What is your religious background and path to faith?
Like many people, it’s really hard to ever find a time when I wasn’t exposed or didn’t know who Jesus Christ was. I grew up in a home and a region of the country that Jesus Christ was a predominant part of everywhere I went and a number of the people I was around. As a child, I certainly accepted Christ as Savior; it was a very cognitive decision. I knew I didn’t want to go to Hell, I wanted to go to Heaven, I wanted to be with the Lord. It was probably later in my teen years when I began to understand the whole concept of sin, and understanding that there was a savior that paid a price for that sin. But even with that, as I was talking with some of the students the other night at the HUB, even as you grow later as a young adult you begin to realize that understanding and as you face adult decisions, really coming to grips with, you want to make sure your life matches a Christ-like walk. I’m just that. It was probably in my early twenties that I felt pretty convicted that I wanted to make sure that, although I had accepted the Lord and had realized that Jesus Chris was my Savior, I really wanted to consecrate my life so that there was no doubt. So that when people saw me they saw someone that tried to represent Christ in lifestyle and in compassion and in stewardship – the things that would reflect Christ. So it was probably those two or three years in my early twenties that I began to look at how did I want to live the rest of my life, what were my choices going to be, and how did that reflect my call to faith? I was privileged to grow up in a home where Christ was taught, but it really was a growing throughout those years that I began to make my faith my own.
What is your family situation?
I don’t have a very large family and I think it was because my father had seven brothers and sisters and he came from a very large family while my mother was an only child. I have one brother and he is very wonderful and I love him dearly. He works for an engineering firm here in Longview, Texas. He has three children. I have a sister who was born almost a year to the day I went to college – almost 19 years younger than me! She is a computer software person, and she is very smart. My mom is doing well – she’s retired and a former teacher. She taught for almost fifty years at different levels. She lives in Longview. My stepmother – Judy Emberton – lives in Carthage, Texas, and she also is a retired educator who taught thirty years at kindergarten and first grade. So I kind of was born to be a teacher, one way or the other.
Why did you pursue a career in education?
I think the Lord prepares you, along the way, for how He could use you. Both my mother and my father were educators. My father was a science teacher for many years and later went on into private business, but my mother was always an educator. I got to see what a difference their lives made in the lives of other people and, whether consciously or unconsciously, saw how the Lord used that. I think I always knew I wanted to be involved in schools – I loved it. I think I’ve been in school ever since I was four years old! I’ve loved teaching. I’ve been an administrator. I just have enjoyed seeing the impact that education can make not only in the lives of students, but the impact that it can make in the community it serves.
What was your dream job as you were growing up?
My dream job was originally a basketball coach. I coached a little basketball early in my life and I enjoyed that. Always, I think it was to be in the middle of doing something for the Lord. I always wanted to be involved with people who were making a difference. I’ve always been a frontline person. With projects in the church, I wanted to be in the middle of that. I don’t think I left high school thinking I was going to be a college president someday, but I think I always knew the Lord was preparing me to be a leader. I had people who believed in me and saw those gifts in me, so I saw myself preparing to accept the challenges of leadership.
What are your favorite things to do in your spare time?
I love to sing – but I don’t think I’m necessarily very good; if I’m not, don’t tell me. I love music of all kinds. I love community theatre, I love to act a little bit. I love to read, sports – both to participate and watch. I just like to be around people who love to have a good time and love to laugh out loud. I enjoy life.
How do you hope to engage the campus community with these interests?
I always was very privileged because I have worked on campuses with heavy residential populations. The students have always been very positive and engaging with me. I love to participate with student associations and usually attend fine arts events and sporting events. I have led in the area of travel study and ministry opportunities. I know in my role as president, my opportunities will be somewhat limited, but I sure hope the students invite me to participate. I love late-night coffees and after-game pizza runs and enjoy spending time with students.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Serious: people who look over other people. That really bothers me when I see people who just look over the needs of other people and are not conscious of others. Frivolous: when people try to pass of Diet Pepsi as Diet Coke. I’m a big Diet Coke person!
What is your favorite musician/band?
I love acoustic music. I grew up in a home that was pretty musical. I follow Alison Krauss & Union Station. Probably my favorite guitar player would be Tony Rice, someone you’re probably not familiar with. He was an acoustic bluegrass musician. Some really good groups that I listen to tend to be more folk music, like The Isaacs and The Martians. I listen to some contemporary Christian music, but I probably don’t know who the artists are.
What’s your favorite movie?
It has always been Hoosiers. Ever since it came out. I guess it was because of the basketball and that the guy wins in the end and the team wins, but that has always been my favorite.
If you could pick five adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?
I’m high-energy. I’m inquisitive; I love to learn, to a fault. I’m interested in people and what’s going on. I err to the side of being proactive rather than reactive. I consider myself musical; again I understand why other people might not. I try to live my life loud. I honestly want to live my faith loud. I really do want to make a difference for Jesus Christ. That’s what I consider this life about and I want to make a presence for Him while I’m still able to on this Earth.