Eugene Habecker, President Emeritus of Taylor University and chairman of Christianity Today, sits down with John Terrill to talk about today’s many facets of Christian higher education.

Learn about Eugene Habecker & Taylor University

Read Eugene’s book: The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead.

With Faith in Mind is produced at Upper House in Madison, Wisconsin and hosted by Director of University Engagement Dan Hummel and Executive Director John Terrill. Jesse Koopman is the Executive Producer. Upper House is an initiative of the Stephen & Laurel Brown Foundation.

Please reach out to us with comments or questions at podcast@slbrownfoundation.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Transcript

00;00;04;13 - 00;00;30;04

John Terrill

Welcome to the With Faith and Mine podcast. I'm John Terrell, today's host and I also serve as the executive director of Upper House. Today we explore the topic of Christian education and we're going to take a look at Christian education from a bird's eye view. And we have someone who will be terrific to help us understand the broad sweep of Christian education and some of the changes that are taking place.

00;00;30;07 - 00;00;44;21

John Terrill

It's part of a series that we're featuring on Christian education at the crossroads. In this episode, we welcome to the show Dr. Eugene Habiger. Gene, welcome to the Faith and Mind podcast.

00;00;44;24 - 00;00;46;21

Eugene Habecker

Thanks, John. It's a joy to be here with you.

00;00;46;27 - 00;01;17;01

John Terrill

Well, it is great to have you with us. Thank you for carving out time today. Let me tell our listeners a little bit about Dr. Habiger. He served as president of Taylor University from 2005 2016. Prior to Taylor, Jean served in presidencies at the American Bible Society and Huntington University. He's a graduate from Taylor University. He has a master's degree from Wall State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

00;01;17;03 - 00;01;42;14

John Terrill

He's also a graduate of Temple University's School of Law and the Institute the Institutional Educational Management Program at Harvard University. He's an author, a number of books, lots of articles. He's edited a number of books. But I have in front of me a terrific book that maybe might be his last book. I don't know if you've written one since this is the softer side of leadership.

00;01;42;16 - 00;01;43;17

John Terrill

And that.

00;01;43;19 - 00;01;44;06

Eugene Habecker

Is the last.

00;01;44;06 - 00;02;06;10

John Terrill

Book. That's the last book. This is a maybe five years old, but a terrific book on leadership. And we'll put all the details about this book in the show notes. But I really would recommend it to our listeners. A fun fact about Gene and maybe this number has gone up. He's traveled to traveled in more than 90 countries and that that.

00;02;06;10 - 00;02;07;16

Eugene Habecker

Biosphere 100, now.

00;02;07;17 - 00;02;08;10

John Terrill

Over 100.

00;02;08;10 - 00;02;09;22

Eugene Habecker

So it's Oprah.

00;02;09;25 - 00;02;18;12

John Terrill

That's amazing. We have to start asking you what countries haven't you have traveled to about 50. Okay.

00;02;18;15 - 00;02;21;19

Eugene Habecker

I know there's a lot there's a lot more a lot more to see.

00;02;21;20 - 00;02;39;16

John Terrill

Watching the Olympic processional was a different kind of experience for you than for most of us. Well, that's great. We could have a whole podcast on that. Gene is married to Mary Lou, and we could have had Mary Lou on the show. In fact, this morning I was thinking, boy, I should have invited Mary Lou to join us.

00;02;39;16 - 00;03;03;17

John Terrill

She's she's an amazing woman in her own right and has led right alongside Jean in higher education and at the American Bible Society as well. They have together three children and seven grandchildren, and they make their home in Florida part of the year and then Coldwater, Michigan, part of the year.

00;03;03;20 - 00;03;06;13

Eugene Habecker

That's correct. Right now, we're enjoying Florida.

00;03;06;15 - 00;03;31;14

John Terrill

Right now, enjoying Florida. So I don't know. We've got a warm day here in Madison, Wisconsin. So I'm not I'm not feeling as as internally conflicted as I might be otherwise. Gee. Well, good. Well, we're going to have a phone conversation today. But, Jean, you know, you've had so many different roles and you've been in this work for a long time.

00;03;31;16 - 00;03;39;27

John Terrill

But I want to ask you, how how did your calling to Christian education begin?

00;03;40;00 - 00;04;15;06

Eugene Habecker

I started as an undergraduate student at Taylor University, and it acts absolutely transformed my life. But it was also foundational. And I would say up until that point, I probably hadn't given a lot of thought to Christian education or Christian higher education in particular. I selected Taylor for a very simple reason. It was one that my parents had heard about and one that they felt comfortable for me to attend.

00;04;15;08 - 00;04;39;22

Eugene Habecker

And so I didn't look at 20 other schools or ten other schools where I was in my own faith journey. At that particular point, my faith was still pretty much in my head, not in my heart. And I knew that if I had gone to another type of university, I might not be in my best interest. And so God uses a lot of ways to direct people to the places where He wants them to be.

00;04;39;22 - 00;04;50;11

Eugene Habecker

And that was enough to get me to Taylor. And then when I got there, obviously, as I said, it was foundational and transformational in my own life, and I've been a fan of it ever since.

00;04;50;13 - 00;04;55;12

John Terrill

So how does a kid from eastern Pennsylvania were you who grew up in eastern.

00;04;55;15 - 00;04;56;21

Eugene Habecker

Pennsylvania as my hometown?

00;04;56;21 - 00;05;20;03

John Terrill

Yeah. So how do how does has a kid from Hershey, Pennsylvania, get to. I grew up, you know, an hour north of Taylor. And it is it is kind of the cornfields of Indiana. How do you mean? Clearly, there's a great reputation there. But how did your how did your family have a connection to Taylor?

00;05;20;06 - 00;05;47;10

Eugene Habecker

Actually, it was through athletics at our Sunday school, at our church, we used to get a scripture Press magazine, a little paper called Power for Living, and it was we got it every every week. We were at church and told stories. And this focused on a couple of coaches that Taylor University, at that point they were Don Otto and Bob Davenport.

00;05;47;12 - 00;06;08;06

Eugene Habecker

One was their basketball coach, the other was the football coach. And their stories were featured in In Power for a Living. And that's how my parents first heard about the university. And then, of course, they were talking with a really close family friend whose son had just transferred to Taylor University and was having a good experience and. All right, that's good enough.

