Provost worked to make Fresno Pacific a university

One of those most responsible for putting Fresno Pacific University on the road from college to university left campus in June.

Howard Loewen resigned his position as provost and became dean of the school of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, July 1. President Harold Haak added the provost title and John Yoder, formerly graduate school dean, is associate vice president for academic affairs.

Loewen joined the FPU administration in 1995, first as academic vice president, then as provost in 1999. In both positions, he was directly responsible for the academic programs. "I always facetiously say the difference is more work for the same pay," he said.

The real difference is that while both positions work with deans and serve as chief academic officers for their institutions, provosts also oversee other areas. Loewen, for example, supervised the registrar, library, Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies, International Programs and Services Office and athletics. Having a provost shifts some administrative burden from the president, who in higher education today is more involved in fund raising and community relations. At the other end, deans take more control over their areas. "It's a sign that the institution is growing and maturing," Loewen said.

Directing the academic side of that growth and maturation was Loewen's day-to-day duty. Though Fresno Pacific College officially became Fresno Pacific University in January of 1997—and its organization into three schools had come before—changes in governance and atmosphere continue. "The easy part was to change the name and the structure on paper," Loewen said. Faculty and staff are still defining how that structure really works, and that process is not always comfortable. "On the academic side we've handled that very well," Loewen said, and the deans have taken the lead. "They've done the really hard work," he added.

Control has been pushed down the structure. The schools now oversee hiring and evaluating faculty and developing academic programs, all once the province of the academic vice president. Faculty make their voices heard more through their school and less through faculty session. While there are losses, Loewen said the university had to change. "If you've made the decision to have graduate programs, if you've made the decision to have professional development programs, you've outgrown your old structure," he said. Today the graduate school and school of professional studies are full partners, not just appendages, according to Loewen.

Other highlights of Loewen's term include: 

  • Unplugging a loggerhead of 20 faculty and staff job searches in his first few years. "Bringing people into the community is a rewarding process," he said.
  • Working with the deans. "We've been open and honest and trusting and collegial and supportive of each other and have accomplished a lot as a team," he said.
  • Developing the university's international connections with Lithuania Christian College, Evangelical University in Paraguay and Universite Chretienne de Kinshasa (Christian University of Kinshasa) in Congo.

Loewen's contributions to the church are many and varied. He was on the FPU biblical and religious studies faculty from 1977-80 and the board of trustees from 1983-89. He also served as academic dean at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. His scholarly activity includes the International Catholic-Mennonite Dialogue and numerous publications on doctrine, ecumenics and peace and justice. He has been on the boards of Lithuania Christian College, Mission USA and Mennonite Health Association.

For the future FPU must maintain and share its Anabaptist tradition. Hiring practices present a practical opportunity. Since there are not enough Mennonites to cover all faculty positions at Mennonite institutions, the university can fill vacancies with people from other traditions who can work within the FPU Idea. "To me that's genuine, biblical ecumency," Loewen said.

The university should neither spread itself so thin it becomes a generic Christian, evangelical school nor shrink into a narrow form of denominationalism. "We need to think through what it means to keep an open posture," Loewen said. "The opportunity of this generation of leaders is to translate the vision of FPU into another key."

Loewen is confident the best years lie ahead for the university. "Can you imagine yourself 56 years from now looking back and seeing the jump from the 56 years when we first opened?" he asked.


Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations