Last Monday, Dr. David A. King was named the 13th president of Malone University by the Board of Trustees. The announcement came after months of searching for candidates. With the news, however, came questions about who exactly it was that would assume the role of president starting in January. King took some time to tell Aviso AVW a little more about himself and his reactions to being named president in a recent phone conversation.
Aviso: What was your reaction when you found out you got the job?
King: The words that come to mind on behalf of Winnie as well as myself are that we are delighted and we are humbled. Delighted because of what we have found at Malone in the way of mission and people. Missions are not quite as wonderful until you have people to populate that mission.
We are also humbled. I think one can easily become enamored with the idea of such titles, but I think it should also be very humbling because of the sense of responsibility coupled with the sense of opportunity for leadership and being able to join in a community in such a way that doesn’t just allow but causes a community to flourish in new and unexpected ways.
There is so much at Malone that we want to honor in terms of history and presence but at the same time look to cast a vision for the future.
Aviso: How was the news received at Eastern (where King is currently provost)?
King: The news was received on one hand in a congratulatory manner. My colleagues here are very happy for me and in many ways [are] not entirely surprised.
But also, they have expressed sadness … One thing that’s very valuable about places like Malone and Eastern is our communities tend to be very relationally oriented. But it also makes it hard when God calls us, and He has, to a new situation and we have to leave what’s familiar to us.
Aviso: Would you say that Malone and Eastern are similar and how much will that help your transition?
King: I think one of the things I will caution myself on is [that] God doesn’t necessarily call us to “easy.” He is calling Winnie and I to leave what is familiar and go to a new community that is unfamiliar to us. I say that because I remind myself that my responsibility here is not to attempt to create what is familiar to me, but to illuminate and lift out the characteristics at Malone to go beyond where they are today with a new season of leadership and a new season of time.
The similarities are fundamental. Malone and Eastern are both institutions of Christian higher education that exist for the shared purpose of creating human capital for the good of the Kingdom and of society.
Also there is similarity from a profile standpoint. Eastern is larger in terms of number of students and size of budget and things of that sort, but the landscape of academic programs is somewhat similar.
We share an ethos. Both institutions look at the different ways at not just what we are called to do, but how we are called to do those things. Those foundational principles define the nature of [both] places.
Aviso: Do you anticipate visiting campus before January?
King: I will definitely be on campus on Friday, Nov. 4, I am planning to spend pretty much all day on campus Friday with a bunch of meetings. One of the things I’m hoping to do then is at least grab lunch in your dining commons just so I can be in the same room as students. It’s probable I will also be coming out the last Monday of November (the date of the last faculty meeting of the fall) to greet the faculty and meet with them.
I’d love to be there even more, but I also want to try very hard to finish out strong here at Eastern.
Aviso: You’re leaving one position in the middle of the year and then coming to a new position. What kind of challenges will that awkward timing raise for you?
King: It will be difficult to step into a new community in mid-rhythm. On the other hand, there are many things that are going steady and intensely throughout the entire year. Even though the summer months are quieter, if I were to join the community in July — while that has a lot of merit to it — I would be on campus for a month and a half before a lot of the students are there. So I kind of like the idea of coming in January because I’m kind of landing in the middle of the year, which means I’m also landing when things are really occurring, and I’ll have a better sense of what Malone really is.
Aviso: How will this move affect your wife and her business?
King: Winnie looks forward very much to being a part of the Malone community and students in a variety of ways.
Winnie’s business is the kind of business that is readily transferable. She has had this business for a little over 10 years, so her clients for the most part are in the Philadelphia area. There are a lot of things she can do over distance with maybe some periodic trips back to the area. She will have to sort out the extent to which she wants to continue to grow the business while looking at connecting with potential clients in northeastern Ohio.
[pullquote]It was just increasingly submitting to what I felt God was asking me to do.[/pullquote]
Part of it will be her sorting out the extent to which she wants to continue doing that even as she engages as an active partner with the Malone community.
Aviso: Is becoming the president of Malone a culmination of your career path? Was being president of a Christian college something you always aspired to?
King: I’ll say it this way, and that is simply that even as recently as six or eight years ago, if you would have asked me if I wanted to be a college president, I would have looked at you with a puzzled look and said, “What?” But having said that, it was about that time when that question began to be asked of me from multiple people of multiple perspectives.
I was kind of asking, “To what end, Lord?” and “Why are you challenging me with these new leanings and new opportunities?” I began to take the question very seriously, less in terms of what the next career step was and more in terms of thinking critically about what is this preparing me for. If it’s for a presidency then I need to intentionally do some things to prepare for that if it’s what God is asking of me.
That’s kind of the approach I’ve taken in recent years, but at the same time I’ve tried not to have my own self-articulated timeline. It was just increasingly submitting to what I felt God was asking me to do.
When we really submit ourselves to his will and give ourselves over to him, we should also be ready for some surprises as far as how he will utilize us.