On October 1, 2021, Dr. Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., will be installed into the Presidency of Houghton College, succeeding Dr. Shirley Mullen to become the sixth president in Houghton’s history. Under President Mullen’s 15-year tenure, Houghton has expanded its focus on innovation and research, while simultaneously seeking to become the most affordable Christian college in the nation.

President Lewis hopes to build on that foundation, carrying forward Houghton’s legacy of academic excellence and Christian commitment. During his first year, President Lewis will focus on three goals: (a) growth on Houghton’s residential campus; (b) expansion of Houghton’s work in Buffalo; and, (c) relationship building with students, faculty and staff.  This final objective comes quite naturally to Lewis as an educator.

“I started my education career as a middle-school and high-school teacher,” President Lewis recounted. “And I found that students are much more likely to hear anything you have to say or teach if they first understand and believe that you love them. The very first priority for me with students is getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know me, to see and experience and believe that I love them, and that I have their best interests at heart. For students, I don’t think anything is more important. … They want to know your heart, and you can’t tell them — you have to show them.”

That foundation of care emerges from President Lewis’ vision of Christian higher education as a space in which Christlikeness can find expression in every space, from residence halls to laboratories and cafeteria conversations. “I want Houghton students to be as academically competitive as students from any elite secular institution. If you’re graduating from Houghton, I want you to have the same quality education as if you’re coming out of Yale or Princeton. And as important as it is to provide a high-quality, rigorous education, if you come out of Houghton and don’t know Christ, we haven’t fully achieved our mission.”

A vision of spiritually formative education is one unifying trait of the WE5 schools associated with The Wesleyan Church (TWC); and President Lewis sees TWC’s support as essential to Houghton’s mission. “In our work of evangelism and equipping the saints for ministry, our institutions, including Houghton, have played an incredibly important role in teaching, equipping and discipling for ministry and marketplace multiplication. The church is essential, not just in praying for us, supporting us, and sending students to us, but also supplying faculty, staff, and leaders. There’s an essential place at a Wesleyan institution not just for really high-quality scholars and leaders who could be anywhere, but those who are Wesleyan and Christians whose beliefs align with the positions and doctrines of The Wesleyan Church.”

Reflecting on TWC’s impact on Houghton’s culture, Lewis cited the Marketplace Multipliers’ movement, noting how these leaders offer a picture of how curriculum and campus life can prepare students to serve as leaders of the spiritual climate within their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and social circles. “Those roles and those believers have the extraordinary opportunity to carry the gospel message with them in their places of work, in the places they serve, to multiply disciples in their organizations, businesses and communities,” said President Lewis.

Summing up his vision of Christian higher education, President Lewis believes the goal must be “to have Christ as the center and the measure of all things. Christian is not just part of our name; it is central to who we are what we do.” As a community, Houghton endeavors to remain a place where individuals love God with their heart, mind, soul and strength. President Lewis reflects, “As we strive to expand the reach and impact of the college in our region and around the world, we understand that prospective students and partners are drawn to institutions that are clear about who they are and what they believe. While leading with the love of Christ, we are clear about our identity and our mission as a Christ-centered institution of The Wesleyan Church. Our purpose is to equip scholar-servants from diverse traditions and economic backgrounds to boldly and fearlessly reach a lost and fallen world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

For more information about President Wayne D. Lewis, Jr. and Houghton’s commitment to holistic formation in higher education, visit houghton.edu.

Rev. Ethan Linder is an education clergy development freelance writer.