Parting Words with Dr. Jonathan Raymond
All the way up the concrete staircase that leads behind the scenes, to the upper echelons of the university, I was nervous. I wanted to give him a chance to share wisdom and help students get behind the maybe forcefully optimistic official statement. He rubs his knees as we sit. His face is warm if tired. Indeed, our president is a model of composure.
Dr. Raymond has been quite the visionary, helping to pull the university through times when optimism has been hard to come by and laying a foundation for its future expansion.
But when I asked him why he was leaving now, in the midst of so much growth, when many of his visions have yet to come to fruition, he was frank.
“Yes, I expected I would have a longer run here, but I have had two very difficult years, health wise. I contracted a pretty good case of rheumatoid arthritis. I asked the rheumatologist, can this be cured? No. Can it be arrested? No. Can it be slowed down? Maybe. What’s it look like eventually? He said, well, you will be in pain everywhere all the time, and I thought, well that’s pretty dismal!”
“That doesn’t sound like much fun!” he chuckles. “But it turns out it’s true. So now, the issue is pain management.” And some cracks, if ever so small, begin to show in his composure, as he searches for words.
“I had a very difficult last spring, all through the summer and into the fall, trying to get on top of this. I think I’m managing the pain pretty well, but it’s very tiring.”
“The point is that this university is so special that it needs a president who has optimal health and lots of energy and my health is not optimal and my energy is compromised and I’m not at the top of my game.”
“It’s better for me to stop out…and for the door to be open for someone else to come in, who hopefully… will continue the mission, will continue the vision, who might respond to some of the ideas I had and continue to carry them out.”
He rubs his knees and I realize that this admission, by its very composure and grace, is indeed a mark of humble, servant leadership.
“What does the next season of life hold? What do you look forward to?” I ask.
“When you drill down on it, I’m an academic,” he replies, constantly composing his words into choice, precise sentences. After doctoral research in cross-cultural psychology took him to Peru, he was wrangled into teaching with less than a day’s notice. Sixteen years of professing, research and writing later, Dr. Raymond moved into more administrative roles for the next two decades.
“I’m looking forward to writing and speaking again…but to do so under the banner of Trinity Western.”
Ever the diplomat, Dr. Raymond desires to use this retirement to be on call for the next president or presidents,” and to make himself “available to be an ambassador for Trinity Western.”
He then jumps at one of my last questions: what advice do you have for students?
“Ninety-percent of success is perseverance. Sometimes the ball has to hit several times before it breaks through the wall.”
About the future of the university, its role in Canadian society, and if we will make it through these troubling times, Dr. Raymond is unwaveringly optimistic.
“We’re going to make it, and very well,” he asserts. In words that would make any business student drool, he cited finding additional markets of students, revenues from property development across Glover Road, estate giving, expanding graduate and doctoral programs, and increasing support from corporations and alumni as “positive indicators that occasion optimism about the future.”
Despite his own pain and the travails of the university over the past few years, Dr. Raymond claims, “I’m now in my 39th year of higher education, and the best seven years have been here at Trinity Western.” His is a well-earned, tempered optimism.
“I feel like…it’s good not to stay too long,” he laughs. I feel I’m finishing up at a time when my stock is in pretty good shape and that’s a good time to go.”