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A conversation with Tim Perrin

Tim Perrin became the new leader of Lubbock Christian University when he assumed the office as LCU’s sixth president on June 1.
LCU has been an integral part of Perrin’s life. The son of faculty members, he grew up across the street from campus. He worked as a dishwasher in the cafeteria as a teenager and later was recruited to play basketball. Perrin also was an active member of the Chap Brigade, a men’s spirit club, in addition to being an athlete.
He served as student body president when Steve Lemley was inaugurated as the fourth president of LCU in 1983. Perrin graduated with honors a year later. He studied law at Texas Tech University, graduating in 1987 with honors. After five years with a law firm in Corpus Christi, Texas, Perrin accepted a faculty position with the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif., where he taught and served as vice dean of the Law School.  
As a student at LCU, Perrin worked closely with Steve Eckman, dean of students at the time and currently president of York College in Nebraska. Perrin also traveled to area churches with President Lemley. Lemley would preach, and Perrin would teach the high school class.  
President Perrin and his wife, Lucy, also an alumnus of LCU, have three children: Hannah, Sam and Will.
What interested you in becoming president of LCU?   
My history with LCU is both deep and long. I’m a product of LCU and a part of a family that has deeply invested in the university. LCU is much more than just my alma mater, though my wife Lucy and I are both very proud graduates.
I grew up in Lubbock and literally spent my childhood on the LCU campus. My parents gave their lives in service of LCU and her students. And I witnessed the deep commitment to Christian higher education that was embodied by the LCU faculty and staff. I guess you could say that LCU is in my blood. It’s a family thing.
My experience at LCU shaped and formed me in important ways and prepared me for the opportunities I’ve had thereafter.
There is something special about the optimism and “can do” spirit of the people who inhabit West Texas. You can see that in the history of LCU, especially as demonstrated by the life and example of F.W. Mattox. I am woefully inadequate to follow in his footsteps but am honored and privileged to be asked to return home and to share in this work.
Why is Christian education relevant today?
We live in an age of information. We can access more information in a few seconds than our ancestors could find in a lifetime. We live in a post-modern age of deep skepticism about everything. What is truth? What is good? We live in an age of globalization. The world keeps getting smaller and more connected.
All of this is happening as we witness the remarkable growth of Christianity in the Global South, a major shift in the history of the Christian world.
In the midst of all of these developments, higher education has moved away from its Christian roots and become more secularized; knowledge has become more fragmented and specialized; and the scientific means of knowing is deemed the only effective means of acquiring knowledge.
I believe that Christian higher education is both vitally important and extraordinarily relevant in the 21st century. The explosion of information requires citizens who can think critically about what they read and hear.
Our Christian universities seek to do that very thing — imparting wisdom, teaching discernment and helping students form and shape a Christian lens through which to evaluate the massive amounts of information available to them.
To think Christianly about the world is to have a unified understanding of God’s creation, an understanding that is fulfilled perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ.
What relationship to Churches of Christ will LCU have under your leadership?
LCU will continue to enjoy a strong and enduring relationship with the Churches of Christ. We will continue to hire faculty from the Churches of Christ who are committed followers of Jesus so that they can serve as role models and mentors of students in and out of the classroom. We will continue to recruit students from the Churches of Christ who embrace and support our distinctively Christian mission.

With fewer than 50 percent of students from Churches of Christ, how will the Christian character of LCU be maintained?   

The Christian character of an institution is preserved and strengthened through people, and LCU has a faculty and staff who seek to embody the Christian mission each and every day. That will not change.
This summer the LCU faculty and staff have been discussing together Robert Benne’s fine book, “Quality with Soul,” which has led to stimulating conversations about what it means for LCU to be a Christian university and how we might deepen the integration of faith and learning inside and outside of the classroom.
The percentage of LCU’s total enrollment that consists of students from the Churches of Christ has declined at the same time that the university’s overall enrollment has significantly increased. The total number of Church of Christ students at LCU has remained relatively stable. We vigorously seek to attract students from the Churches of Christ, and indeed, we were pleased in the fall of 2011 and 2012 to experience an increase in the percentage of such students in our first-year class.
We extend hospitality to the students who join us from other Christian traditions and celebrate the ways they contribute to the life of the university as well. LCU is deeply committed to its Restoration heritage and seeks to prepare its students for greater service in the Kingdom.
What are the immediate challenges for you and LCU?   
After 20 years teaching and serving at Pepperdine and living in Malibu, I’m adjusting to life back in my hometown. It’s going well, but everyone seems so much older! I’m re-learning the joys of saying “y’all” instead of “you guys.” We had an alumni event at LCU shortly after I arrived and the entree was chicken-fried steak. I knew I was in the right place.
On a more serious note, I’m spending much of my time listening, meeting with various constituencies and seeking to understand the culture, opportunities and challenges at LCU. I’m deeply impressed with what I’m learning.
As for LCU, I’m fortunate that I do not inherit any significant challenges that require immediate action. Due to the excellent leadership of Dr. Ken Jones for the last 19 years and the talented faculty and staff at LCU, the university is in strong and stable condition.
LCU has made progress on many fronts; there is significant momentum. The challenges we face are similar to those that confront much of higher education, such as responding to increasing regulation and ensuring that we have sufficient resources to fulfill our mission, while at the same time continuing to maintain our tuition and housing costs at an affordable level.
There is lingering uncertainty about future levels of government support for higher education, which should be a matter of concern for all of us.

Filed under: Dialogue

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