Southern Adventist University President Gordon Bietz Will Retire in 2016

(Spectrumbot) #1

In a release on the Southern Adventist University website today, Dr. Gordon Bietz announced plans to retire in 2016 after what will have been his 19th year as president. He revealed his plan to retire at the end of next school year to the SAU Board of Trustees earlier in the day.

“In a sense there is never a right time to transition away from a place you love this much, because there is always more you’ve dreamt of accomplishing” Bietz said. “But I also want to leave at a time when the university is in a strong position for new leadership.”

During Bietz's tenure as president, Southern has enjoyed steady enrollment growth and financial stability. According to the release, both enrollment and the university’s budget doubled with Bietz at the helm. Writing on Southern's website, editorial director Lucas Patterson noted,

Nearly $80 million in construction projects were completed during his tenure to accommodate that growth, including Southern Village apartment complex, Hulsey Wellness Center, and Florida Hospital Hall, home to the School of Nursing. Plans are underway for $28 million student center, and Bietz said he would like to witness the groundbreaking on that project before his retirement next year.

Bietz's contributions were not only administrative, but also theological. Biets was instrumental in the first coming together of the Adventist Theological Society and the Adventist Society for Religious Studies in 1998, and chaired the North American Division Theology of Ordination Biblical Research Committee from 2010 to 2013.

Before accepting the position as president at Southern, Bietz pastored the Collegedale Church of Seventh-day Adventists and served as president of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. He has also served on the boards of many local institutions, including Arts Build, Better Business Bureau, Chattanooga Rotary Club, Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra, and Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga.

Asked about the counsel he provides, Bietz sounds as pastoral as presidential: "When students ask me for advice I have just three words: love your neighbor. I don’t think we have begun to grasp the depth of those words and put them into practical application in our everyday lives,” Bietz said. “If we loved as Jesus loved, and sought what was best for others rather than ourselves, we could truly change the world!”

Southern Adventist University stated that its Board of Trustees has appointed a committee dedicated to a nationwide search for a successor, and expects to complete the search process before Bietz retires in 2016.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


except for the last two years when enrollment dropped each year. Hopefully an outsider will be brought in with a board mandate to break up the culture of nepotism which keeps the institution from making needed structural changes. Dr Bietz has served admirably and with distinction but I look forward to a fresh approach resulting in the resumption of growth and improvement at SAU.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

As an academy student at old EMC I delivered the daily paper to the R.R. Bietz door each day. I later served on the LLU board with R. r. Bietz. to imagine his son retiring WOW. great family. a brother is a physician in Oregon. To survive in the Collegedale climate for over 19 years is a feat of political courage and or skill. Tom Z

(2nd Opinion) #4

That’s pretty much reflects a nationwide higher education trend. Adventist higher education is heading into their “seven lean years” (and perhaps more).


Maybe you could explain this.

(Randle Patrick) #6

Back in the day SMC was a banana peel away from going away.

Demographics changed and Bietz was at the right place at the right time.

Demographics, old boy network, and nepotism was considered serviceable by the McKee family…

As noted above Adventist higher education is not immune to the changes that are and will be occurring in SdA and the real world higher education.

Right time to ride off to the sunset


My first impression from personal experience is that the Southern does not treat the students as customers. The students are just sources of income to be milked to subsidize and maintain the inefficient operating structure that is not unique to Southern. Southern Village is nothing more than over priced housing built to serve an ever increasingly captive market who are required to live on campus sometimes through their Senior Year based on a formula which keeps changing based on the occupancy rate of on campus housing. The dorm rooms at Southern are smaller than your average SDA boarding academy dorm room. Students who have spent the four years in boarding academy are not excited about forcibly spending 4 more years in over priced dorm rooms that are even smaller than they had at academy. I would not list Southern Village as an accomplishment. A private operator could have built the same structures for less and made a profit charging a fraction of what Southern charges. Southern uses the surplus from the excessive housing and food service charges to maintain its bloated staff. A staff of which many share the same last names and or are extended family of other staff members. Southern’s enrollment is good the freshman year but drops off as students experience the reality and seek out more attractive options. All of this said, I think the situation can be turned around. Southern has relied on being the best Adventist option but a more discerning education consumer is finding that Southern may not be the best option.

