15 Years and Not Counting

Dr. Parrott

I can hardly believe I’m in my 15th academic year as president of Belhaven College—the second longest serving president of any of the four-year schools in Mississippi.

It seems like just yesterday that I held the first press conference in Girault Auditorium (which we’ve since torn down), made the first major decision about whether or not we could afford to continue the music program, and hired the first new person on the leadership team—Tom Phillips, who served as VP for Campus Operations and oversaw the physical transformation of the campus.

Much has changed in 15 years.  God has been good and gracious to Belhaven College.

•         We launched, by faith, new campuses in other states, moved into online education, expanded graduate degrees, developed our Worldview curriculum, and have grown the size of our faculty and staff as the enrollment took off.

•         We developed extensive construction projects across the campus that seemed to go on forever, trusted God to supply our needs during tough times when we didn’t know how we’d meet payroll, and rejoiced in years when we were blessed with modest surpluses.

•         We negotiated hurricanes, purchased property on Riverside Drive, ramped up the Arts to become a world leader, began a football program, and faced accrediting challenges that sometimes scared me to death and other times made me burst with pride for the quality of Belhaven.

Normally at milestone anniversaries of college presidents, the school magazine displays charts and graphs counting successes during the leader’s tenure. In my 15th year, I didn’t want to do that kind of counting for three reasons:

1.         It would be both selfish and silly to think I did this.  The remarkable progress of Belhaven is only the result of God empowering 262 full time employees and 317 adjunct faculty, as well as scores of alumni, friends, and churches who continue to give and pray for the College.

2.         Good things didn’t start the day I got here.  I’m deeply thankful for my predecessors in leadership who advanced Belhaven in such important ways, going all the way back through the nine presidents before me—and especially
Drs. Cleland, Kennedy,and Wilson of this most modern era.  And I thank God for strong leaders like Dan Fredericks and the senior faculty who have carried so much during these years, as well as a Board of Trustees who
have been unshakable in their vision for a
Christ-centered college.

3.         I didn’t plan God’s direction for Belhaven during these years—the Lord did.  My responsibility as president is to guide us in being good stewards of the resources (people, dollars, and ideas) and be ready to capture the opportunities God has given us.

I also did not want to create a “score-card” for the past 15 years, because that is not how God measures success.  I feel so strongly about this, I wrote a book to address my concern, stating this in the opening chapter:

“The Church has been duped into fostering a generation of leaders, board members, employees, and constituencies who value short-term gain over longview significance. Ministry leaders believe it and act accordingly—hiring and rewarding people who can promote Band-Aid fixes as monumental solutions, creating plans that promise the moon and always come up short, raising funds from unrealistically compressed donor relationships, and touting to boards and constituencies those results that can most easily be measured and applauded.”

As the apostle Paul challenged us in I Corinthians 13, it is time to put away childish things in leadership and not be wooed by the immediacy of appearing productive by making meaningless sounds like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. Rather than our noisy quarterly reports (or even 15-year graphs), our standard for how we measure success as Christian leaders needs to reflect the longview desires of God, built on values that endure.

When I look back on the 15 years I’ve been privileged to lead Belhaven College, I want to focus on:

•         students whose lives were transformed as they captured God’s best for their future

•         faculty who have invested in developing insightful worldview thinking and Christ-like mentoring

•         chapel services during which the Lord spoke to us all in deepening ways

•         athletic teams and residence hall living that purposely built character

Those successes don’t show up in graphs or charts, but they are how God measures the value of Belhaven.

I love Belhaven College—I love our God-honoring mission and the people who have such a passion for ministry through Christ-centered higher education.  I love that we have been given a worldwide reach for the Gospel from this charming campus in Jackson, Mississippi.

As I look back over these years, I’ve loved every day, and I am filled with anticipation knowing the Lord has great things in store for us in the years to come—I ’m counting
on that!—RP

2 thoughts on “15 Years and Not Counting

  1. Speaking as a long-ago student, I am grateful for what Belhaven has become and is still becoming. Even back then, we knew it had great potential and longed for the day to come in which that potential would be realized. I am grateful for the leadership you have provided over the past 15 years and for the humility with which you acknowledge the contributions of those before you. Dr. Paul Kooistra of Mission to the World used to say, “I am only the paintbrush. God is the painter.” And I would add: the paint brush must be willing to be the tool in God’s hand.

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