Eastern Announces Resignation and New Appointee to Provost Position

      I had the honor of speaking with both Dr. Keith Iddings and Dr. Kent Sparks this past week in regards to Iddings’ recent resignation as provost and Sparks’ new appointment to that position. I would like to publicly thank them again for their time and generosity with me.

Keith Iddings recently announced his resignation from the position of provost.
Keith Iddings recently announced his resignation from the position of provost. Eastern University/ The Waltonian

      First, I asked Iddings what some of the most challenging things about being the provost were, and he responded that the primary challenges had to do with financial concerns, as those decisions are never without sacrifice. Iddings remarked that when he arrived at Eastern three years ago, steps needed to be taken to ensure the financial stability of the school but acknowledged the toll some of those decisions took on the school. In reflecting on his time at Eastern, Iddings was quick to express how thankful he is for the community. He said that he has been stretched here by the faculty and staff who are so richly steeped in their own traditions, stemming from a robust love of the same Christ. The diversity of thought here on campus creates a vibrant faith community. This kind of place in such close proximity to the city of Philadelphia, Iddings thinks, is not only a “laboratory for thought, but an opportunity for ministry.” Further, Iddings said that he is excited about the possibilities that Eastern has and is continuing to pray for the right doors to open to ensure the well-being of this school that he loves so much.

      Iddings shared some of the ways in which the provost’s position is always one of tension, to a certain extent. The provost engages in a kind of shared governance with the rest of the school, where he or she is often the go-between between the faculty and the administration. It was obvious that Iddings cherished this position despite its somewhat stressful nature. He also wanted to make it clear that his relationship with Eastern is still one of positivity and that neither party is walking away from this experience “unhappy.” Going forward, Iddings will be exploring different opportunities, always keeping one of his favorite prayers, “The Road Ahead” by Thomas Merton, at the forefront of his mind.

Kent Sparks was recently appointed to replace Iddings as provost.
Kent Sparks was recently appointed to replace Iddings as provost. Eastern University/ The Waltonian

      When I met with Sparks, the first thing he wanted to make sure was clear was how much respect he has for Iddings and how thankful he is for Iddings’ leadership and service to Eastern University. Following this, I asked about how Sparks’ history at the University as Assistant to the Provost, Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment, biblical studies professor and Special Assistant to the President will all play into how he hopes to move forward with the new position of provost. He responded by saying that he “wants to rethink education from the student up,” meaning that we need to figure out how to deal appropriately with financial matters, remarking that education is just too expensive. This could take a myriad of forms, one perhaps being reconsidering the way the credits are delivered. Further, he wants to “double down on the real Gospel” here at Eastern, remarking that too many Christian institutions are downplaying their Christianity for the sake of retaining numbers. He wants Eastern to be a place focused on developing the whole person, which means that we are honest about what our strengths and weaknesses as a university are. We need “the freedom to be broken” because we are only going to “wake up the world by what we are,” so we need to be honest about that message. He was emphatic that Eastern should be a seriously Christian place, where the virtues and fruits of the Gospel are taught as much as any other text. Sparks told me that he fell in love with Eastern because of the people and the mission of this place. It is something that is so much bigger than any one person, and he said that it is an honor to discover how we can best serve one another in love.

      May we join as a community to pray for both Dr. Iddings and Dr. Sparks as both are embarking on new adventures where they are sure to do God’s work.

      Sources: Keith Iddings, Kent Sparks

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