published Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Covenant College names Derek Halvorson president

COMPARING SCHOOLS

* Providence Christian College has about 70 students. Annual total tuition is $21,936.

* Covenant College has nearly 1,000 students. Tuition is $13,235 per semester for 12 to 18 credit hours.

ABOUT J. DEREK HALVORSON

* Covenant College's sixth president.

* Currently president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena, Calif.

* Ordained as a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

* Graduated cum laude from Covenant in 1993 with a bachelor of arts in history.

* Earned a master of arts from the University of Arizona and a doctorate of philosophy from Loyola University Chicago -- both in history.

* Director of constituent relations at Covenant from September 2003-January 2005.

* Regional director of development at Covenant from January 2005-June 2009.

Source: Covenant College

Covenant College is acquiring a new president and possibly a West Coast campus at the same time.

College trustees voted Friday to hire alumnus J. Derek Halvorson and to start the process to acquire the college he is coming from, Providence Christian in Pasadena, Calif.

If the sale goes through, it would become Covenant's first branch outside the Chattanooga area.

"I think it fits our mission pretty well," board Chairman Martin Moore said Friday. "We believe this sister institution -- a small, reformed, residential liberal arts college on the West Coast -- is a remarkable fit with Covenant's mission and purpose and offers an opportunity for Covenant to extend the reach of its mission."

Moore said Covenant will take about 90 days to research the proposal. Covenant officials wouldn't discuss an acquisition price.

Moore said the board vote was unanimous for Halvorson, who trustees believe "will provide the godly leadership needed to further advance the College's mission of exploring and expressing the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things."

The new leader will take office July 1. He replaces Niel Nielson, who announced last year he will step down June 30 to lead a new global Christian education center.

Halvorson, a 1993 Covenant graduate, said he'll work to get the story out that Covenant represents a great educational value.

"I love the college not only because I went to school here, but because I believe in its mission and the very positive impact the college has had," Halvorson said.

Long-distance merger

Under the terms of the letter, Providence will continue to operate on its Pasadena campus under its own name combined with the name of Covenant College, according to a news release.

Providence board Chairman Pete Nanninga said in the release that both institutions "share a commitment to providing rigorous, residential, Christian liberal arts education, and both adhere to the historic, theological tenets of the Reformed faith."

He said the deal could help Provident develop and expand its academic programs.

For Covenant, the deal is a chance to expand to the West Coast, Moore said. Issues of governance and operations are still to be worked out, he said.

Halvorson's selection was independent of any the potential merger or acquisition discussions, Moore said, but it will be very helpful to have him as Covenant's president to help evaluate the potential move.

After graduating from Covenant, Halvorson worked there for six years as regional director of development and director of constituent relations.

He will move back to the Chattanooga area with his wife, Wendy, and two children, Banks, 10 and Whitman, 7.

"My wife and I are delighted to be returning to Chattanooga," he said Friday. "We've lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tucson, Arizona, and Oxford, England, but there's no place we've loved more than Chattanooga."

Martin said Halvorson "represented all the attributes we were looking for."

"Certainly leadership, strategic vision ... but also how he can engage the various constituencies within various circles," he added, such as students, faculty and donors.

Jonathan Casselberry, Student Senate president and the student representative on the presidential search committee, said he was very impressed by Halvorson.

"He has a clear self-awareness of how big his decision-making affects the people that are involved in his institution," he said.

"And on a more personal note, he's incredibly approachable, likable; he's very gifted with interacting with people whether they are like him or not," he added.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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