On the surface, the life of a university president appears ideal: welcoming grateful alumni back to campus, dispensing wisdom to eager students over coffee, and conversing with erudite faculty members about their research.
The numbers, however, paint a different picture. For example, the American Council on Education’s American College President Study reports the average length of service for a university president continues to decline: 8.5 years in 2006, 7 years in 2011, and 6.5 in 2017.
In contrast to the previously noted activities, the American College President Study also reports the areas occupying a president’s time, in order, include (1) budget/financial management; (2) fundraising; (3) management of senior leaders; (4) relations with board members; and (5) enrollment management. Not surprising, only 25 percent of presidents previously served as presidents.
Some presidents, however, defy those trends. This week, Samford University hosts the inauguration of Beck A. Taylor as its 19th president. Earlier this fall, Taylor University hosted the inauguration of D. Michael Lindsay as its 18th president. (Lindsay sits on Christianity Today’s board of directors.)
Prior to their present appointments, these friends and fellow Baylor University graduates—Taylor from the class of 1992 and Lindsay from the class of 1994—respectively served as the presidents of Whitworth University for 11 years and Gordon College for 10 years. Part of what also makes them unique is that, even as they begin their second presidencies, Taylor and Lindsay are still more than a decade younger than the average university president’s 63 years.
Earlier this fall, Margaret Diddams, editor for Christian Scholar’s Review, talked with Taylor and Lindsay about their transitions, the people who helped prepare them for their previous and current appointments, and the role mentorship plays in preparing the next generation of leaders.