Charismatic, outgoing, and a quick mind are all attributes of Derek Halvorson, President of Providence Christian College. His background and credentials may be a little unconventional for a typical college president, but for Providence, a better fit would be hard to find.
When looking at colleges to attend for his bachelor’s degree, President Halvorson admired the fact that at Covenant College on Lookout Mountain in Georgia, students seemed to value their Christian calling and how that related to the renewing of their mind. Discussions that had begun in the classroom often continued into the dorms. This was in stark contrast to other colleges he had visited where he was asked to work the keg at a frat mixer. The experiences he took away from the smaller college setting stuck with him, even as he worked towards his master’s and doctorate degrees at larger, educational institutions. From the time he was an undergraduate, he desired to teach history and possibly become a college professor. “Part of the reason why I wanted to be a college professor is I had missed being involved in the incredibly important college years,” he said. “I had always wanted to be involved in those conversations.”
After completing his education, he was called into the financial world for a few years before deciding to work on his master’s degree in Reformation history at the University of Arizona. He then went on to Loyola University Chicago to earn his doctorate in history where he focused on sixteenth-century Carthusian monks.
President Halvorson became Providence’s second president last year. Eventually, he plans on teaching courses at Providence. In fact, this was part of the plan from his start with the college, unfortunately, the move to Pasadena changed these plans temporarily. He feels that serving as both president and teacher is important to demonstrate the type of college Providence is. Halvorson elaborated, “It would say something to the world about who we are as an institution – we are a teaching institution – that is our primary goal.”
His wife, Wendy, had some apprehensions about her husband’s previous desire to leave his job in Chicago to study medieval history, since she associated people who liked studying medieval history with jousters and those who walk around in renaissance clothing. In contrast, he saw himself in a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and a pipe. While working on his dissertation on the Cartesian monks, he doubled as a stay at home dad for their two children while Wendy worked full time. He reflects that it was good for him to be able to step into her shoes and experience what it is like to be a stay at home parent.
President Halvorson has been a welcomed addition to the Providence staff. Ryan McIlhenny, professor of history at Providence said of Halvorson, “I’ve known a lot of college presidents and Derek has a genuineness about him. He’s sincerely interested in faculty, staff, and students.” When asked about unique aspects that President Halvorson brings to Providence, Dr. McIlhenny stated, “[Halvorson] can carry a conversation on theology or history and then immediately shift to discussing finances. The best thing about Derek is that he is an adroit scholar and businessman.”
Looking back at all the places he has worked and studied, the choices he felt called to make did not always make perfect sense at the time they were made. After seeing how God has blessed him at Providence, however, President Halvorson can clearly see God’s sovereignty along the way in bringing him to Providence.