Southern Adventist University Considers David C. Smith to Succeed President Gordon Bietz

Southern Adventist University’s Presidential Search Committee is vetting David C. Smith, the senior pastor of the Collegedale Seventh-day Adventist Church and former president of Union College, as its candidate for university president. The Southern Accent, the university’s student newspaper, broke the news on Friday, January 29. Southern is looking for a successor to President Gordon Bietz, who announced in April 2015 that he would retire this year after nineteen years as president. Smith served as president of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1998 to 2011, when he accepted a call to Collegedale to serve as that church's senior pastor.

According to the Accent article, Southern's search committee selected Dave Smith on January 11th. Prior to that, Walla Walla University president John McVay had been selected as a candidate, but after visiting the campus and meeting with stakeholders, he declined the position.

According to sources familiar with Andrews University’s presidential search, McVay was also invited to consider Andrews, and also declined. Andrews University is searching for a replacement for outgoing president Niels-Erik Andreasen.

Southern Adventist University has contracted with faith-based search firm FaithSearch Partners, based in Houston, TX, to oversee the search process.

Following the committee’s selection of Dave Smith as its candidate, Smith visited the campus last Thursday and Friday to meet with stakeholders. According to Southern’s marketing department editorial manager Lucas Patterson, Smith spent two very full days talking with faculty members, department chairs, deans and students. Smith did not have to travel far for the campus visit. As pastor of the university’s church, Smith is already a familiar face on the Southern campus.

After Smith’s on-campus meetings, the search committee will collect written feedback from stakeholders before making a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board hopes to make a formal invitation by mid-February, Patterson said.

President Bietz plans to spend a transitional period working alongside his successor before moving to a new role as director of the Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities, the Accent reported.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

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Technically McVay asked that his name be removed as a candidate after visiting Southern. He had not been offered the position.


Correct. It is our understanding that the university is considering only one candidate at a time. McVay was the first to be considered. After he withdrew his name, Smith was the next candidate put forth by the search committee.

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Are there THAT few persons in the Denomination to select from, that ONLY one at a time person is considered? And they dont have a handful of applications to consider and people to interview?
From that view point, it seems the Denomination is in trouble.
Southern is in Trouble!
Southern is a great University. On the other hand, I dont know how much MONEY talks, and how much MONEY limits the “hands” of the President in doing what that person might like to do.
When I was there as a commuting student in '82, '83 I saw what Money did to the Theology Department.
One of the wives was a lab partner of mine in the BSN program.

Edit-- Pago-- I dont believe President McVay was asked. It sounded like he made a trip to Southern to look it over, talk to a number of people. It sounded like he did this on his own fact finding trip, not on Southern’s dime.
I for one am pleased that he decided Southern was not for him. He is doing a great service to Walla Walla and it would be a severe loss to that University should he leave.
Although ---- we do need some one LIKE HIM at Southern.


[quote=“niteguy2, post:4, topic:10350”]
Are there THAT few persons in the Denomination to select from, that ONLY one at a time person is considered? And they dont have a handful of applications to consider and people to interview?From that view point, it seems the Denomination is in trouble.
[/quote]I was thinking the very same things, Steve. It seems that the pool of qualified candidates is small indeed. Doesn’t look promising for the future.


Southern being Southern (conservative) and John McVay being president of Walla Walla (the opposite of conservative), I wonder why they considered him in the first place.

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The decisions in selecting presidents that are being made in several SDA colleges and universities, are as important as any of the major decisions that we make in our church. The main question facing the college trustees is, do they truly desire to move to greater excellence? To rely on outsourcing a major decision such as who to name as a leader is not a good sign. To consult is fine but to have them “oversee” is a sad failure on the part of the trustees.

Southern Adventist University Considers David C. Smith to Succeed President Gordon Bietz 1 February 2016, Jared Wright said: “Southern Adventist University has contracted with faith-based search firm FaithSearch Partners, based in Houston, TX, to oversee the search process.”

Is this task being outsourced? I hope not!

Some time ago I was asked to serve on a presidential search committee for a small private college. I learned a lot from this experience. Here are ten suggestions for any of our colleges.

  1. In academia trustees must seek out good candidates; there is no readymade supply on which to draw. They need not despair, however; if they pursue their search thoroughly, intelligently, and are not rushed.
  2. Trustees are in a better position to name the right person than is the faculty or the present college administration. Provided they have been wise trustees, they have been in touch with the whole range of presidential functions and can estimate the diverse capacities required.
  3. The retiring incumbent can help by urging his board to begin looking for a new man long enough in advance to assure a smooth transition.
  4. The less responsibility/input the incumbent has for selecting a successor, even one who turns out to be an excellent choice, the happier he will probably be afterward
  5. The selection of a new president has to be undertaken most frequently by those boards who have done the poorest jobs.
  6. Wise trustees approach the task with much prayer, consultation with a broad base, and some trepidation.
  7. Attractive candidates seem to be few in number, difficult to discover; and indices of future success - let alone past success - are hard to identify and even harder to evaluate.
  8. The trustees’ roster of possibilities always includes the names of presidents of other colleges or universities.
  9. A clear decision on whether they as a board are willing to make massive personal efforts to raise funds to implement their hopes for the institution or whether they expect to unload this burden onto the president.
  10. Do they want to change the direction and quality of the institution’s growth?

It is a difficult task!

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True, Steve Mga. At Southern the “cookie man” controls the religion dept with his money. I would never want to be president of Southern in its present condition.


Seems like it was a similar type of dysfunctional set up back in the days of Jerry Gladson. A case of the more things change, the more they remain the same? I hope not.




For certain positions where the candidates are highly visible/well known, it is not uncommon to extend an offer to one person at a time. This lets the candidate know that the job is his/hers if he/she wants it and that it is not a “competition” that the candidate must “win”. It might be that the candidate’s positive response to an offer is facilitated without the stress of having one’s name placed “in a hat” and knowing that, should the college make a different choice, that loss might reflect poorly on one’s reputation. At the point of the offer, the vetting of the candidate has already been done by the search committee. The committee has already decided that the particular candidate would be a good choice.

The extending of an offer to one candidate at a time is also a common practice in ministry where a search committee is allowing the Holy Spirit (ideally) to direct their search toward a single candidate. This process avoids the appearance of the “luck of the draw” (the reliance upon “chance”) and the spirit of competition. Although there are some people who don’t like this method (for various reasons, perhaps “good” reasons), there are others who insist upon it. There might be appeals to scriptural precedent for this method, such as any instances where God calls specific individuals rather than instituting an electoral process, etc.

  • Never vote for the best president, vote for the one who will do the least harm.
  • A president who found SAU brick and leave it marble.
  • A president with good sense of humor who gets what’s left over after the football coach is paid off.
  • Outsourced? unlikely. We loved our American football. A president from Dubai would find green football field not worthy of flattery.
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