00;06;08;08 - 00;06;34;00

Eugene Habecker

That's good enough. That's good enough for them. And so they were open to my pursuing it. At that point. There were not a lot of what I would call really solid Christian higher education options. A lot of the schools were young or struggling trying to find their way forward. Christian higher education, I think, left a lot of room to be desired in terms of its own growth and development.

00;06;34;02 - 00;07;04;03

Eugene Habecker

My folks were familiar with the Bible college movement in eastern Pennsylvania. There was something known as the College of the Bible, and my uncle was a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. So I think my parents were more familiar with that part of of Christian higher ed than the whole Christian liberal arts movement. Neither my mother nor my father attended college at any time, and my father, in fact, never, never even completed high school.

00;07;04;03 - 00;07;15;12

Eugene Habecker

So so I was kind of a first generation newbie, didn't know a whole lot about it. But the Lord superintended and guided and ended up at Taylor and it was a gift.

00;07;15;15 - 00;07;39;08

John Terrill

Yeah, the sports, a lot of things that are part of your response there, but the reach of Christian colleges and universities with athletics is significant. I as a kid, I was, you know, I attended Taylor basketball camp and Oh yeah, and that had quite a regional draw and maybe even beyond regional draw. And so it's.

00;07;39;08 - 00;07;40;17

Eugene Habecker

Been there for over 50 years.

00;07;40;17 - 00;08;14;11

John Terrill

Ago. Yeah. And I won't forget that experience. So so a big that helps to put the pieces together that makes a lot of sense and why you would find yourself drawn to Taylor. I want to give our listeners a sense of the diverse experiences you've had leading Christian institutions, and I want to do a little bit of free association here because I think it will open up a window to the breadth of Christian education institutions and the ways that they serve.

00;08;14;11 - 00;08;53;26

John Terrill

And I'm going to list I probably I don't know if I'm touching on everything but the Christian colleges and Christian nonprofit arts that you've served. And I just want you to to quickly name a couple of strengths, a strength or two from each of these institutions. And I know some of these you served a number of years ago, but as you think back at your time there, or just think about the distinctiveness of these institutions, I would love for for our listeners to have a chance to to hear you reflect over several decades, I think five decades of service looking back at these these institutions.

00;08;53;26 - 00;08;59;13

John Terrill

So let me start chronologically. Huntington University, which is also in Indiana.

00;08;59;16 - 00;09;29;28

Eugene Habecker

Yeah, it was a United Brethren institution, a strong church by denominational affiliated. And I learned a little bit there. I mean, I learned a lot of things. There was served as president there for ten years, in two years as executive vice president prior to that. And I learned about there there is strong connection that higher education, Christian higher education in particular, ought to have to the to the church that was that was new to me.

00;09;29;28 - 00;10;01;21

Eugene Habecker

And it was a very vibrant and very strong connection and very helpful. The mystery to me is why the church, by and large, doesn't support Christian higher education more strongly. Or certainly that denomination could have and should have supported it more strongly in terms of its financial involvement. It did a good job of sending students our way, which certainly was helpful.

00;10;01;23 - 00;10;16;24

Eugene Habecker

But that's kind of where I cut my teeth in presidential leadership, something I then had the joy of experiencing for 35 consecutive years where I had the joy of serving in president CEO roles.

00;10;16;27 - 00;10;18;15

John Terrill

Yeah, And I realized I don't have.

00;10;18;19 - 00;10;19;12

Eugene Habecker

To be.

00;10;19;15 - 00;10;38;18

John Terrill

I don't have these in chronological order, but that's really, really helpful in the strong denominational tie or the denominational tie and and some of the challenges around the strengths and weaknesses of that tie and where it was being well leveraged and not as well. Leverage is is insightful. George Fox University.

00;10;38;20 - 00;11;09;24

Eugene Habecker

There was a fringe university really a strong Anabaptist very strong and the peace movement, Herbert Hoover, a former US president, was known to have attended the Academy, which was a precursor to George Fox University. That was my first C-suite type of appointment. I was a dean of students there for four years and was assistant professor in the classroom in the political science department.

00;11;09;26 - 00;11;36;17

Eugene Habecker

That's where I learned. Among other things, I was I was 28 when I was named dean of students. There. Didn't know what I was doing, but personally, I knew enough about what I was doing to qualify for the job. But that one of the things of the George Fox experience was the way more senior leaders invested in me as a young leader and the way that helped grow me and shape me.

00;11;36;17 - 00;11;46;14

Eugene Habecker

And for me that would impact me for the rest of my life. I still know those names, still remember the conversations, and several of them I refer to in the book.

00;11;46;16 - 00;11;51;29

John Terrill

Yeah, well, Eastern University, this may have been your first assignment, is that correct?

00;11;52;01 - 00;12;25;05

Eugene Habecker

That was my first job out of grad school. Yeah, I was. I had been offered a position at Wheaton College as associate Dean and a position at Eastern as assistant Dean at all. My friend said, you've got to go to we have to go to Wheaton, because that's that's the name. But I was I was on a break from my law school education at that point from Indiana University, Bloomington, which is where I had started my first year of law school.

00;12;25;08 - 00;12;44;16

Eugene Habecker

And I was taking some courses in the higher ed department at Indiana University at that point preparing to go to Eastern. And I said, well, before I made the decision to go to Eastman, I said, If you were if you had to select the kind of school that ought to be your first job, what would you recommend he'd say?

00;12;44;17 - 00;13;11;11

Eugene Habecker

He said, I would recommend a young, struggling liberal arts college. They're still trying to figure out everything for a community college. So you're going to have the opportunity to get involved in almost everything, whereas in a more stable, more mature institution, which certainly was at that point, you're going to get stuck on a shelf and most likely have a narrow and narrower range of responsibilities.

00;13;11;14 - 00;13;35;01

Eugene Habecker

That was a pretty prophetic statement. You know, Wheaton wanted me to be in that role 11 months of the year. I didn't have the opportunity to, you know, would not have the opportunity to continue my legal education if I had made the wind choice. And so we made the decision to say no to Wheaton and go to Easter break and finish my law degree while I was there at Temple University.

00;13;35;01 - 00;14;02;19

Eugene Habecker

And while I was there in four years, I was assistant Data systems director, Financial, a cross-country coach, assistant athletic director and an instructor. Confess that to me, as well as my wife and I were both ards all direct. So the professor was right and I think it jumpstarted my career, gave me a lot of early experiences. It was a Baptist university, so American Baptist university.

