By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The first words from Tom Snyder on hearing the news Monday that Anderson University President James Edward plans to step down were, "Oh, goodness."
It was the unguarded reaction of a man who considers Edwards both a close personal friend and a mentor in higher education.
"That's a big sea change," said Snyder, an Anderson resident and president of Ivy Tech Community College. "My interest in higher education was developed by actually having a chance to watch what Jim did in this period of significant change of the school."
Edwards announced on Monday that his tenure as AU's president will conclude by the end of the 2014-15 academic year. He did not use the term "retirement."
"I'm not sure what retirement means, and I haven't come to terms with that," Edwards said. "But my wife (Deanna) and I have been making plans, and I thought it was in the best interest of the university to work on the transition thing."
His last year of service will mark 25 years as president of AU. He is the longest serving active university president (in both public and private universities) in the state of Indiana. Edwards is only the fourth person to hold the office in AU's 97-year history.
Lou Gerig, chair of the Anderson University board of trustees, said in a press release from AU, “Jim and Deanna Edwards have given their lives to Anderson University for 24 years. We have seen significant growth in so many areas during this time."
He said Edwards "positioned Anderson University as a distinguished Christian institution and has taken the door of the university to Indianapolis and beyond. He has advanced the mission of AU greatly through facilities, programs and financial support."
Gerig added that "a process of presidential transition will be announced in coming days."
Edwards said in a Monday evening interview that there's nothing he likes better than being surrounded by students.
"They are the best part of this game," he said. "They are very idealistic and very involved, and they believe they can change the world while they are in college. ... And they are particularly respectful of characters like me."
Carl Caldwell, who retired from AU as executive vice president for academic affairs in 2009, said Edwards allowed members of the executive team the freedom to do their work after agreeing on a strategic plan to follow.
The other leadership quality Caldwell said he admired most in Edwards is no less important, but more subtle. Edwards fostered an academic environment and sought faculty where strong Christian faith and the very best scholarship possible were not in conflict.
"He did a magnificent job of holding these two points in dynamic tension," Caldwell said.
During his tenure as president, Edwards oversaw capital campaigns totaling more than $205 million, according to the press release.
The Kardatzke Wellness Center, York Performance Hall, York Seminary Village, additions onto Decker Hall and Hartung Hall, a new business school, the Flagship Enterprise Center and improvements to residence halls and other existing campus facilities have been completed under Edwards' watch.
"I think our sense of distinctiveness as a Christian university has created a special place for us," Edwards said.
Within the context of the Church of God, Edwards said, vocation was traditionally thought of as religious ministry. "We have greatly expanded what it means to have a Christian vocation in terms of business and pre-med, and turned more to serving the needs of community and society."
Locally, Edwards has served on the board of directors of the Madison County Community Foundation, the Corporation for Economic Development of Madison County and First Merchants Bank of Central Indiana.
He is a member of the Rotary Club of Anderson, where he was honored with the 2003 Community Image Award. He has served on the Ministries Council of the Church of God, and the board of directors of St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, Citizens Banking Co. and the United Way.
Before his election as president of Anderson University, Edwards was president and chief executive officer for Warner Press, publishing house for the Church of God. An ordained minister, Edwards has served the Church of God in a variety of assignments, including senior pastoral positions in major churches across the country.
Edwards is a graduate of Anderson University and AU's School of Theology. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree in educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University.
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