On Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, Pacific Union College announced that Heather Knight will bring her presidency to an end as of Jan. 8. 2017. She became the college’s 21st president in September 2009.
In the official announcement of her resignation, it was noted that on her watch the school had its highest enrollment in 24 years in 2013, when 1678 students were registered. However, the last two years have seen enrollment decline, and the college has struggled to meet its budget. This year’s decline created a projected budget deficit of $4.3 million. Discussions were underway on how to make an 8% decrease in expenses on top of a hiring freeze that went into effect at the end of last year on all non-critical positions.
Knight offered her resignation now to give the Board time to conduct a search for a new president in a timely manner before the next school year.
Knight was further known for her efforts to beautify and to renovate the campus, and several major campus renovation projects including the Dining Commons and Campus Center, the Nelson Memorial Library, the Enrollment Office, as well as the lobbies of Winning, Grainger, and Newton Halls were all completed under her tenure as president, according to the college’s press release.
“President Knight led Pacific Union College enthusiastically and courageously during some challenging years, and PUC is stronger and better positioned for the future because of her leadership,” says PUC Board Chairperson Dr. Bradford Newton. “Among her many achievements, her work in strategic planning and implementation, along with her distinctive focus on the Adventist Advantage has proved to be a special blessing to the campus. Also, under her tenure, PUC received the single largest cash gift in its 134-year history in the amount of $2.6 million, which helped to significantly launch the current Heritage Campaign. Plans for preserving almost 900 acres of the College’s pristine forest lands through a Conservation Easement have also been developed during President Knight’s administration.”
Earlier this year the Board conducted a comprehensive presidential assessment. In May, Dr. Newton wrote to PUC College Community Members saying the Creedo consultants who had conducted the assessment, had made recommendations for a Presidential Leadership Action Plan.
During the assessment process, surveys were done with multiple groups about the president’s performance. Students, faculty, alumni, staff, and community members were all questioned about her performance.
Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.
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And why with one month notice in the middle of an academic year? This is not normal, meaning that where there is this kind of smoke there is fire! However, when almost the entire faculty of a significant college department resigns (some of whom have taught at PUC for decades) within a couple of years and the president states something like “they can all be replaced” I believe there is reason for concern. Those who resigned under Dr. Knight’s leadership were highly successful and respected. Many students and influential alumni are not happy about this, and seem to have been ignored. Perhaps Dr. Knight ignored what PUC was/is for too long and insisted on taking change further than the institution could tolerate. Did her success in purging ultimately cause irreparable damage to her leadership? And perhaps there have been other failures in Dr. Knight’s leadership.
Three generations of my family have graduated from PUC, and I spent years on the faculty there. I was concerned when Dr. Knight was appointed because she had no background with which to understand the organizational culture or history of the College or its community. PUC is not the University of the Pacific or Andrews University. To neither be an alumnus of PUC or have served a similar Adventist institution may have been a mutual liability for she and the College.
I wish Dr. Knight the very best in her future, and believe that she sincerely did the best she knew how. Now I pray that skilled new leadership for this unique, beautiful College will be found soon.
P.S. - I know PUC and Walla Walla very well having taught at both. To say that PUC is more liberal than the other two (WWU and LSU) Western Adventist schools can only be an incorrect assumption by someone who has no first-hand acquaintance with the institutions. Adventist higher education as a whole is suffering from the declining dedication of Adventist members and pastors. More and more I see Adventists attending institutions of public education that are far less expensive.
WHY is this topic not in the Lounge where we can actually discuss it?
I’m sure Heather Knight thought she was doing the best she could, but I saw firsthand how she did not prioritize the faculty nor the students. I, myself, attended PUC during the early years of her administration and when I needed her help with a serious personal and legal issue, she was nowhere to be found. She was unreachable by phone or in person when I needed her most. I am not surprised to hear in the past year that several faculty have resigned under her tenure, I saw my beloved business department fall apart in the years following my graduation. Unfortunately, despite the good memories I had in college, the last few years left a bitter taste in my mouth and I will never send any donation or support to Pacific Union College.
Good authority that this only the begining with layofs around corner. Years of declining enrollment and liberal perception. White flight, and lack of awareness on part of “tolerant” faculty. Chickens will come home to roost when tens and tens of teachers are laid off. Heather Knight only first of many heads to roll so celebrations of her departure are naive. I wont donate until PUC gets its house in order, wont be pretty.
