By Billy Bass – Horizon Publicity Manager, News Editor & Kendra Burkey – Horizon Advisor
The Hesston College campus community formally met Interim President Ben Sprunger, Ph.D. during opening weekend festivities last weekend. Sprunger, whose appointment was announced in May, will fill the role until the Presidential Search Committee completes the process of finding Hesston’s ninth president.
For Hesston’s sake, Sprunger and his wife Sue hope that’s a quick process.
“The shorter the better,” Sprunger said. “Not because Sue and I want to leave Hesston. We’re as happy as a lark. But for the college’s sake, interims should be short. For every month an interim continues, it’s another month [the new president] isn’t here to move the college in the way he or she chooses and the board wishes to go.”
And considering the current landscape, moving the college forward is going to be an especially difficult task, Sprunger says.
“We don’t know how it will all come out, but we know a sense of loyalty to the [Mennonite] denomination is weakening, and will probably weaken more substantially,” he said. “That’s going to make it more difficult to track students…In five or 10 years, we don’t know what the Mennonite Church will look like.”
Until then, Sprunger says he’ll hold the next president – whomever they are – in prayer. That’s something he’s used to. In fact, the Sprungers have shared in a number of settings about their prayerful sense of calling to serve Hesston.
“When God calls,” Sprunger has said, “you go.”
And Sprunger’s background in Mennonite organizations and higher education, he’s prepared to serve. Past experiences include serving as President of Bluffton (Ohio) University, CEO of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges and President of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), among others.
Sprunger says his role is different than what some expect. College boards often give the interim president a charge when they come to an institution. This isn’t the case for him.
“The mandate for me was keep the momentum strong,” he said. “There are no new things I have to do. Often an interim is assigned to make changes, or usually to clean up a mess. Howard left no messes. I simply hope to keep up the momentum and excitement here.”