00;14;02;19 - 00;14;22;00

Eugene Habecker

So I had the chance to to get that kind of, you know, denominational experience, which I can and later juxtaposition, you know, with the friends position at George Fox, etc.. So, so Easter and again, our two sons were born there. Mary Lou was a schoolteacher in the Ballard kid with our school district, which was a really superb one.

00;14;22;02 - 00;14;40;02

Eugene Habecker

Everybody was part of a great church called the Church of the Savior. It was really formative in many ways and helping us get our our family started. And my career started not knowing at that point where God was going to take us or what we would be doing.

00;14;40;03 - 00;15;03;06

John Terrill

Yeah, and we're it's just fascinating. And you're kind of the stops you've had along the way. It's interesting. I didn't know you started at Indiana University because the law school I was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, which literally the law school library stared down our parking lot and practically in our windows.

00;15;03;06 - 00;15;04;27

Eugene Habecker

Oh, yeah, of course. Yes.

00;15;05;00 - 00;15;15;06

John Terrill

Yes, yes. Who knows? Who knew? Well, you were you were there just a couple of years ahead of ahead of me.

00;15;15;08 - 00;15;18;07

Eugene Habecker

But yeah, a couple of.

00;15;18;09 - 00;15;22;18

John Terrill

Okay, let's let's move to Taylor University.

00;15;22;20 - 00;15;58;09

Eugene Habecker

Taylor University. I'm juxtaposition. And when I went there as a student, as compared to Mary Lou, I returned in the president's right a much more mature institution nondenominational Of course the American Bible society prepared us for that because at ABC we worked with the Roman Catholic Church. The multiple iterations of the Orthodox Church, the historic mainline Protestant and the evangelical church.

00;15;58;09 - 00;16;41;12

Eugene Habecker

And so that was a very broad, a much broader focus in terms of Christendom than any of the Christian liberal arts colleges that I serve. But again, Taylor was nondenominational, which was not a problem because, again, working at ABC with all those Christian traditions, I was prepared and felt comfortable in that environment. Yeah. And Taylor was was, was a worthy capstone, I think, to all of our other administrative leadership roles, because the great joy is, is our marriage coach encouraged us at Taylor to profess the presidency together.

00;16;41;14 - 00;17;02;25

Eugene Habecker

Husband and wife Mary Lou and I had a blast. And in fact, I was talking with a colleague just recently, you know, from a major foundation on the West Coast. And she was saying, man, your name keeps coming up when I had these conversations. But she said, Mary Louise name keeps coming up more and we go. And that was a joy because we did it together.

00;17;02;26 - 00;17;18;29

Eugene Habecker

And we had we had done that to the extent that we did a Taylor So Taylor was a fitting capstone for our time together and of course, our mutual friend Michael Englert. For Michael making Michael Lindsay is doing a fabulous job there now of the presidency.

00;17;19;02 - 00;17;38;23

John Terrill

Yeah, yeah. And and I want to give you an opportunity to say anything additional you'd like to mention about the American Bible Society. I think sometimes people don't think about the American Bible society as it is and an entity focused on education, but it really is focused on Christian education through Bible literacy by ABS.

00;17;38;23 - 00;18;06;26

Eugene Habecker

Is it? Yes. Is that interesting as an interesting place? It was. It was something I did not grow up as a kid knowing about or hearing about it. In fact, I was as I was doing a stint as a visiting scholar at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, when I was called about the opportunity at ABS and I was asked if I wanted to explore further and I said no.

00;18;06;28 - 00;18;35;08

Eugene Habecker

I had my life all planned out. It was going to be a career in Christian higher education. But then I got this below the belt kind of question from the member of the search committee, and it was kind of like, would you at least be willing to pray about it? And how do you say no to that? If you are a person who follows Christ or we're called to be image bearers of God in our lives.

00;18;35;08 - 00;19;01;05

Eugene Habecker

And so the more we prayed about it, the more God used a variety of circumstances and situations to go into that into that very strategic mission and ministry in the heart of New York City. And again, I grew up on a farm. I was a farm kid, you know, and the schools that you named are nuts except for Temple University, which is in North Urban Philadelphia.

00;19;01;07 - 00;19;24;15

Eugene Habecker

The rest of those schools are not known for their commitment to their engagement with the urban core. You know, like New York City, they're one of the mega cities in the world. And so that in itself was an educational experience. And then ABC was connected with 100. We had offices and colleagues at 150 plus countries around the world.

00;19;24;18 - 00;20;20;06

Eugene Habecker

And I got to be involved in leadership, not only at ABC but globally. Chair of the overall overarching board of the United Bible Societies. And that's really where God gave me a whole different education, gave us a whole different education with regard to diversity and the beauty of this church and, and the world that that he created. And as you as you stated, ABC has always been involved in an education in some way, shape or form, that whether it's the literacy major literacy program, whether it's putting a spoken language into a printed form in terms of Bible translation, during the time we worked at ABC, we selected the best Old Testament student of hundreds of

00;20;20;06 - 00;21;06;21

Eugene Habecker

schools around the United States and the best New Testament student seminaries in undergrad and gave them a nursery all in New Testament, or we gave them a biblical horror break as to our times here, which is a pretty massive, you know, Hebrew study, steady book. I mean, so it's it's it's a I was involved in it. It introduced us to people, groups and cultures and geographies that were substantially new to both Mary Lou and me and again, it was not a it's a it was an education that there's no degree after it, but it would be one of the major learning experiences of my life.

00;21;06;21 - 00;21;39;03

Eugene Habecker

Had the opportunity, for example, to spend time with His Holiness Pope John Paul. The second I spent good time with Alexi, you know, the the primate patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church once in New York and once in Moscow and various other patriarchs of various Orthodox communions. Shenouda and in Cairo. And yeah, it was just, it was a whole different a whole different experience.

00;21;39;04 - 00;21;39;24

John Terrill

Boy, it sounds like.

00;21;40;00 - 00;21;44;02

Eugene Habecker

Anything I had in higher education. Yeah.

00;21;44;04 - 00;21;59;07

John Terrill

Well, let me, let me I'd like to get your definition. 15 seconds. How would you describe Christian education? What is Christian education.

