Each spring semester begins with a special Provost’s Convocation as the first chapel program on the main campus. The faculty and senior administration enter in academic regalia. Along with some appropriate music and prayer, the centerpiece is a major address by the provost. This year’s event was special in two major ways.
First: Under the title “A University Visit,” our provost, Steve Varvis, Ph.D., painted a fascinating 900-year picture of the history of Western universities that was both a narrative mural and a mind map. The insights he provided were framed by the view through the gate of an ancient British university. He shed light on the fundamental nature of any really good university with its inherent challenges, tensions and potential for good. It was a beautiful example of how long, broad and deep scholarship and creative presentation can bring fresh meaning to the present and the future. It was a very special intellectual and spiritual experience.
Second: As he closed his presentation Dr. Varvis moved from the past through the present into the future of Fresno Pacific University. He announced that after 30 years of administrative leadership that was consistently combined with teaching and scholarly publication, he would conclude his executive leadership responsibilities in the summer of 2016, and return to a teaching and scholarship role as a full-time member of the faculty.
I had the privilege of hiring Steve in 1985 as the university business manager at the beginning of my first tenure as president. Since then he has served Fresno Pacific as dean of the college, director of business and civic relations, VP for enrollment, provost and senior vice president. In one way or another he has shaped every aspect of Fresno Pacific University as it exists today, and he has profoundly influenced countless students and colleagues. Throughout that time he has also been an active leader in his church congregation and in the community.
Such a person is obviously impossible to truly replace, but Steve’s convocation address reminded us that our history is the prologue that shapes our future. Plans are in place to secure an interim provost/senior vice president to begin in the summer of 2016 and serve until the new incoming president is appointed and has sufficient time to select his or her new person in this key internal leadership position. Join us in prayers of thanksgiving for Steve’s enormous contribution and continued commitment to Fresno Pacific, and in prayers for wisdom in the coordinated search processes that are now underway for a an interim senior vice president and a new president.
Our prayers will shape the path from our history into our future.