ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERICA FAST
There may be more than just a little bit of divine appointment in the arrival of Tabor’s new math and computer science professor.
Lauren Lilly always thought he might teach during his retirement years, but he said God seemed to have a different plan in mind.
“For me, retiring means doing something that you want to do,” said Lilly, who is only 48 years old. “I guess in that respect I’m now retired.”
When the software company in Portland, Ore., where Lilly worked as a product manager, was forced to cut back, he began searching for a possible teaching position. Tabor was one of two schools Lilly pursued.
But it was three weeks-Monday, July 30-before he heard anything back. On that day he received an e-mail from Howard Keim, vice president of academic affairs, informing him the position was still open and Tabor was interested in speaking with him about it.
The next morning at 7 a.m., Keim, Frank Brenneman, chair of the mathematics department, and Glen Diener, associate professor of computer science, called Lilly and asked to interview him on the spot.
The four talked for awhile and all agreed that a face-to-face interview would be a good idea. They made plans to meet Aug. 13 because Lilly would be traveling through the area about that time.
Lilly and his wife, Linda, had decided to set out across the country to North Carolina, where Linda would be attending the university. They would be traveling through Kansas on their way to the East Coast.
The Lillys began their trip Aug. 6, stopping to visit family and relatives along the way. They arrived in Hillsboro on the 13th for the interview. Lilly was offered the position on the 14th, but didn’t feel he could accept.
“I was still uncertain as to what the Lord had in mind for me,” he said.
So the couple headed to Missouri for a short vacation, and on Wednesday, Aug. 15, Lilly called and told Keim he would take the job.
By Sunday they were in Hillsboro; Lilly’s contract began the next day.
“I actually found out what I was teaching on Thursday, the 23rd, and started teaching on the 28th,” he said.
Things happened so quickly for Lilly and his wife that they are still looking for a new home.
“I think he’s a good fit with Tabor,” Keim said. “I’m really very pleased that as late as August that we were able to fill this position with such a qualified person. It seems providential to me.”
Lilly had come across the Tabor position while doing Internet research. While he didn’t act on it immediately, it was the one position he couldn’t get out of his mind.
The fit seemed to be a good one, he said. Lilly was looking for a school that didn’t require a doctorate. Lilly has a master’s degree in math, but his experience is in computer science.
“Which really makes it awkward, in the sense that if I taught within my education, I would need to teach math,” Lilly said. “But if I teach within the realm of my experience, I need to teach computer science.”
Lilly received his master’s from Washington State University in 1977 and began working in the computer industry immediately. Lilly has worked in the field in a number of different ways. He has experience as a programmer, analyst, director of research, marketing, and has even started three companies.
Lilly said three things have helped prepare him for his time at Tabor: his education and a continuing ability to learn and pull from his past; his experience in the field he is teaching, and a strong sense of Divine calling.
“I really feel like for the last eight or 10 years my wife and I have known that God was calling me into the teaching field,” Lilly said. “I’ve known I was going to go into teaching, but didn’t know when. But I am, way before any schedule I’d have set up, working as a teacher.”
As a new teacher in the math department, Lilly is hoping to attract more students to the major.
“The computer science world is very, very short of people,” he said. “If you want a good job, at least in the sense of good pay and plenty of challenges and a lot of hard work, computer science is a great business to get into.”
Lilly said the industry will continue to be short of workers for at least the next 10 to 15 years, and so will continue to pay extremely well. Math is also just good preparation for other types of work.
“We need more people out there who understand the potential for this line of work,” he said.
Brenneman said Lilly has already had a positive influence on Tabor.
“I think his background and expertise will help (students) to have a better idea of what the requirements of the job are, and what the company will be looking for, and what they expect from their employees,” said Brenneman. “He comes here with very much insider information regarding the computer industry. I think that’s going to be very helpful for our students.”
Even though his time in Hillsboro has been so short, Lilly had positive things to say about the community and the people in it.
“I don’t think I’ve met a person that I didn’t like or that seemed to be someone who would be difficult to get to know,” he said. “Everyone is extremely nice and helpful.
“The community is very proud of itself, which is not that common. People who have lived around here a long time may not realize that any kind of pride in community is an extravagance that just doesn’t happen.”