I think it’s safe to say that anyone would find it difficult to pick up the pieces of a university after a serious presidential controversy. The speculated plagiarism that occurred with late President Gary Streit, which ultimately led to his resignation and sent the Malone community into a significant dilemma: Who was going to step up and be the stronghold of this university? Who was going to attempt to re-build the trust between “president” and “student?”
And in walked Will Friesen.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Interim President Friesen and his wife on a more personal level. However, before I even knew him as a friend, I knew him as our Malone president. I never even included the word “interim” because I started to forget that he was a temporary leader. I fell in love with his love for the Malone community and therefore hoped in my heart that he would always be our president.
President Friesen and his wife Glenna immersed themselves in the lives of the Malone student body, directly associating and building relationships with students while trying to hold everything together and rebuild the university after a traumatic, disappointing event.
Whether it was eating in the cafeteria (and knowing students by name), attending a sporting event, or supporting any student affair in general, Will Friesen sent a message to students that loudly declared, “I care about this school, and more importantly, you.” There was nothing superficial about the way that he and Glenna loved us — nothing but genuine adoration for the community God had them serving at.
Through being on the New Vision ministry team here, I was able to get to know Will and Glenna even more personally, and what a blessing that has been in my life. Whether it was them treating the team to a generous meal, having a personal conversation with Will in his office about the “latest Halle chronicles” or sitting down with Glenna to have a fun chat, I learned new dimensions of these two people that made me love them even more. I started to see them as almost mentors, or even family, like an aunt and uncle. I started to really care about them—it was no longer the “president and his wife,” but “Will and Glenna”: two really awesome individuals.
[pullquote]Whether it was eating in the cafeteria (and knowing students by name), attending a sporting event, or supporting any student affair in general, Will Friesen sent a message to students that loudly declared, “I care about this school, and more importantly, you.”[/pullquote]
So, with all of that being said, it’s probably not too surprising that my heart broke when I received the email that President Friesen was not going to be taking the president’s seat. I called my mom and was upset, confused and curious as to what could have been the reason.
I knew God was in control — that for some reason, God had other plans for Will and Glenna. However, in my selfish humanness, I wanted them here, and as a senior next year, I wanted them to be my leaders as I push on to graduation. I get kind of choked up even writing this “opinion piece” because it makes me realize just how much they really do mean to me, not as just “Malone staff,” but as people.
I hope that the Malone community does not forget what President Friesen did for this university on so many levels — administratively, academically, religiously, relationally and personally. He brought our university out of a “slump” that would have lasted a lot longer if someone didn’t courageously take the challenge. I also hope that staff and students will join me in praying for Will and Glenna as God takes them on their next adventure, where I’m sure they will change more lives, accomplish more great things and share their Godly beauty in the new relationships that they build.
Halle St. John is public relations editor for Aviso AVW.
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President Dwight Eisenhower once said that “the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible…”
In the middle of my junior year at Malone, the institution was, you could say, not living its most shining moment. We had embarked on a number of controversial spending projects, academic standards were being challenged and the school’s overall direction was being greatly questioned. Then came the real kicker: Our president was accused of plagiarism.
[pullquote]Sometimes leaders don’t choose to lead, but rather, we need them to lead. On the morning that Dr. Streit unexpectedly resigned, Dr. Will Friesen showed up to his office in Founders Hall like any other day, only to walk into an entirely different calling.[/pullquote]
Sometimes leaders don’t choose to lead, but rather, we need them to lead. On the morning that Dr. Streit unexpectedly resigned, Dr. Will Friesen showed up to his office in Founders Hall like any other day, only to walk into an entirely different calling. In a flurry of changes, Dr. Friesen graciously accepted the responsibility of salvaging the university from plummeting enrollment numbers, a strained budget and a student body that had a growing distrust of the administration.
In the following year, when I would lead groups of students to Dr. Friesen’s home, I was always pleasantly surprised to hear that not only were students beginning to trust the institution’s leadership again, they were beginning to fall in love with a humble, integrity-filled, natural-born leader named Will Friesen.
When I was student body president, I found Dr. Friesen to be more than a career-minded administrator. Instead, I found him to be a great friend of the student body. He was interested in student space, upgraded technology, extra-curricular activities and the overall morale of the student body. This was a welcome change from the previous administration.
On graduation day this past April, Dr. Friesen said that he’d get a hold of me to have dinner sometime. I never thought he’d remember, being as busy as he was. However, since becoming a Malone alum, I’ve had dinner with Dr. Friesen three times. This is because Will Friesen wasn’t just someone with whom I had negotiated with to get new printers in the dorms or modifications to the Johnson Center Sanctuary. He was and is my friend.
Will and Glenna Friesen stood up and offered to lead Malone University in one of her darkest hours and they have done it admirably. I respect Dr. Friesen’s integrity, his demeanor and his courage. He is a Malone hero and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. In addition, he and Glenna have peaceful, kind spirits that draw people to them. Once people get close, they can see the light of a loving savior shining through.
God bless you for your service, Will and Glenna. Wherever you are planted next you will be a blessing simply by your presence because your service is a gift from the Almighty.
Joshua Eck is a Malone alumnus (’11) and a contributing writer to Aviso AVW.