00;21;59;09 - 00;22;24;18

Eugene Habecker

Where image bearers of God reflect in the development of their minds? And for hurts the attributes and the gifts that God has given to each of those individuals, but in a way to grow intellectually and socially and spiritually as well, grounded in God's word.

00;22;24;20 - 00;22;29;06

John Terrill

Okay, that's that very helpful definition.

00;22;29;08 - 00;23;08;17

John Terrill

Reflecting back on your experiences, what are some of the main ways that you have seen people move into a deeper sense of of their image bearing capacity? So what what are the channels, the delivery mechanisms? And again, kind of a brief response here that you have come to understand as really important and essential for helping people develop as as people made in the image of God.

00;23;08;19 - 00;23;49;27

Eugene Habecker

Well, let me mention to a particularly strong long mentorship in terms of a faculty student relationship, strong mentorship and a student faculty relationship in the context. Secondly, of a vibrant, dynamic community. So it's it's the it's the mentorship of faculty and and with students in the context of a of a supportive community that shares similar values and committed to similar objectives.

00;23;50;00 - 00;24;12;04

John Terrill

Great. Very helpful. So as an administrator, I'm going to press you here and this is really around metrics or impact. How do you know if your institution's being successful in your roles? How how did you discern how did your teams discern if you were actually doing a good job of what you were setting out to do?

00;24;12;06 - 00;24;59;09

Eugene Habecker

Well, there are a couple of ways I can answer that. The first way I'm going to answer is, is by referencing something that all higher education has to wrestle with, and that's the accreditation process. Basically, one of the things that accreditation does is to address the question, are you really doing in fact, what you say you're doing? And so, for example, at the University of Wisconsin that's accredited by the Higher Learning Commission based in Chicago, I served as a consultant evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission for ten years, and that's one of the things that a team would do when it goes to visit a university in response to a self study is to verify

00;24;59;09 - 00;25;39;07

Eugene Habecker

and validate that what you say you are doing is what you're actually doing. That's interesting because the evaluators themselves are not necessarily people of faith. These are people who are colleagues who share commitments to quality and excellence in higher ed. And so those are the people that are looking through all of your document. So what what basically, you know, one of the things just a quick little aside here, one of the things that I don't think we reference enough in the Christian community is the importance of doing good or doing good works.

00;25;39;09 - 00;26;02;11

Eugene Habecker

You know, Jesus said, let your light shine before people. They may see your good work, you know, and know that will bring glory to your father or Paul in his writings to do the Galatians Church said, As you therefore have opportunity, do good to everyone you know. So doing good, especially about finish the verse, do good everyone, especially those that are the household faith.

00;26;02;14 - 00;26;29;01

Eugene Habecker

So the whole idea of doing good can be observable by people outside of the faith, and that's what the accreditation process is. So that's the first thing. How how would we know? We're we're, we're achieving what we're trying to achieve and the accreditation process is one big audit process. Having a CPA, an outside CPA firm, come in and evaluate you financially, Are you managing well?

00;26;29;07 - 00;27;03;25

Eugene Habecker

Are your business processes good? That's another way. But of course, the practical way that you would address that question is, is look at the lives of your alumni, What are their commitments? What are they involved in? And then two other pieces of the practical way of checking those are are people enrolling, You know, in significant numbers at your institution that are people supporting it financially?

00;27;03;27 - 00;27;25;04

Eugene Habecker

Yeah, I mean, that's one of the ways you can measure relevance to to what you're doing is are are people coming in and graduating from their institution and is there financial support to help pay the, you know, the cost of what takes to do to offer Christian higher education? Yeah, those are those are something that I would look.

00;27;25;05 - 00;27;57;09

John Terrill

Into so helpful and I know you think a lot about this. What about you mentioned dynamic community and the mentoring relationship between students and faculty. What are ways that institutions can ensure that that dynamics like that are in place and are effective? How did you do it? How did you measure the dynamism, dynamism of your campus, and how did you measure the strength and quality of mentoring relationships?

00;27;57;11 - 00;28;30;20

Eugene Habecker

Well, Taylor Taylor did it in many ways, but one of the most unique ways was through its chapel experience. Taylor, unlike almost any other Christian institution, does not take attendance at chapel. It says to students, This is expected, but we're not going to stand over you and have people take attendance or use credit. You know, little chapel cards or whatever, through a scan or whatever.

00;28;30;22 - 00;28;57;17

Eugene Habecker

In fact, I would tell parents, if your son or daughter is not serious about growing in their Christian faith, this is probably the wrong institution. And the joy that we had is chapel at Taylor is packed three times a week. People are there because they want to be. So I think one of the things that that that was a big measurement for us was the chapel experience.

00;28;57;18 - 00;29;37;12

Eugene Habecker

We invested a lot into that experience, that gathering together as a community to worship, to learn together. You think about the platform of what university brings, Christian or otherwise brings together. 1500 plus students three times a week for a common shared learning experience. Yeah. You know that most of the time included worship. I mean, that is a rare a rare a rare experience where students choose to go there, not have to go, not not going to get in trouble if they don't choose to go because they want to be that kind of person.

00;29;37;12 - 00;30;25;12

Eugene Habecker

So that was a huge part of the Taylor community, of course, that supplemented, you know, most of our Taylor students chose intentionally to live in residence halls for all four years or in some kind of residential experience that was viewed as a another part of the learning environment. A lot of other colleges have picked up on that. And, you know, big universities like University of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan State pioneer or not pioneer, but was a leader in terms of staffing, education, you know, the residence hall experience and I think the namesakes on your foundation at Upper House, you know, were very much involved in that at Michigan State, if I remember my conversations correctly.

00;30;25;15 - 00;30;51;06

Eugene Habecker

And so a lot of universities do that. But when you have that educational mix both within the classroom and without the outside of the classroom, so that all all of those units together, you know, you're seeking to mentor and develop young people, you know, in. And what does it mean to model and to mirror and be a better word, to mirror God's image in everything that you do?

00;30;51;09 - 00;31;20;08

Eugene Habecker

That's a pretty powerful combination. And then, you know, the chapel experience and advisor all together. So whether it's on the athletic field or whether it's in a residence hall or whether it's in a whether it's in clubs or whether it's in the classroom room or whether it's in chapel, there is a consistent message being shared, you know, about what it means to be a faithful image bearer and letting your life mirror the kinds of things that Jesus taught in the gospels, the kind of things we learned in the Scripture.

