This is my opportunity to express my appreciation to Dr. Whitaker for all the ways he has impacted my journey at Anderson. And I am just one of many.
As I reflect upon the 20th anniversary of President Evans Whitaker’s arrival at Anderson University, I cannot help but be thankful for the impact that he has had on my life—as a student, as an employee and as a friend.
Allow me to take a trip down memory lane to where our paths crossed.
For one of Dr. Whitaker’s first public appearances as the 12th president of Anderson, he presented the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference’s Murphy Osbourne Award on March 7, 2003, during the CVAC basketball tournament. Eleven Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference student-athletes had been selected as finalists. The Osbourne award is given to the CVAC athlete determined to have the most outstanding academic achievement.
You guessed it—one of the finalists was a young man from Anderson named Jason Rutland. Spoiler alert: I did not receive it. What I did receive was the opportunity to meet a man that would have, and still is having, one of the biggest impacts on my life—more than I ever could have imagined.
In the brief moment I spent with him, he congratulated me on being Anderson’s nominee—despite the result. In fact, I may have inadvertently provided him with his first conference defeat during that awards presentation. But I like to think that the loss may have sparked him to innovate and guide Anderson into one of the leaders of Christian higher education in this country.
Following that brief meeting, I graduated from Anderson a few months later and served as a teacher and high school baseball coach for two years. I decided to return to my alma mater as a pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the baseball team and later worked in the Office of Admission. From these roles— as well as my current position in the Office of Development—I watched the transformation taking place under Dr. Whitaker’s leadership.
During those earlier years, the University experienced some ups and downs. During each stage, Dr. Whitaker always let me know that he was proud of me and thankful for the role I played in helping Anderson grow. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he showed me that he cared for me as an individual. He was more than the president; he became a dear friend and mentor. Although I try to express it often, I don’t believe he truly realizes the impact he has had on my life—and the lives of count- less others who have made their way to this campus.
Dr. Whitaker is nationally recognized as a leader in the world of Christian higher education, and rightfully so. Under Dr. Whitaker’s leadership, Anderson has experienced exponential growth in all areas of the University that were considered during that important vote—programs offered, students enrolled, endowment of the institution, campus footprint, actual and perceived value across the globe and, most importantly, the lives he’s impacted—like mine.
This is my opportunity to express my appreciation to him for all the ways he has impacted my journey at Anderson. And I am just one of many.
We know Anderson University impacts lives, and it starts with the leadership with which Anderson University has been blessed for the last 20 years. Long Live Anderson!
(And thank you, Dr. Whitaker. For everything.)
The Office of Alumni & Parent Engagement