It has been a blessing to work with Dr. Jones these past five years. I have been reflecting on the privilege I had of witnessing Dr. Joe’s ministry through cabinet sessions, individual meetings and various informal conversations. When he told President’s Cabinet last October he would be announcing to the FPU Board of Trustees that he was retiring, my first thought was, “Say it ain’t so Joe!” But I can’t really fault him for wanting to be close to his family, including his grandchildren.
When Dr. Joe first arrived one of his top priorities was to strengthen FPU’s relationships with churches, schools and outside groups. I went with him on some of his meetings throughout the Valley, the state and even nationally.
Dr. Joe met with mayors, community college presidents, church leaders, key business groups, perspective students, alumni, donors, high school principals and lawmakers. His goal was to strengthen the connections between FPU and our partners, and his efforts paid off through grants, enrollment pathways, new students, donations and joint programs. The success we’ve had, such as building enrollment pathways from the community colleges and receiving the $590,000 K16 Collaborative grant, can be traced to some of these initial meetings. Dr. Jones could articulate the uniqueness of FPU, describe our mission and show the value of a Christian education. He also listened and got to know the partner across the table. He often used the language of “Possible Happens Here.”
Watching Dr. Joe in the initial meetings with partners, he always asked how FPU could serve them, their group or the region. He would often ask it more than once. He would push until the person across the table could articulate what they needed that FPU could offer. The partnership was never about taking from the other entity; his focus was on what FPU could give. And in that giving, the partnership was established or strengthened, and almost always FPU benefited through enrollment or other connections.
As FPU continues to focus on enrollment growth for our future, continuing to serve our partners makes perfect sense. Our region needs well-educated and diverse college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and credentials. FPU has unique modalities our competitors don’t offer. I believe there are plenty of opportunities to serve our region and beyond that can lead FPU to a growth goal of 5,000 students.
Another powerful thing I learned from watching Joe and Yvette Jones was the way they approached their prayer life as a starting point for everything. Their faithful daily early morning time in Scripture and in prayer, individually and as a couple, was inspiring. The seemingly impossible things that happened over the last few years—the millions in private and public grants, the Warkentine Culture and Arts Center and the many other opportunities and blessings—started with prayer. The impossible happened at FPU. Often in our weekly cabinet meeting devotions, a member would be sharing a verse, and Dr. Joe would smile, and say he was just reading that same passage that morning. When I picture Joe and Yvette, I picture them seeking the Kingdom of God first, on their knees with all their heart, mind and strength. When Dr. Jones and I first started meeting one-on-one, I’d bring him a proposal and he would ask me if I had been praying about it, or how much I had been praying. His humble example inspires me to start all I do with prayer.
When Dr. Joe considered coming to FPU he was first drawn to how the Fresno Pacific Idea’s language about “extending the kingdom of God” connected to his own personal mission statement. That language was part of the calling and process that cemented bringing Dr. Jones to FPU.
As God is sending us a new and different president, I am eager to see how God will continue to extend his kingdom through FPU. André Stephens, Ph.D., also answered a calling, and as our community readies for him, I’m hopeful we will continue to work at partnering, service and prayer.