00;31;20;10 - 00;31;26;27

Eugene Habecker

You know, at the same time you're developing the mind and that whole cognitive side of you as well. That's a pretty powerful combination.

00;31;27;00 - 00;32;01;09

John Terrill

Yeah, really is. There's a coherence and an attention to the affections, the kind of integration and integration. Right, right, right. There's so much I could press into here. Let me ask one more question about this. This experience of of chapel, because I think that's interesting. And I know that's a really significant thing. And Taylor is is is strong chapel attendance a leading indicator of spiritual well-being or a lagging indicator?

00;32;01;11 - 00;32;05;00

Eugene Habecker

I mean, you want it to be a leading indicator.

00;32;05;03 - 00;32;27;27

John Terrill

And talk about why and maybe our listeners aren't familiar with those terms, but is it talk about how you understand because again, what's one of the things that's so interesting in talking about you is your attention to management discipline, but in a way that is attentive to the soft side of leadership as well. And, you know, it's the title of your book.

00;32;28;00 - 00;32;53;06

John Terrill

And so you're not someone who just drives at metrics without thinking about, you know, the softer dimensions of leadership and organizational health and so forth. But when you think about leading and lagging indicators as an administrator in institution of higher Christian learning, how do you think about those two ways to to capture, capture, performance?

00;32;53;09 - 00;33;51;20

Eugene Habecker

All right. Let me let me just distinguish between transactional exchanges versus transformational changes. You can get a transaction transactional experience in higher education, even in Christian higher education in many different form. And, you know, you can go online with many different modalities. You can go online, take whatever classes you're in, and you're out teaching programs. You know, you know, you don't have time to really develop the long and and a lot of people choose to do that, which is, okay, that's not that's not negative, but that doesn't measure the kind of thing where I, I am really seeking I'm really seeking to grow my Christian by Christian faith in a devotional intellectual, integrated in an

00;33;51;20 - 00;34;19;29

Eugene Habecker

integrated way. When you're on a college campus where you have a thousand different opportunities to engage in something, you know, going to the union, going to a club, playing sports, when you deliberately and intentionally say, I, I will I will choose to worship as a priority and I will choose to do that of my own volition. Right. It's not mandatory.

00;34;20;02 - 00;34;49;13

Eugene Habecker

You don't get in trouble. I think that that evokes a higher level of openness, I would say, to spiritual growth and spiritual learning that that doesn't happen if I really don't want to be there. And I'm only there because I have to be in somebody taking attendance. You know, so so for me, it's it's probably the first thing I would point to, you know, in terms of what differentiates a place like Taylor from almost every other Christian college in the country.

00;34;49;14 - 00;35;18;08

John Terrill

Yeah. Jean, I'm going to borrow some language from Peter Drucker. I know you're familiar with Peter Drucker as a president of several Christian colleges and major Christian nonprofit organization. Who's your primary customer? Let's think and let's let me ask this in the context of Christian higher education that will make the response, I think, a little cleaner.

00;35;18;11 - 00;35;43;21

Eugene Habecker

No question, the primacy of the customer or the student in their families, that that is why we're there. In fact, when I when I went when I came to Taylor, I would say to our faculty, I love the faculty. The faculty are great for what we're trying to accomplish. We can't do without, you know, without the multiple ways in which you invest in our in our community and in the lives of our students.

00;35;43;23 - 00;36;10;26

Eugene Habecker

But students and their families, that that's what we're focused on. That's why we're here to serve and educate those students. If we make something else our priority, like the community, which is important, you know, the geography where we live, what the board wants, what the staff wants, what the alumni are about, what the church wants. Not all of these are important for me on this.

00;36;10;27 - 00;36;34;25

Eugene Habecker

All of these all of these are important priorities. But if we miss if we if we if we don't communicate to students that you are, you are why we're here. And end to end their families, you know, don't get that. We're going to miss the mark and we're going to lose, you know, the very battle we're trying to win.

00;36;34;27 - 00;37;13;01

John Terrill

So, yes, absolutely. I think I that makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of really important additional stakeholders that have strong voice and and have competing interests. In some ways, Maybe there are complementary interests, but certainly some competing interests. What did you learn about managing multiple stakeholders and in a college, Christian college setting, what groups constitute some of the really important secondary customers that you had to devote a lot of time paying attention to?

00;37;13;03 - 00;37;35;16

Eugene Habecker

Well, I've mentioned some of those just a bit ago, but I usually talk about seven or eight every every time I had a chance of competing people that want something different, meaning students maybe one group students didn't always want with their parents wanted parents didn't always one with the alumni wanted. The alumni didn't always want what the donors want.

00;37;35;18 - 00;37;58;25

Eugene Habecker

The donors that always well with the church wanted the church didn't always want with the faculty, wanted the faculty to always want with the staff wanted. And then then of course, you had the communities, the geographies where we where we live and work. They always want they they don't always want what everyone else wants. And so I think your question is how do you balance how do you balance?

00;37;58;25 - 00;38;07;06

Eugene Habecker

How do you pull all of those those different disparate, disparate groups together?

00;38;07;09 - 00;38;20;27

John Terrill

Well well, can you even balance, I guess, part of my question, Gene, would be can you actually accomplish the balancing act or is a different is a there's are a better metaphor of what you're actually doing.

00;38;21;00 - 00;38;42;12

Eugene Habecker

In the balance is probably not the right word. I think I think there are a couple of approaches. I would I would say we need to take in terms of that. And one is we have to be crystal clear in our identity and who we are. We can't a Christian college can't be all things to all people. So you're going to, you know, just like Jesus had a house divided.

00;38;42;12 - 00;39;08;09

Eugene Habecker

Well, understand, you know, some people are going to like and the other we're going to be the opposite. We have to be who we are. And we can't be embarrassed or apologetic for who we are. And we it is what it is. You know, they use a cliche. I mean, it's and let's let's promote that, but do it in a sense of not just about who we are.

00;39;08;11 - 00;39;34;17

Eugene Habecker

No. It with love and grace and and and and and charity. You know, again, this is where the image bear of who God calls us to be made in his image, you know, comes into play here. I mean, I as a I don't have a I don't have the opportunity to, you know, to say, well, because I'm a university president, I can ignore, you know, half of the teachings of Jesus.