Having attended myself in the 80’s and had children graduate from PUC less then 2 years ago, I have to state I personally was very pleased with the direction she took the school just before my children attended there. She had to make hard decision and you can never please everyone when you are in that position. I personally felt she brought back a level of spirituality and campus unity that had been seriously lacking not 3 years before. It was only after the recommendation of a student we knew well that was several years ahead of daughters that we encouraged our daughters to consider PUC. Their experience was one of bright fulfillment and great achievement. They LOVE their time at PUC and miss the wonderful campus life there now that they are at Loma Linda in professional programs. Heather Knight turned PUC’s direction around from the slow degradation of a SDA Christian school on its way to becoming like any other worldly university, back to traditional SDA values. I personally know this caused waves among several liberal departments. So be it- she did what needed to be done, while carefully balancing students needs for open expression. She will be missed by our family.
i think this means that the board received many complaints about heather knight’s leadership as president of PUC…
i think this means that the surveys done during the assessment process about heather knight’s performance were overwhelmingly negative…
i don’t think there can be any question that heather knight is resigning under duress, however positively her accomplishments are being framed…likely her very positive persona during the academic freedom kerfuffle, involving aubyn fulton’s decision to invite ryan bell, was a front for a deepening realization that she had become isolated beyond recovery, and that there was nothing that she could do to reverse the momentum of opinion against her…if this is true, her resignation ought to be viewed as an example of good instincts…there is something to be said for knowing when to fold 'em, and move on…
but the broader issue i sense is what may be driving TW to attempt to shut down PUC, the union, ostensibly over it’s unilateral decision to ordain women…conservative opinion i have seen is overwhelmingly negative with respect to the direction PUC, the college, and in fact PUC, the union, have taken…the common complaint is that neither PUC is recognizably adventist anymore…if it is the case that heather knight’s resignation is really a demonstration that all versions of adventism are not compatible, it may be a canary in the coal mine indication of PUC, the union’s, future in GC adventism, and any GC adventist’s future in PUC…in other words, WO may not really be what was behind annual council’s october 11 compliance vote…it may be that basic incompatibilities in understandings of what it means to be adventist is what’s driving things, in which case the stand-off between the GC and pro-WO elements takes on an existential dimension, which in turn means any resolution will not be achieved easily, if it is achievable in the first place…
heather knight’s decision to fold 'em, and move on, may yet be the decision for larger entities in our church…
Yes, difficult times again for PUC. I certainly wish Dr. Knight well in her future endeavors. I’m guessing that UOP might be glad to have her back. I think she did well there for a number of years. And, BTW, UOP is a very good school. I attended there in the mid-1960s, after some time at PUC. In fact, I graduated from there in JAN 1967–wow! Almost 50 years ago. Then I continued in a graduate program in psychology there. Those were great years for me. I learned a lot, in life changing ways.
I found PUC to be a place where I was constantly in turmoil–conflicted over whether to choose blind faith and authoritarianism or to follow evidence where it led. At UOP I learned much about epistemology and values and scientific methods, and I chose a career in science. I finished up my training in biological psychology at UC Davis and did a research post-doc at University of Washington. While I loved the campus at PUC and many of the students and faculty, it was a great relief to move on to communities that were relatively free of deliberate distortion and ignorance. You know, teaching young earth creationism is teaching error as truth. If that is what SDA institutions including PUC teach, as has pretty much always been the case, they cannot be sustainable on intellectual terms.
A nice enough person, but I didn’t think she was qualified from the get-go. The buildings and campus are well-kept and beautiful, the entrances are redecorated, but go further in and many aging buildings are sadly but predictably getting shabby. The conservation easement will certainly protect the college from further encroachment of the vineyard crowd, but that horse is out of the barn, and selling off some of that land could have helped the faculty housing crisis in Angwin (who can afford to live there??). And then there was the Barbie-doll hair…
Great question, Winona, what is “a bleeding-heart liberal?” I have asked myself the same question. Also, why is that term such a pejorative? If one actually contemplates it, Jesus in his day was not only a “Liberal” but also a “Socialist.” He was gentle, open minded, tender, loving, kind and generous, and he dearly loved those disregarded by society–women, children, the poor, the wretched, the weak, lepers and the mentally ill, and he cared for all of those that were rejected by their shared society. I am happy to be known as a Liberal, as well as a Socialist, for Jesus’ sake.
You need to ask @JaredWright for admission to the lounge then it will show up as an item in the menu under Categories.
(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13)
Would it be likely to criticize publicly a male president’s comb-over or other hair style?
What an individual says in self-effacing humor is different than what’s appropriate for others to say about a person, IMO. My concern is that in critiquing a person’s competency as administrator it’d be unlikely for a man’s physical appearance to be mentioned, but somehow gets a pass regarding a woman’s.
I went to PUC as an undergrad in the early '80’s. Loved the campus isolation, made great friends, met my now wife - hey, isn’t that really why you go to a church college?
But found that when certain items are dogmatic and can’t be questioned it stifles all other sorts of academic thought. So as Jr. I transferred to a State University, where I found you could think or say anything you wanted, but few people did because they weren’t engaged and rarely thought. A big change from 1,300 student body to 37,000. In the end I probably like my PUC time more, but educationally got more out of my State school time.
The battle between “liberal” and “conservative” SDA’s (that’s not really good descriptive terms for the differences) are ongoing and as someone else noted, that the vote regarding women’s ordination may in fact simply be a symptom of the schisms that Adventism faces rather than the primary issue.