A Sense of Place
Jonathan Raymond has that kid-on-Christmas-morning look as he describes a special souvenir he picked up while guiding a study tour to Israel this past July. It’s a Boston Red Sox T-shirt. But unlike the ubiquitous Bo Sox fan wear that can be picked up at any suburban mall, the writing on this shirt is in Hebrew. For a guy who grew up in Boston as a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation, and who feels a “sense of being home” in Israel, the shirt is a perfect fit. Beyond enduring the ups and downs of cheering for the Sox — a character building experience, to be sure — twu’s third president has a wide breadth of academic and life experience that has laid the groundwork for his role in leading the University forward. And his confidence in God’s guidance around each corner is palpable.
Raymond’s work in both international public health and university academics, for example, comprises an uncommonly holistic body of experience. He has held key positions in institutions that foster not only the mind, but also the body and the soul. These include being a research scientist fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health (u.s.), establishing and directing the International Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research (irc) at the University of Hawaii, being the principal investigator for u.s. Congress on healthcare in the American Pacific in the mid 80s, and serving as president of Booth College. Add his 30-year hobby of studying Wesleyan theology to the list, and it becomes clear that Raymond doesn’t slide neatly into any pre-existing categories for university presidents.
Full Court Press
Frank and Ruth Raymond, Jonathan’s parents, were Salvation Army officers who worked as a team and enlisted all six of their children to their cause. “We were poor but didn’t know it. And we entered into an absolute full court press of Christian service because my parents had a ready cadre of ‘involuntary’ volunteers,” says the president.
He recalls how as a child he served coffee and donuts to firemen attending a train wreck outside of Boston. And later, when his family built relationships with those who lived on the wrong side of those tracks, a young Jonathan watched as his parents helped people caught up in the cycle of addiction, prostitution, and abuse without demeaning them. His voice softens as he remembers the lessons he took from such visits. “My parents’ reactions were of a quality that still maintained people’s dignity, even when those they visited were on the receiving end of help.”
That experience put its stamp on Raymond. When he speaks today of his passion for education to achieve a high level of success, one that transcends accolades and wealth, he brings the conversation back to the values his parents modeled. “Education is not just a transaction — it’s a transformation,” he says. “Great institutions transform lives toward kingdom ends … our work is to amplify competence through character – and by character we mean after the likeness of Christ. Character changes the nature of the competence. The Enron guys had competence … but they lacked character.”
Mentors in the Time of Cholera
Raymond can list many men of faith who have mentored him throughout various seasons of his life and believes all of them exhibited the breadth of character to which he challenges twu graduates to aspire.
While establishing the International Research Center at the University of Hawaii, he developed a life-long friendship with Vice Admiral C. Everett Koop, commonly known as the first ‘celebrity’ Surgeon General of the United States (and likely the only sg with the distinction of being parodied on The Simpsons).
The IRC monitored the incidence and prevalence of 40 different diseases, including malaria, cholera, and small pox, and acted as an early warning signal throughout the American Pacific in the event of a localized outbreak. The importance of Raymond’s mandate there was underscored when the system he and his colleagues developed twice identified cholera epidemics in their early stages.
Koop, who merged the convictions of his faith with his passion for public health — sometimes with controversial results — was a perennial speaker at the centre’s symposiums and conferences. And the president counts the former sg’s leadership as an important element in his own personal growth.
Although international public health is an admirable calling, most young men don’t dream of monitoring diseases. Raymond says he originally wanted to be a forest ranger, in the vein of his childhood hero John Muir, the founder of the u.s. Parks Service, but admits that his place in the family, smack in the middle, may have predetermined his scholastic leanings. “
As the middle child in a family of six, I had to always negotiate. I had to find consensus, and I naturally grew up attuned to the personal cues and signals of others,” he says. “So actually, my bias is that I feel blessed to be the middle child, rather than at the front or back of the line.”
With that perspective on his place in the family unit, it seems natural that he developed and pursued an interest in psychology, earning his ba from Asbury and both an ma in social psychology and a ph.d. in cross-cultural social psychology from the University of Kentucky. However, because his four brothers are physicians and his sister is a bio-chemist, he jokes that he is the black sheep in the family. “When I went home for a family reunion it was like attending a medical convention.” He speaks with pride of some of his brothers who have offered to pray with every single one of their patients for the past 30 years.