00;39;34;19 - 00;40;08;01

Eugene Habecker

I've got to practice those. And regardless of the position that I hold and the role that I serve. And so even there, I mean, people catch that. And I Mary Lou would say if she were honest with us, she would emphasize and I totally agree, is the importance of relationship development and listening. And interestingly, active listening is more than just waiting to get your chance to speak.

00;40;08;04 - 00;40;29;13

Eugene Habecker

You know, really, really we don't do a very good job in our culture, in our communities of listening to one another. And so I think I think those are the kinds of things. And so, you know, when when you can't I'm sorry, the answer to that is no. And I know you're not going to be happy with that, but this is the direction we're going go.

00;40;29;15 - 00;40;54;08

Eugene Habecker

Leadership is not about popularity. If you if you you know, while I want you to like me for my we all have the desire to be like that. But faithfulness is a better indicator of faithfulness to the mission and to what I think we're called to do in those leadership roles that the Lord may entrust to us from time to time is really the bottom line and to be faithful to the mission.

00;40;54;08 - 00;41;21;07

Eugene Habecker

Sometimes people are going to be upset and people are going to like in a pluralistic world, you know, where you know, certain positions that you end up taking again, modeling love and charity and gracefulness, you know, in your positions. People may not necessarily like that and may be angry about it. And and that's okay.

00;41;21;14 - 00;41;49;18

John Terrill

Yeah. I want to come back to some leadership principles later in the interview. As we as we start to get toward a close, I'd like to ask you to reflect on some of the external threats, environmental factors that you see swirling around Christian higher education these days. I'd love to get your take on from all your years of experience serving on boards, serving as president and senior administrative positions.

00;41;49;23 - 00;42;02;27

John Terrill

What are the three or four most important factors that senior administrators and boards need to be paying attention to?

00;42;03;00 - 00;42;47;03

Eugene Habecker

Well, there are several that come to my mind. One is what I would call internal disintegration. That is to say we're internally, but not because of external pressures or whatever you begin to lose the that the anchor points that have centered you for for many, many years and you begin to cut. But the tether to your anchors, you know, one of the one of the ways that is evidenced is Peter Greer is the one who wrote the book entitled Mission Drift.

00;42;47;03 - 00;43;09;07

Eugene Habecker

Right. You know, mission drift happens. And when you when you that's not that's that's an internal choice. That is I mean, you look at a lot of higher education institutions, even places like Harvard or Columbia, which have scripture verses even even the work that Dan Humbles been doing at University of Wisconsin on lifting out the history of the University of Wisconsin.

00;43;09;09 - 00;43;35;14

Eugene Habecker

You know, there's there's been drift, you know, so and those are internal choices that people make. And how are we going to respond to the external realities that face us. So, you know, so I think there are there are multiple kinds of internal internal issues for sure. Can we afford this? Can we have can we afford Christian education?

00;43;35;17 - 00;43;57;05

Eugene Habecker

You know, the dilemma between access versus choice. Maybe I don't have the choice to go anywhere. I think I would like to go because I can't afford it. So I choose this option. And I'm a commuter sitting here. You know, a net tuition revenue is something every president talks about on a regular basis of a Christian higher education institution.

00;43;57;07 - 00;44;22;22

Eugene Habecker

You know, when you're spending more money on financial aid than you're bringing in through tuition, you're not going to have the resources to fund programs and pay faculty and staff and the other things you want. Those are all internal decisions. Then there are the external ones. And when it comes to external, I see the word tsunami, you know, used a lot.

00;44;22;24 - 00;44;49;22

Eugene Habecker

And so NAMI and and are most people are thinking of some of the huge cultural shifts that were not in play 50 years ago in Christian higher education when there was a different, you know, a different mindset in the culture at the government accrediting agencies or all of the other multiple players. So I think those are the internal threats.

00;44;49;22 - 00;45;24;06

Eugene Habecker

They're internal threats that I think we can do something about the external threats, you know, are are threats that we have to be alert to. But but even in the process, I think we need to do what we need to do to be faithful to the mission that God has called us to. And and if if higher education doesn't survive in its current format, I think there are a couple of other emerging options that I'm very bullish on, and I'm very excited about as well.

00;45;24;06 - 00;45;50;22

Eugene Habecker

So we have to keep in mind that Christian higher education is basically a Western world idea. We see more Christian colleges in the United States and Canada than we see in any other part of the world. And in many parts of the world, it's nonexistent. I mean, you don't see very many Christian colleges in the United Kingdom now or in France or Germany or a lot of other places.

00;45;50;22 - 00;46;13;21

Eugene Habecker

It's just it's a it's it's it's unique to the U.S., the Western and the western world. So that's why I think unless we think that the church is going to going to go down the tubes, if we don't have a Christian hierarchy, it will not it because you look around the rest of the world and there is not that kind of Christian higher education mindset, you know, that is there to support the church.

00;46;13;23 - 00;46;22;20

Eugene Habecker

So in many ways we ought to be way ahead of the pack on that because of our our our our Christian education focus. Unfortunately, we're in many ways we're not.

00;46;22;23 - 00;46;54;00

John Terrill

Well, then that leads me to my next question. And that is, you know, you're someone who has benefited personally from private, non-religious and public flagship universities. I'd love for you to reflect on what role these institutions have played in your life and what are what are a couple of unique advantages, even in advancing dimensions of Christian education. And then I want to move into the Consortium of Christian Study Centers and talk a little bit about that.

00;46;54;03 - 00;47;14;07

John Terrill

But first, if you would, reflect on your experience in secular, non-religious institutions and the role they played, they clearly had a formative role in your life. And I wonder what you see as some of the unique advantages that those institutions can offer and the organizations that support them.

00;47;14;10 - 00;47;51;27

Eugene Habecker

But thank you. You're right. I have I've spent more years in non-Christian education settings from as a student than I have spent in Christian education settings as a student, you know, a master's degree from Ball State law degree from Temple University or Ph.D. from University of Michigan. I mean, all experiences that had profound impacts on me. And in multiple ways and I think helped prepare me to serve our Lord better in whatever field he was going to lead.

