WENHAM – One after one, members of the search committee called Michael D. Hammond a “unifier”.
Hammond was announced Thursday as the ninth president of Gordon College, replacing Michael Lindsay, who is leaving to take over at Taylor University in Indiana – the school where Hammond currently serves as provost and vice -executive chairman.
In fact, when the two Michaels first met, they thought they would work side-by-side, Hammond told a crowd of faculty, administrators and students during an official introduction to the campus of Wenham Thursday afternoon.
“What is invigorating is knowing that we will be colleagues,” joined the same mission of Christian higher education, said Hammond.
Not that he wasn’t ready with a few jokes, saying people had already asked if “it’s like a crazy sports profession, are we going to add a full faculty member to be named later?”
And, “Have you heard of a mic drop?” It’s a “Mike swap”. ”
The selection processes were completely separate – and until the end, confidential, officials say. It was simply a coincidence that the two men shared this bond with Taylor, where Hammond received his undergraduate degree before receiving a master’s degree from Wheaton College in Illinois and his doctorate from the University of Arkansas.
Hammond was one of 70 candidates for the job, chosen after a seven-month search.
All kidding aside, Hammond is passionate about Christian education.
“Part of what motivates me to lead in higher education is being able to give back and being able to invest in a company that makes a difference in so many lives,” Hammond told the crowd.
Hammond also introduced his wife Jennifer and their six children, aged 14 to 21.
“I wouldn’t be here without my wife’s support,” Hammond said, calling her a “gentle spirit” and his best friend.
“She mobilized eight of us to get on a plane at 2:30 am in a blizzard in Indiana,” he said.
“Christian higher education today is on the brink of a great change,” said Hammond. As schools look beyond the pandemic, we now realize that colleges will not be the same.
Colleges will face challenges due to declining enrollment and philosophical disagreements over their role.
“I am convinced that the Christian liberal arts found at Gordon College have an important place in the grand purpose of the church in the world,” said Hammond. “I am delighted and happy to be called to lead Gordon College.”
Hammond said he taps into his faith, citing the passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus received the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your heart. thought. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like that, you will love your neighbor as yourself.
“In a world marked by incivility, conflict, materialism and discrimination, we aspire to fulfill the rule of grace that calls us to the path of love,” said Hammond. Love “forces us to work on our differences”.
Like Gordon College, which continues to face the fallout from a decision by outgoing President Lindsay to sign a letter asking then-President Barack Obama to include a religious exception in a policy banning contract holders federal governments to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, Taylor University has faced disagreements on campus, including a controversy over the school’s invitation to vice president of then Mike Pence to speak there.
Hammond said his first goal will be to connect with faculty and staff to learn “what makes them serve here.” I want to get to know the students, what they would say are the biggest dreams they would have for their college experience.
Gordon is not the only school facing challenges. In Christian schools, “there will always be a feeling of loyalty to those things that are dear to us, and that sometimes leads to interesting conversations. It’s not unique to Gordon. They are everywhere in Christian higher education.
“In every situation I’ve been involved in, my instinct is to try and connect personally,” Hammond said. If someone is really opposed to a certain idea, that does not mean that I am defending that idea. It’s just about trying to make the community work well. “
“My desire as a leader should be to help them have a voice and listen to their voice,” Hammond said. “I don’t think there is anything revolutionary about it. Sometimes you just swallow your pride and are ready to have these kinds of conversations.
Hammond, who is a historian, is also an expert on the civil rights movement and the role of religious leaders in this struggle.
But he’s also a baseball fan – something he brings to the boardroom, using baseball history to teach American history.
“The history of baseball has such rich themes of race, class, and labor disputes in American life,” said Hammond.