The fact that all six of the Raymond children were able to complete costly educations that included either doctoral work or medical school is remarkable, given the humble circumstances of their family. And that experience has instilled the twu president with a strong drive to make this University a community where deserving students, regardless of their economic standing, will find a home.“
My siblings and I were blessed by the availability of scholarships that took us all the way through doctoral studies, so I’m a real believer in scholarship help, especially endowed scholarships that are there in perpetuity,” he says.
But in a world where post-secondary institutions of all stripes are forced to raise tuition rates, it is no easy task to keep education affordable. The president has ambitious goals for twu’s endowments and believes the school could eventually raise its $8 million endowment to a level similar to Wheaton College, which sits at $322 million. “We would like to create the chance for transformative higher education to reach a greater demographic of Christian families. There’s the sticker price, and then there’s the real cost, which should decrease as we offer more and more scholarships.”
Essence and Ends
Envision the Century is a recently completed strategic directions document that articulates the goals, vision, and momentum of the school as it moves forward under Raymond’s leadership. The paper is the product of input from a sizable contingent of staff, faculty, students, and board members, and within its pages, it’s evident that the president has not rewritten the mission statement but has built
“Every generation needs to find its own language, and so does every university president,” he says. That new language starts with the president’s belief in the paradigm of what he calls “identity, mission, and ends,” where the focus does not begin with achievement, but with the identity people find in Christ — the end results flow naturally from that original source. Nowhere is this more straight forward than in “Essence and Ends,” a portion of the Envision the Century document which outlines how the University, at its very heart, “exists so that, through its students, alumni, faculty, and staff, the world may experience Christ’s truth, compassion, reconciliation, and hope.”
Among other descriptors of the essence of TWU, the phrase “pursuing truth with grace and assertiveness” also stands out on the page as an apt assessment of not only the institution but also of the president’s own journey. “The great tragedy of higher education in North America is that it has almost always started out Christ-centered and drifted to being about Christian values, to being church related, then to being secular,” he laments. “In the process the mission got lost because the identity and essence was not intentionally kept in focus.”
The understated, but unmistakable, confidence that shines through as Raymond speaks is linked to his belief that all along the way God has prepared him for this time. The president even says he has a “sanctified chutzpah” that comes through his unwavering understanding that God will use him as long as he simply remains open to God’s voice. “All my life I have been blessed by unbelievable opportunities that are absolutely God at work in my life. They were undeserved, but still blessings.”
He counts among those blessings, the opportunity to lead study tours to Israel. Raymond has visited the Holy Land five times and, like many Christians, has more than a tourist’s fascination with the land that gave birth to the Scriptures. “The geography, the topography, the sense of place … you can see the narrative,” he enthuses.
In particular, the Sea of Galilee seems to stir up the deepest emotional connection for him. “You see Scripture come alive there. This is where Christ spent 80 per cent of his ministry, and this really was his home in those ministry years, and there is a great sense of peace, and … just a sense of being home. I can’t explain it any other way.”
Being home can mean a lot of things to someone whose life has traversed more than a few landscapes. The excitement in his voice as he talks about Israel, the wide smile as he shows off his Hebrew homage to his favourite ball team, and the passion he conveys as he shares his vision for Trinity Western, bear witness to the interwoven dimensions of Jonathan Raymond. As he builds on the life experiences God has given him, one thing is sure: like his Red Sox jersey, TWU is a perfect fit.
by Jeff Dewsbury ('95)
photography by James LaBounty
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MARRIED: 39 years to Irene, who teaches Spanish courses at TWU.
CHILDREN: Micah (28) and Aaron (26).
EXPERIENCE OF NOTE: played on the Lehman High School baseball team with Thurman Munson, who went on to become a legendary catcher for the
New York Yankees.
LAST BOOK READ: Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power,
by David Aikman
FAVOURITE PIECE OF MUSIC: New World Symphony, by Dvorák
FAVOURITE MOVIE: Casa Blanca
MOST INTERESTING AWARD: medal presented in 1986 by the royal family of Thailand for work to improve the health of the people of Thailand and Asia.
PLACE HE MOST WANTS TO VISIT SOMEDAY: "The home of an old, dear mentor while he is still living."
Jonathan Raymond, Ph.D., shares his life experiences, and his passion for transforming students through education.
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