Forward, With Christ at the Helm

Richard Felix, Ph.D., chairman of the presidential search committee

Finding a college president is never an easy task, but it’s one that Richard Felix, Ph.D., is determined to accomplish. As chairman of Bethel’s presidential search committee, Felix understands the process. He’s also been on the other side as a candidate, serving as president of both Friends and Azusa Pacific Universities during a span of 21 years. I recently visited with Felix to discuss the candidate search and transition process of changing presidents.

JB: At least half a dozen Christian colleges within a few hours of Bethel are searching for a new president this year. Is that unusual? What is the average tenure for a president?

RF: Not unusual. The presidential tenure for most college presidents in the U.S. is somewhere between four to seven years. With more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., that means at least 500 or more schools are looking for a new president annually.

JB: Are all college searches the same?

RF: No two searches are exactly the same, since every school has its own history, tradition and culture that provides a unique institutional footprint. Bethel is no exception. For us, it’s important that we not only find someone that is qualified to do the job, but who also understands our heritage, believes in our mission and feels called by God to be here.

JB: Bethel is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, and “Forward, With Christ at the Helm” is still the school’s motto. Some things do not change, but other things do. Talk about what has changed.

RF: Obviously, our curriculum and methodology has changed to meet the needs of students and future employers. More adult students, ages 25 and older, are attending college in record numbers. Online education affords immediate access to everyone and represents an unprecedented opportunity for Christian higher education to impact the world for Christ. Bethel needs to participate in that revolution. We will be looking for a president that can lay a background for the landscape of higher education, guide us with answers through challenges, and continue to move Bethel forward at the same time.

JB: The search committee and search firm met this past fall. What was the purpose of these meetings and how was it helpful?

RF: We met to conduct an institutional assessment of Bethel’s future critical needs. We asked faculty, staff, students, pastors, alumni and community leaders to be introspective concerning the college’s strengths and weaknesses. We wanted to know
what these groups thought should be the needed characteristics in Bethel’s next president. These sessions provided data and information that resulted in a list of critical leadership benchmarks used to evaluate our potential candidates.

JB: What stage of the search process are we in at this time?

RF: This is an open search. We will continue to accept nominations and applications until the position of president is filled. Last fall we started with the quiet, behind-the-scenes part of the search. Currently our search firm is providing constant attention to the process. They spend hundreds of hours in screening, visiting and corresponding with potential candidates. In addition, the search firm provides an important and impartial perspective to the search. By late spring, we hope to have a short list of semi-finalists which can be narrowed to one.

JB: How can the Bethel community help?

RF: Our search committee needs continued prayer support. In addition, we want you to pray for the next president. We have created a website where you can leave prayers, words of encouragement, etc. You can visit BethelCollege.edu/Prayer to leave your comments and view other prayer points. One thing I’ll leave you with: we know in the midst of this search, the future is bright. Bethel’s best days are just ahead.

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