00;47;51;27 - 00;48;21;00

Eugene Habecker

And so as I'm going through those experiences, I did not know what the end game was in terms of service and ministry and or vocational calling, then no, but I had a great experience at Ball State. I had a great experience at Temple, introduced me to, you know, a more urban setting and more urban environment. It was an urban North central Philadelphia setting for Temple and then, of course, the University of Michigan.

00;48;21;00 - 00;48;50;25

Eugene Habecker

And I love that experience as well for my doctoral study. So yeah, they have they can they have they have they give us more in many ways. They give us more breadth and more depth that I can get at a Christian, at a at a Christian university. There might be some exceptions, but but I couldn't have gotten the quality of studies that I got at Michigan anywhere else.

00;48;50;25 - 00;49;18;23

Eugene Habecker

I mean, the program I was involved in is still ranked number one in the United States, so it was ranked number one when I went there, which is why I went there. And, you know, it's it's it's you know, there are there are a few Christian law school. It's not many. So if you if you really want to study in any of the professional areas, for the most part, you are not going to choose a Christian college because the options are so limited.

00;49;18;23 - 00;49;46;08

Eugene Habecker

If I want to study architecture, there are only two or three Christian colleges, universities that I'm aware of that that offer architecture. So so I think the kind of universities you're referring to, we're talking about give us more breadth of opportunities and more depth. I can I can. Even if a Christian college does offer a Ph.D. in an area, most are don't offer research opportunities like I would get at a big Yeah.

00;49;46;10 - 00;50;27;24

Eugene Habecker

You know or to be you know do a residency or go in if you if you go into the sciences in terms of medicine you're not going to find very Christian universities that offer you know the STEM medical strengths of of a secular university. So so I think in so many ways we we need to embrace the role that those kinds of universities play even as we recognize, on the other hand, the strengths, particularly at the undergraduate level, that a Christian institution, if that's an available option, can play in the life of the person as well.

00;50;27;25 - 00;50;28;14

Eugene Habecker

Yeah.

00;50;28;16 - 00;50;49;07

John Terrill

And Gene, I, I want to talk a little bit about the Consortium of Christian Study Centers. You're a newer convert to that movement. I I think maybe two or three or four years. I think you're you're helping to start a study center at University of Michigan. You also serve on the board of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers.

00;50;49;10 - 00;50;54;03

John Terrill

Opera House is a member institution of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers.

00;50;54;03 - 00;50;57;01

Eugene Habecker

So you're a great member of this.

00;50;57;06 - 00;51;25;23

John Terrill

TSC So, you know, we have certainly inside knowledge about that, but I'd love to hear you reflect on why you're bullish about this movement, particularly for someone who has spent so many years in Christian higher education. What do you see as the possibility of of Christian study centers taking root at, you know, large, public, private, non-religious, but major universities across the country?

00;51;25;23 - 00;51;31;27

John Terrill

What what advantages, what possibilities as to the study centers present?

00;51;31;29 - 00;52;00;23

Eugene Habecker

Well, let me let me that's a complicated question. I may want to divide it into a couple of area areas. You know, first of all, let me speak to what I see as the future of Christian higher education, particularly in the West. You know, given the economies that we talked about, some of the internal dysfunction that we talked about as well, we don't know in 50 years or where are we going to have Christian colleges, we really don't know.

00;52;00;23 - 00;52;35;28

Eugene Habecker

And if somebody you know, we probably will. I hope we will, but we don't know. So that is an option. But I think we'll always be there. But I think there are two other options. One is a relatively new one that's developing and it's basically referred to as the the it's basically a movement of of of, you know, just as we had the movement in the in the country of going from home schools or homeschooling, which 20 years ago people were kind of are you kidding me that that'll never work.

00;52;35;28 - 00;53;05;06

Eugene Habecker

We know that has worked and dramatically there's another movement and Christian higher education called the Church College movement. And and it's led by an Indian intellectual by the name of visual Bhagwati and a bunch of people Their goal is to have the capability of developing and providing some kind of the college experience in a million churches within two decades.

00;53;05;07 - 00;53;55;28

Eugene Habecker

Wow. Now think about that. And it deals with the affordability issue. It deals with the disconnect between the church and Christian higher education, which in many cases, unless you're a denominational institution, there is that disconnect. There are not a whole lot of non-denominational churches that are supporting a vibrant level. So I think that that third revolution idea that Megawati is promoting, there's now a book available on Amazon that talks about it again, that the church college model and by extension it builds on the whole school idea is a second option that I think we're going to see it grow in in various parts of the world, maybe not so quickly in the West, but in

00;53;55;28 - 00;54;13;10

Eugene Habecker

other parts of the world. I think it will come. And then I think the third one is, is the one you raise with the Consortium of Christian Studies centers. Now, let me tell you, I am a recent convert to this. I mean, it's it's been in the last few years. And I'm saying, why? Why have I not heard about this?

00;54;13;10 - 00;54;46;22

Eugene Habecker

This is such an exciting opportunity. Let me explain. Let me explain this in a broader sense. If you're a parent, if you're parents and you have kids, you probably, you know, a COVID notwithstanding, and the drop in church attendance notwithstanding as a result of COVID and a lot of other factors, you still are probably looking as parents for a church community to help you as parents to grow your children, you know, in their faith.

00;54;46;29 - 00;55;16;25

Eugene Habecker

It's not just something that you, your parents, as parents are doing, although you've got this is the larger church community. Okay? So those young people grow through high school and high school. They're places like campus life and Young Life then and other groups. There's Catholic. The Catholic Church has a variety of areas for people in their faith. The Lutheran Church has a really good school system, you know, And so, you know, you're always looking for partners.

00;55;16;28 - 00;55;47;24

Eugene Habecker

And then when you send, you know, your young people are looking for for partners at the college level, you think about Christian colleges. But we talked about the breadth and depth of what another campus offers or the affordability issue. The Christian college simply may not be an option for you. In fact, there are more Christian young people that are going to non-Christian colleges every year than attend Christian college, you know?

00;55;47;26 - 00;56;20;06

Eugene Habecker

And so the question has to be raised is what are we doing as a church to help support these enterprises? And so I think I think a Christian studies that are at its best and Rick Ostrander, who is the chair of our steering committee at the University of Michigan Christian Study Center, basically says it's it's the best of what a Christian college has to offer in the context or in the middle of a large secular campus.

