The year was 1974, a year when a man came to the Ozarks to serve as the third president at Evangel University.
Doctor Robert Spence is retiring next week after four decades on the job.
On Thursday, he spoke with KOLR10’s David Oliver and shared what he's feeling as he caps his time with the Crusaders.
“Gratitude,” Spence says. “For the privilege of working with over 30,000 students during my time on the Evangel campus.”
Spence came to Evangel in 1974 after being a church pastor in Alabama for about 20 years.
“Being a college president had not been on my to-do list of goals,” he says. “It was something that developed that I believe was ordained by God.”
He says there were many unknowns that first day he walked into the president's office.
“Dr. Ashcroft had been an incredible leader at Evangel and following him was an intimidating assignment,” Spence recalls.
But, he quickly immersed himself in Evangel and the community. Among his proudest accomplishments: the campus transformation.
“To see it move from a world war army barracks campus that housed an army hospital,” Spence says. “And have the state of the art campus that we have today.”
Spence believes Evangel will continue to evolve with online and mobile classes but he says that can't take the place of a residential college experience.
“It's the relationship between student and faculty that's been our great strength,” he says. “I see that continuing.”
And that's also what he says he will miss most.
“The dynamic of a college population is infectious,” Spence says. “I'll miss that. Whether you're walking into the dining room or the gym, it's almost like electricity. But the day to day opportunity to move among the students, I certainly will miss.”
Dr. Spence will continue as chancellor at Evangel beginning May 1.
Fun fact: When asked what car he was driving when he pulled onto campus for the first time 40 years ago, Spence says it was a blue '73 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
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