President Gordon Bietz Announces Plan to Retire in 2016
On April 21 Gordon Bietz announced to the Board of Trustees that he plans to retire in May 2016 at the conclusion of his 19th year as Southern Adventist University president.
“In a sense there is never a right time to transition away from a place you love this much, because there is always more you’ve dreamt of accomplishing” Bietz said. “But I want to leave at a time when the university is in a strong position for new leadership.”
Under Bietz’s guidance, both enrollment and the university’s budget have doubled. Nearly $80 million in construction projects were completed during his tenure to accommodate that growth, including Southern Village apartment complex, Hulsey Wellness Center, and Florida Hospital Hall, home to the School of Nursing. Plans are underway for a $28 million student center, and Bietz said he would like to witness the groundbreaking on that project before his retirement next year.
Academics were also strengthened during the current presidency, as evidenced by accreditations for Southern’s professional schools and 13 consecutive years of a Top Tier ranking by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” guide. The Graduate Studies program, in particular, has seen tremendous growth. In 1997 the university provided just a handful of graduate classes and today it offers 13 master’s degrees and a doctorate.
“I’ve had a birds-eye view of the man who has given decades of his life in professional and Christian leadership,” said Ron Smith, Board of Trustees chairman for Southern. “He has showcased honesty, sensitivity, responsible scholarship, careful governance, and a large heart for every student who passed through the halls of Southern during his administration. He will be missed.”
Servant LeaderBefore becoming Southern's president, Bietz pastored the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists and served as president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. His passion for nurturing wholistic spiritual development comes naturally and has been instrumental in the creation of Southern’s service-learning program that connects academic curriculum with volunteer work in the community.
Bietz models this attitude of servant leadership in many ways, including tenure as a board member for a variety of local institutions. Arts Build, Better Business Bureau, Chattanooga Rotary Club, Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, and Memorial Hospital have all benefited from Bietz’s professional input over the years.
Reflecting on his time at Southern, Bietz summarizes the driving force behind so many years of commitment to the thousands of students who have come to campus under his guard seeking personal and spiritual growth.
“When students ask me for advice I have just three words: love your neighbor. I don’t think we have even begun to grasp the depth of those words and put them into practical application in our everyday lives,” Bietz said. “If we loved as Jesus loved, and sought what was best for others rather than ourselves, we could truly change the world!”
The university’s Board of Trustees has a committee dedicated to the nationwide search for Southern’s next president and expects that process to be completed before Bietz retires in 2016.