(Richard Ludders) #8

I would beg to differ with you about the Southern Village. I have twin daughters who graduate in May both with a BS in nursing. They have lived in the Southern Village apartments for the past two years with two other roommates. The apartments are quality constructed two bedrooms, with a large kitchen and living dining area. Also included is a large laundry room with washer and dryer. Each apartment also has a large storage area for bicycles etc. Included in the rent are all utilities and internet. They and their friends love the apartments over the dorm rooms which are not as bad as you make them out to be. The cost is $4,000.00 per student for the school year(ten months).

apparently you have not checked the rent of the nearest similar apartments on Little Debbie Parkway. Southern village is a bargain in comparison. In addition the students don’t have to drive to the school from Southern Village which is a cost savings and the fitness center which my daughters use everyday is a short walking distance away.

Apparently from your comments you have some sort of “axe” to grind as I, as a parent, am in complete disagreement with your observations about Southern Village.


$400 ea for two kids to share one room is not the question. 4 kids sharing 2 bedrooms and a common area equates to Southern receiving $1600 per mo. per 2 bedroom apartment which is in fact more expensive than the two bedroom apartments nearby that you refer too. I am glad your experience was satisfactory. I do not have an axe to grind except that I believe in the free market and as enrollment continues to decline, Southern raises the requirements to qualify to live off campus forcing students even sometimes in their Sr. year to live in student housing. Many students have to work to support themselves and do not have parents whose employer provides them a huge subsidy to attend Southern and an even higher subsidy if they live in student housing. These students work in town many at area hospitals a long drive from Southern. Many Sr. nursing students, after they complete their A.S. are now electing to complete their B.S. through Florida Hospital online at a reduced rate rather than continue at Southern. I think it is time to find out how to make it work for the students and treat them like adults.

(Elaine Nelson) #10

My granddaughter, finishing her sophomore year in charter schoo in northern California, recently visited PUC, attended two classes, spent the night with a college student and traveled the campus. She loved the beautiful campus and the small student-to-teacher ratio.

She will also be visiting U.C. Davis and other CSU campuses. Having never attended SdA schools she was quite impressed with all she saw.

(Richard Ludders) #11

The drive is immaterial. If the working student lived in town close to work, the drive to Southern would be the same distance as the reverse. Last I checked, my daughters and their friends have never felt they were not treated as adults. And they both work on campus to help subsidize their expenses. What is your source of information? Do you have or have had children who have attended Southern?

(Elaine Nelson) #12

One important consideration: what is the cost comparison for an SDA college boarding student, plus housing and all the extras, as compared to public universities living at home? Not a minor concern for parents.

(Richard Ludders) #13

If cost was the only concern you have a point. And that is something that each student and family have to work out. On a cost basis I believe Adventist universities are in the middle of the road when comparing to other private institutions.

My wife and I have been so pleased with Southern that if we had to do it all over we would still send our daughters there again, regardless of the cost.

(Elaine Nelson) #14

But all parents cannot make a choice regardless of cost

(George Tichy) #15

Have you ever heard of La Sierra University?
It’s like a paradise!!! :slight_smile:

(Richard Ludders) #16

I graduated from LSU in 1962 and then LLU in dentistry in 1966. I and and three other partners developed the Riverside Dental Group on Magnolia near Arlington Avenue in 1973. From 1966 to 1973 I practiced in Arlington on Magnolia avenue near Van Buren next to a bank. Sold my partnership in 1988 and spent six years in the Caribbean and then ten years in Saipan operating dental clinics for the church mission program. Retired in 2006.


Yes, I have had children and still have children attending Southern. I have excellent sources of information, I know board members, donors, staff members, faculty, students, alumni. I have a unique vantage point from which to obtain information and to draw an independent unbiased conclusions from this the information. I am predicting a major shakeup in the way Southern operates. Its long term survival is at stake. Two consecutive years of enrollment decline cannot be allowed to continue.