00;56;20;09 - 00;56;55;29

Eugene Habecker

Okay, we get that. But but here is where I think the Christian Study Center movement goes beyond that, because it rather than trying to build its own brand, you know, if you have a you know, InterVarsity does wonderful work camp, our crew does wonderful work. And there's other you know, the Newman Center's do wonderful work. The conversion of a Christian study centers like to will work with all of that those those groups we will bring you together in fact may open up our facilities which is what you do at Opera House.

00;56;56;01 - 00;57;21;03

Eugene Habecker

So all of these groups and not where can we get leverage, where can we get synergy? I think that's unique. You know, some Christian studies centers their primary focus is on students and their student experience, which it is primarily, I think probably through some other Christian ministries. But the Christian studies Center goes beyond that. It goes to working with faculty and having faculty in their work with students.

00;57;21;03 - 00;57;46;00

Eugene Habecker

And it does, as you do at Upper House of Faith, the learning integration sessions where faculty, Christian faculty from the University of Wisconsin or at our case Michigan University, will come and talk about those topical Christian dimensions or the young people on those campuses. And there you're talking about world class scholars. You know, we can learn from that.

00;57;46;00 - 00;58;13;06

Eugene Habecker

Yeah, that model. I think we learn more about pluralism in the in the consortium or Christian Studies Center type campus work. What's it like to function in a pluralistic world for the most part, in many Christian higher education settings, If You're not you know, you're not in a bubble per se, because you're not trapped and you're not, but you're in a community where you don't face the kinds of challenges.

00;58;13;09 - 00;58;41;12

Eugene Habecker

How do you do that? The Christian Conservative or Christian Study Centers allows that to happen. But I think one of the other big, big pluses of the Consortium for Christian Studies that are movements is that Consortium Studies Center Centers positioned themselves as partners with the university rather than seeing the university as an adversary. Yeah, you know, that changes the mindset.

00;58;41;15 - 00;59;09;23

Eugene Habecker

And when we are early in our conversation, we talk about, I think one of the marks that Jesus gave us about what's going to bring people's attention to to what God is at work doing is doing good and doing good works. Yeah. You know, and I think sometimes because we've been so preoccupied with not wanting to make good works, B are our means to salvation.

00;59;09;25 - 00;59;35;13

Eugene Habecker

We ignore the fact that good works are the validation to the world of our salvation. And we missed huge opportunities and Christian study centers and help the university in its task. And let's face it, universities are doing great work with their research in medicine and and a whole host of other, you know, their work on the environment and and so many other areas.

00;59;35;13 - 01;00;04;07

Eugene Habecker

And so a CSC Christian Studies Center doesn't position itself as an adversary. It positions itself as an ally. Yeah, and that's really what we need to be doing, you know, as we mirror, you know, the image of God in our lives, positioning ourselves. This is a world we didn't create. It's a world that God created with people having, you know, the million DEO Each of us have it within us, the image of God.

01;00;04;07 - 01;00;32;17

Eugene Habecker

I mean, so I just think the Christian study movement, it represents a fabulous opportunity to address a part of the church that's here, Christian young people in a secular university setting, and their opportunity to grow and learn and have faith learning integration discussions with key faculty and staff and colleagues as they position themselves to be an ally. That to me is a win win.

01;00;32;23 - 01;00;55;16

Eugene Habecker

Yeah, And again, we don't have to we don't have to make it the enemy of Christian higher education. We need Christian higher education in the way in which I've benefited from it as a student, the way I had the opportunity that I've had the opportunity to give back to it, you know, in a in a couple of university presidencies.

01;00;55;18 - 01;01;31;18

Eugene Habecker

But that's not enough. If we if we hope to have a more global influence and influence other areas reflecting the image of God in our lives outside of the Christian higher education community. So. So yeah, it's a long answer. I apologize for the long answer, but hey, I think one of the happening places right now where the church needs to wake up and see how it can support better, not just Christian higher ed, but consortium.

01;01;31;20 - 01;02;17;04

Eugene Habecker

KC Christian Study Centers, because I think they're good. They're going to play it increasingly as the pressure comes on the outside. Yeah. Is that tsunami that we talk to? Christian studies centers are going to become more important in doing the work at the church than they've ever they've ever been. And so I my my hope is that, you know, as as you know, from our conversations, John, as I've talked about this with our executive director, my hope is that in all of the major thought centers of of the United States that have flagship universities located within the we will have Christian study centers active, involved and engaged.

01;02;17;06 - 01;02;29;22

Eugene Habecker

We're not there yet. We only have maybe between 35 and 40. We ought to 100 or more. And so working together collaboratively to achieve those broader goals.

01;02;29;25 - 01;02;52;07

John Terrill

Well, you've given me three really good reasons to be hopeful for the future of Christian education and done it in ways that are very clear. Jean, thank you very much for this conversation. Adding up the years on my own, but I think you've served probably 50 years in higher education.

01;02;52;10 - 01;03;05;24

Eugene Habecker

That's it's been a while, but it's been a while. And then the surprise was the American Bible study body, which is a large nonprofit, you know, and that, you know, we're going to use that to add some more arrows to speak in terms of the leadership.

01;03;05;24 - 01;03;11;21

John Terrill

So the experiences are rich. And thank you for sharing them with us today. We're so.

01;03;11;21 - 01;03;13;10

Eugene Habecker

Grateful for the great joy and.

01;03;13;10 - 01;03;33;29

John Terrill

We appreciate your time. Again, we'll put details about Gene's writing in the show notes and have his full bio there. And we thank you for listening and thank you for your service in so many sectors of the church. We really appreciate it.

01;03;34;02 - 01;03;39;05

Eugene Habecker

Thanks, John. Thank you for your friendship. I appreciate that. Blessings.

01;03;39;07 - 01;04;03;12

John Terrill

Thanks for joining us. If you've enjoyed today's podcast, be sure to subscribe and give us a rating on your favorite podcast app. Also, be sure to check out our upcoming events on Upper House Dawg and our other podcast Upwards, where we dig deeper into the topics our in-house guests are passionate about. With Faith in Mind is supported by the Stephen and Laurel Brown Foundation.

01;04;03;15 - 01;04;18;09

John Terrill

It is produced at Upper House in Madison, Wisconsin, hosted by Dan Hummel and John Terrill, our executive producer, and editor is Jesse Cook. And please follow us on social media with the handle at Upper House, UW.