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Over the past few years, John Martin has led Roberts Wesleyan College on a path of change.
The college has split into two major schools, one for liberal arts and sciences and another for professional studies. It has made updates to nearly every building on campus and shifted from NAIA to NCAA Division II athletics.
Martin now has decided it is time to step aside. He plans to leave the college at the end of the next school year.
"I'll be 65, and we will have completed our strategic planning process for another five years," Martin said. "We should also be along with funding for our science and nursing building, the only building that has yet to be built or updated, so I think it's a great time to step away after 18 years with the college and 12 as president."
Since Martin made his announcement Feb. 8, the Roberts Wesleyan board has been putting together a search committee made up of members of the faculty, staff, students and representatives from Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College. This committee will look for a successor and also determine what leadership qualities are most important, said Terry Taber, chairman of the board of trustees.
"The process will only be effective if we have a description ready and crisp language of what we're looking for, and with the changes the college has been through that process is very important," Taber said. The college soon will hire a consulting firm to aid in the search, he added.
Martin said the college has a strong leadership team, allowing his successor to step in and maintain the college's momentum. But he sees challenges ahead for the next president.
"I think the future is bright for higher education, but there will definitely be challenges in funding," Martin said. "As the president said in his State of the Union address, we need to make sure college is affordable and accessible, but when a student starts a degree program they will be able to complete it in four years."
This means an approach that looks at higher education as more than just job preparation, Martin said. While college does prepare students for careers, it should also ready them for life.
This is part of the rationale behind the move to NCAA Division II. The change allows the college to better focus on its mission of delivering a full educational experience to students, Taber said.
"We made that change not because athletics are on the highest pedestal, but because it really reflects that for a college like Roberts Wesleyan, we want to look at them as true student-athletes in terms of their mind, body and soul," Taber said.
While Roberts Wesleyan remains committed to giving all students this full experience, the approach is changing, Martin noted. Colleges are taking on this goal in different ways and meeting students in different settings than in years past.
"We can approach some of these things in different ways," he said, noting that the college's online programs are likely to grow.
Martin said he is not ready to announce his plans for after he leaves Roberts Wesleyan, but he noted that he and his wife are from Dallas and own property there. Martin said he will return there eventually but likely will have an interim stop.
His future will not be connected to Roberts Wesleyan. He plans to let his successor take full direction of the college.
"I'm willing to do whatever the next president and board would like me to do in the transition process, but I won't be staying in the area afterward," Martin said. "I believe that when a person steps down they should also step away."
Taber said Martin's ability to focus the college on students' academic and spiritual needs will be his legacy. The college's split into two schools to better focus on different aspects of academic programs is testament to this vision, Taber said.
"He's brought the focus to programs that are important to students and helping find education that will lead them to jobs," Taber said. "The major thing he's done is build the campus. The campus has been significantly improved during his tenure, and that's an important part of the student experience.
"John Martin's legacy will be about addressing all parts of a student-mind, body and soul. He's made sure to improve their campus experience and academics while always remaining a strong voice for Christian education."
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