality of education that students receive in a very small church-related college in the Midwest. There was community-wide cooperation unlike anything I’d seen before. One spring, the students came to us and said ‘Will you buy the paint if we paint trim on the residence hall?’ About 75 or 80 people volunteered and we finished the project. I remember thinking, ‘You don’t see this anywhere else.’ It gave me the idea for Serve Day. That was special at Tabor.”
1998-2007 - President
“It’s been a great, great time. The values and ethos of George Fox agree with us. The goals of this place matched my goals. This has always been a cause worth working hard for.”