Messiah College names Kim Phipps as its eighth president
With a history of service at Messiah College, President Kim Phipps provides leadership and inspiration for the future of the College.
On December 14, Eunice F. Steinbrecher, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced that Kim S. Phipps would become the eighth president of Messiah College
“The Board of Trustees believes Dr. Phipps brings exceptional gifts to the presidency and is confident in her ability to provide strong leadership to the College,” she said. “Dr. Phipps has a proven record of excellent academic and administrative leadership at Messiah College and is deeply committed to the College’s mission.” Phipps brings 19 years of teaching and leadership experience in Christian higher education to her presidency.
“I am privileged to be asked to serve as president of Messiah College,” said Phipps. “I am committed to strengthening Messiah’s reputation as a national leader in higher education. I’m looking forward to working with Messiah’s remarkable students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and community friends to fulfill the College’s mission.”
The Messiah community responded enthusiastically to news of Phipps’ presidency, a reflection of the support Phipps enjoys across campus. “As we reflect on and celebrate the appointment of Dr. Kim Phipps as president of Messiah College, I have been struck by the response of most people. There is an overwhelming joy and enthusiasm that Kim received the job,” Scott Kieffer, associate professor of exercise physiology, said in a January 11 chapel service.
Student body president Adrian J. Harrington shares Kieffer’s exuberance. “Kim is very student focused,” he says. “What sets her apart from many other presidents at other academic institutions is that she makes the effort to get involved in the personal lives of students. She does not just do it while the cameras are around but many times when no one is around. . . . This is the reason why the students were overjoyed when Kim Phipps was announced to be Messiah’s next president.”
Serving as interim president since July of 2004, Phipps first earned the esteem and trust of senior administrators, faculty, students, and staff through her work as academic dean from 1998–2000 and as provost from 2000–2004. During her combined tenure in those two roles, Phipps’ accomplishments included:
- Leading a successful restructuring of the College, including the recruitment and appointment of five school deans
- Serving as co-leader of the task force to redesign the College’s governance structure
- Giving significant leadership to the educational program review, which has resulted in a first-year core curriculum and co-curriculum that is holistic, student-centered, and focused on the College’s mission and identity
- Co-authoring a $2 million grant from The Lilly Endowment and serving as project director for that award, which has enabled students and colleagues to pursue programming related to understanding and discovering Christian vocation
- Providing leadership to the Micah Project Committee, which seeks to address campus issues related to diversity
The campus community has already begun to welcome the first woman president in Messiah’s history through a series of special gatherings in January, including a lively Community of Educators’ reception, which featured a rousing employee vocal ensemble rendition of “You’ve Got Hospitality” (to the tune of “You’ve Got Personality,” in recognition that hospitality will be a hallmark of her presidency); a celebration chapel highlighted by reflections of what comes to people’s minds when they think of Kim Phipps; and a staff and administrators’ dessert reception abounding in well wishes and casual conversations with the president. At another festivity, a student ice cream social with the president, Dede Debrah ’05 related, “When I found out that Dr. Phipps was our new president it was one of those moments where I was really proud to be at Messiah. I have known her for a while. . . . I am thrilled that she is leading us now.” This spring, a slate of yearlong inauguration events will be unveiled, culminating in an inauguration ceremony during the Homecoming 2005 weekend.
Phipps began her term of service immediately following the board’s announcement. She succeeds the late Rodney J. Sawatsky
, who served as Messiah’s president for ten years before retiring in June 2004 due to illness. The College’s presidential search committee, chaired by Eunice F. Steinbrecher, conducted a national search for a new president beginning in March 2004 that generated what Steinbrecher characterized as an “impressive and competitive applicant pool.”
During the application process, Kim Phipps, along with all other presidential candidates, was asked what characteristics she thought an exceptional leader should have and how she demonstrates each quality. Her adapted responses provide a window into her dynamic leadership philosophy.
Great leaders must have a high degree of competence. They must also be able to identify and shore up their weaknesses. In addition to learning from her colleague, Rodney Sawatsky, Kim also currently meets regularly with another respected college president to continue her professional development, which already includes 19 years’ experience in Christian higher education.
A leader must exhibit commitment to the vision of an organization. Kim has always been captivated by and committed to Messiah’s unique identity and mission in higher education.
A leader should understand that communication is both an art and a science. As interim president, Kim worked to foster good communication through “Pizza with the Prez,” Open Door Days
, and campuswide e-mails and updates. As president, she will continue these practices and look for additional opportunities to cultivate a campus environment of open communication.
Effective leaders openly demonstrate their compassion toward others. As College president, Kim will solicit and carefully listen to input from the campus community so that she can better understand their ideas and concerns.
Leaders need the courage to stand firm when pressured to go against their values or against what is best for the institution. Kim stays mindful of a conversation she had in which she asked David Vader, associate professor of engineering, what characteristic he would look for in an academic dean. “Courage,” he said. As president, Kim will continue to be an advocate for the growth and development of educators, students, employees, and programs while remaining committed to the overall health of the institution.