Erskine welcomes Paul Kooistra as president

Posted on July 18, 2014

Kooistras for news

Dr. Paul Kooistra, left, and his wife Sandi

The Rev. William S. Cain, chairman of the Erskine Board of Trustees, announced today that Dr. Paul Kooistra of Suwannee, Ga., has been appointed president of Erskine College and Theological Seminary.

“I am thrilled to have Dr. Paul Kooistra as president and part of the Erskine family,” Cain said. “He is a time-tested leader who lives out his life with grace and humility before the Lord.”

Kooistra, who has headed Mission to the World (MTW), an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America, since 1994, previously served for nearly a decade as president of Covenant Theological Seminary in Creve Coeur, Mo. He has gained a reputation for transformational leadership in challenging circumstances.

His experience in the field of higher education has included service on the faculties of Belhaven College, Reformed School of Education, and Reformed Theological Seminary. Earlier in his career, he served two pastorates in Florida and was principal of a Christian day school.

Kooistra announced plans to step back from his longtime leadership role at Mission to the World about a year ago.

Praising Kooistra as “a man who has wonderfully served Christ’s church in numerous capacities with great ability and deep humility,” President Emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary Dr. Bryan Chapell said, “He has been a youth pastor, a minister of Christian education, a preacher, a Christian school leader, a professor, a mission leader, an author, a friend to many—and a leader of remarkable courage and insight when we most needed it.”

Dr. George W. Robertson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Ga., has known Kooistra for nearly 30 years as “professor, pastor, president, boss, friend, and spiritual father” and offered his enthusiastic endorsement.

“I cannot think of any finer or more effective leader for your post than Paul,” he said. “The secret to Paul’s leadership genius is not so much organizational prowess —though he has that—as it is the theology of the Cross.”

Interim Presidential Search Committee Chair Bobby McDonald noted that Kooistra had been consulted concerning Erskine Seminary’s Augusta campus. “Dr. Kooistra was mentioned early in our search due to his prior involvement with Erskine,” he said.

“Looking at the list of qualities we sought in a candidate, Paul Kooistra was quickly identified as a contender for the position,” McDonald explained. “As we studied, met, and dialogued with Dr. Kooistra and his wife, Sandi, it became evident his knowledge of Erskine and academic leadership would serve the college as well.”

The search committee presented Kooistra to the trustees, and the Board of Trustees met with him July 17-18 to discuss priorities for what was expected to be an interim presidency.

“As we got to know Dr. Kooistra and his skill set better, and as he got to know more about what Erskine needed, it became apparent to both parties that there was an opportunity for him to do more for Erskine than we originally conceived,” Board Chairman William Cain said.

The executive committee recommended that Kooistra be named sixteenth president rather than interim president, making a motion to the full board. “The board agreed it was the right move for Erskine,” Cain said.

The vote was unanimous.

Asked about his plans for his tenure as president of Erskine College and Theological Seminary, Kooistra revealed his reliance on God’s providence and his willingness to listen to others.

“As I begin to work at Erskine, the only goals I have set for myself are to depend on the Lord and pray that He will lead me and the institution; to listen and get as much advice as I can from those who are already involved in the institution as to what we need to do and where we need to begin; and finally, to begin to take the necessary steps to move Erskine forward,” he said.

Faculty and staff members attended a luncheon with Kooistra in Moffatt Dining Hall Friday.