Andrea Luxton has been named as the next president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s flagship Andrews University, offering what colleagues call a stellar track record in leadership as she joins a growing number of female presidents at Adventist institutions of higher education.
The Berrien Springs, Michigan-based university announced Tuesday that its board of trustees had elected Luxton, the university’s provost since 2010, to replace Niels-Erik Andreasen when he retires after 22 years as president at the end of the current academic year.
“I am excited and humbled by this opportunity to serve and lead at Andrews University,” Luxton said in a statement. “I look forward to the opportunity to carry on the incredible heritage of Dr. Andreasen’s two decades of leadership at Andrews University, and to find powerful and strategic ways to continue to support and serve the constituencies of Andrews University.”
Luxton, who previously served as president of Canadian University College (now Burman University) and Britain’s Newbold College of Higher Education, becomes the fourth woman at the helm of an Adventist college or university in North America. Two women were named college presidents in 2014: Vinita Sauder at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Avis Hendrickson at Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. Heather Knight, who served for three years as Andrews provost before Luxton, became president of Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 2009.
Andrews University, founded as Battle Creek College in 1874 and the first Adventist institution of higher education, has a history of gender inclusivity in employment. In 2014, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, the preeminent training ground for the church’s religious leaders at Andrews University, chose Teresa Reeve as its first woman to serve as associate dean. That same year the university named June Price, an associate dean of its Lamson women’s residence hall, as its lead chaplain.
Benjamin Schoun, chair of the Andrews presidential search committee and chair of the university’s board of trustees, said the search committee had evaluated “a broad array of well-qualified candidates from around the world — including a number of minorities, women, and men — which finally led to the prayerful selection of Luxton.”
“We believe that Luxton … reflects the sort of visionary, thoughtful, and God-centered leadership that president Andreasen has offered to Andrews over the last two decades, while also offering the university new and significant perspectives to the journey ahead,” Schoun said.
A member of the search committee said Luxton’s administrative experience at Andrews as provost, as well as her being president at two other Adventist colleges, was a key factor in her appointment.
“I think the decision was to stick with a proven figure versus others who have not had that level of experience,” the member said.
Sauder, the Union College president, said college presidents in general are chosen based on qualifications, expertise, track record of servant leadership, and a passion for Adventist higher education.
“I don’t view Adventist presidents in terms of their gender, but whether they were called by God to lead and if they have a burning desire to see students mature and succeed in their chosen professions and ministries,” she said.
Sauder also expressed delight with Luxton’s appointment and described her as “a respected, skilled leader and administrator … who will assume the role of president very naturally.”
“My No. 1 piece of advice is to give it all to God every morning and seek His guidance and wisdom, asking Him to walk alongside her, as she tackles the opportunities and challenges each day,” she said.
The Andrews board-appointed search committee began meeting in September 2015, a month after Andreasen announced his plans to retire, and forwarded two final names to the board of trustees for a vote on Feb. 28. The board announced Luxton as its choice after voting by secret ballot on Tuesday.
The university said Luxton is now president-elect and will be formally confirmed by a vote of a newly seated board of trustees on June 2. At that same meeting, Schoun, who retired as a general vice president of the Adventist world church in 2015, will be replaced as board chair by Artur Stele, a general vice president of the Adventist world church. Stele served as a member of the presidential search committee with no vote.
It was not immediately clear who would replace Luxton as provost, the second officer of the university who functions as chief operating officer.
Luxton will be the sixth president of Andrews University and 24th president overall since Andrews opened as Battle Creek College.
Andreasen wished her all the best.
“I have great faith in Luxton and in the leadership that she will offer Andrews University,” he said.
Luxton, a former associate education director of the Adventist world church, holds a doctorate in English from Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. and a postgraduate diploma in Institutional Management and Change in Higher Education from University of Twente in the Netherlands.
Friends and colleagues spoke warmly about Luxton’s leadership and teaching skills.
David Trim, director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research for the Adventist world church, said Luxton gave him his first academic job as a history teacher at Newbold College in 1998 and he was impressed to see her turn around a school that faced declining enrollment and financial difficulties.
Luxton made some tough decisions, closing one program, but also made bold decisions, adding a new program in Behavioral Sciences, Trim said. She brought new types of faculty to the college, drawing on British Adventists with experience in government and business, and paved the way for the college to receive its first British accreditation for postgraduate degrees.
“Andrea had a powerful vision of what Newbold could be, and she successfully cast that vision to everyone who was part of the Newbold community: faculty, staff, students, alumni, and stakeholders,” Trim said. “We all bought into that vision and worked toward achieving it. She listened to everyone, too, and made each member of the Newbold community feel valued and part of a team that would help Newbold realize its potential to be a blessing to the church."
Trim also knew Luxton as an English teacher, taking her “superb” Bible as Literature class at Newbold in the late 1980s.
“Every one of us — and the class included students from Africa and the Caribbean — found it transformative for our view of Scripture,” Trim said. “She taught a very high — orthodox Adventist — view of the Bible and inspiration. But understanding its literary qualities and how it was shaped by the literary conventions of the ancient Israelites gave us — gave me — a new understanding of God and of how to interpret Scripture.”
Luxton’s Bible as Literature class at Newbold also left a deep impression on Kirsten Øster-Lundqvist, pastor of the St. Albans and Hemel Hempstead churches in England and a former communication and media director for the church’s South England Conference.
“Her extensive knowledge both of the Bible and of literature made the class inspirational,” said Øster-Lundqvist, who took the class around 1990.
She said Luxton was ready to listen to and engage with students.
“Her approachability and inspiring classes made her a well-loved teacher at Newbold,” she said.
Victor Hulbert, communication director for the Trans-European Division, who studied with Luxton at Newbold College in the 1970s, said he remembered her as “a very kind person.”
"Andrea's life has always been one of inspiration,” he said. “She has the balance of academic excellence, spiritual discernment, and personal care for those she comes into contact with.”