Tabor College names Lawrence Ressler as vice president

Lawrence Ressler has been appointed vice president of academics and student development at Tabor College, according to president Larry Nikkel.

Ressler will come to Tabor from Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, N.Y., and assume responsibilities this summer.

“Dr. Ressler has a strong background as a scholar, teacher, administrator and writer,” Nikkel said. “His passion for excellence, commitment to our mission and his experience with other quality institutions will make him a valued member of our leadership team.”

For the past 20 years, Ressler has taught students of all levels-undergraduate, graduate and adult-and served as an administrator in a variety of positions.

He recently served two years as academic dean at Roberts Wesleyan. Previously, he was director of the master of social work program at Roberts Wesleyan and associate dean at the Carver School of Church Social Work at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

His experience as an administrator began as executive director of York Street Community Services in Philadelphia, Pa., a social service agency sponsored by Franconia Conference of the Mennonite Church.

Ressler’s student development experience comes from serving first as resident assistant, then student activities coordinator at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., and resident director at Messiah College, Grantham, Pa.

Ressler said four things attracted him to Tabor.

“The first is the academic strength of the college,” he said. “It is evident that many important things are happening at Tabor, but I was impressed most with the learning that is taking place. The quality of the faculty and their dedication to students is outstanding.”

The second is Tabor’s commitment to spiritual growth.

“Tabor is distinctive in its commitment to the Mennonite Brethren denomination and a faith perspective that is both evangelical and committed to biblical justice,” he said.

“I look forward to being a part of an institution that helps students work at integrating an Anabaptist Mennonite perspective on life and faith and where spiritual growth is as important as intellectual development.”

Community is the third attraction for Ressler, who said that Tabor is “clearly a place where people matter, relationships are strong and where people feel like they belong.”

Finally, the college’s willingness to diversify its educational goals drew Ressler to Tabor.

In addition to the traditional, four-year college in Hillsboro, Tabor College Wichita serves the working adult population of the Wichita area by offering degree-completion programs and a master of science in accounting program.

When looking to the future, he believes the next several decades will be among the most challenging in the history of higher education.

“The declining financial support from the government is shifting more responsibility to students and their families,” he said. “To be successful, colleges will need to be academically strong and have a distinctive mission. The education will need to inspire students, hold the confidence of the church, and appeal to donors.

“But the next few decades,” he said, “will also be among the most exciting for higher education. Advances in technology are revolutionizing the education industry. We have only begun to see the impact of technology in education. Institutions that are willing to be creative are going to have opportunities never imagined before.”

Although students will be able to interact with each other and professors from anywhere in the world with increasing ease, Ressler said, the traditional classroom setting with face-to-face interaction will remain the richest form of learning.

One of his goals is to find ways to incorporate new technology developments into traditional ways of teaching and learning. The richest area to explore, he said, will be hybrid courses, courses that combine face-to-face interaction and connections made possible by distance education technologies.

His model for leadership, he said, is found in Jesus Christ.

“The image of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and his admonition to serve has made a lasting impression on me,” Ressler said. “The Mennonite values I learned as a child included the importance of humility and avoiding the excessive display and use of power.”

His parents, who quietly gave their all no matter how important or unimportant the responsibility, also influenced his approach to leadership.

“No position is more important than another in the eyes of God,” he said. “There are no promotions in the kingdom of God, just use of our gifts which God calls us to. My goal is to be where God can best use me.”

Ressler and wife Sharon have three grown children: Daniele, Stephanie and Jake.

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