FPU President D. Merrill Ewert hands baton to new president
By Connie Faber
President Menjares was handed the baton of leadership and then began his tenure as Fresno Pacific University president surrounded by USMB leaders who prayed for him and his wife.
Pete Menjares, Ph.D., the newly appointed president of Fresno Pacific University, got a literal hand-off from retiring President D. Merrill Ewert July 28 during the university’s report at Conection 2012, the USMB biennial delegate convention.
Ewert told the audience that when he announced his retirement, FPU trustee Scott Leonard spoke with Ewert about his understanding of organizational leadership as a relay race in which various people take turns carrying the baton. Leonard encouraged Ewert to “run hard right up to the end” and to prepare for the handoff—“to make it easy for my successor to grab the baton and run with it.”
Ewert quoted Leonard as saying, “As you come to the end of your final lap your successor will have to catch up with you and take the baton. When he or she has it firmly in hand, then and only then are you free to step off the track.”
Ewert showed the crowd the relay baton he had secured for the occasion: a FPU Sunbirds baton inscribed with Hebrews 12:1: “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Calling Menjares to the stage, Ewert handed him the baton. Menjares took it and folded Ewert in a long hug. Then as Ewert left the platform, he tossed the new president the office keys.
In his comments, Menjares said that he and his wife, Virginia, believe that everything in their lives had prepared them for this responsibility.
Following Menjares’ remarks, Gary Wall, Pacific District Conference minister, called a number of people to the stage, including Ewert and his wife Priscilla and Ricky Sanchez, FPU alum and a missionary to Thailand with MB Mission, and Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, who along with Wall prayed for Menjares and his wife.
For the past two months, Menjares has been familiarizing himself with people, programs and structures on the university campus and with community leaders.
“This is a very unusual opportunity for an incoming president, and I’ve made good use of the chance to get to know the organization and community,” Menjares told FPU editor Wayne Steffen prior to the convention. “My thanks to Merrill Ewert for his graciousness and generosity.”
Among his first goals as president, Menjares will start work on a new five-year strategic plan. The present plan covered from 2006-2011. “Strategic plans are vital to any organization as large and complex as FPU,” Menjares said to Steffen. “I look forward to bringing together those with a stake in the university to chart how we will carry our mission, vision and values into the future.”
Menjares received his doctorate in education:language, literacy and learning fromthe University of Southern California in 1998. His master of arts in education: teaching and curriculum is from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and his bachelor of arts in religion: pastoral ministries is from Vanguard University. For the last 18 years, Menjares has been a teacher and administrator at Biola University, most recently serving as Vice Provostfor Faculty Development and Academic Effectiveness.
A Council for Christian Colleges and Universities conference presenter and consultant on intercultural competencies, Menjares is a senior fellow in the Leadership Development Institute, a program dedicated to helping emerging leaders explore their vocational call in CCCU institutions. He has also been a public school teacher, a licensed minister and a senior pastor.
PHOTOS by CL Staff
Photo 1: Retired president D. Merrill Ewert, (left) who has moved with this wife, Priscilla, to Phoenix, Ariz., stands with FPU president Pete Menjares holding the relay baton inscribed with "Run with endurance, the race that is set before you…." Hebrews 12: 1 and the date of the leadership transition: July 28, 2012.
Photo 2: The relay hand-off was quick, but the embrace between the two FPU leaders was extended.
Photo 3: Pete and Virginia Menjares, center, are surrounded by Mennonite Brethren leaders and FPU faculty, staff, board members and alums as USMB executive director Ed Boschman (right) offers a prayer.