Former Executive Vice President Dr. Todd Voss will return to Indiana Wesleyan University next April as the class of 2012’s commencement speaker, according to President Henry Smith.
Voss will address the IWU community like he often did during his 22 years of service. This time, though, he will not speak as an administrator, but as the newly appointed president of IWU’s sister school, Southern Wesleyan University.
It has been a long tradition, Smith said, that the university president chooses the commencement speaker. Last spring, Smith chose Harold B. Smith, the president and CEO of Christianity Today International. Two years ago, he chose Dr. Gary Carr, a former U.S. Navy chaplain.
Smith looks for leaders who are inspiring and engaging. Incidentally, Voss has been described as both, and Smith wanted to honor his colleague for his many accomplishments and longtime commitment to the university.
“I was honored, of course, immediately, but did not know quite what to say,” Voss said to describe his shocked reaction. Voss counted the number of commencement speakers he introduced while at IWU: more than 140. “[I] never dreamed I would be the one to bring the address.”
As the longest-serving vice president, the second executive vice president and an integral leader throughout IWU’s development and growth, Voss influenced many students, staff and faculty.
“Voss used to walk on his hands in the office,” said Dr. Rob Thompson, assistant professor and coordinator for the student development counseling and administration program. He was hired in 1994 and worked with Voss in the Student Development Office for more than 10 years.
In between creating new student life programs and working with resident assistants, the two men played practical jokes and thrived off of similar senses of humor.
“We’d point [at students] and whisper at each other … just to make the students nervous,” he said.
The duo used to welcome freshmen and nervous parents to campus with a stand-up comedy show called “The Todd and Rob Show.”
Sarah Derck, former resident assistant and assistant professor, compared Voss and Thompson to Laurel and Hardy, an old slapstick comedy act.
With fun as a defining characteristic, Voss put “must have a sense of humor” on his administrative assistant’s job description.
“I had no sense of humor,” said Stephanie Brodt, whom Voss hired soon after becoming executive vice president.
And when she asked him about it years later, he said, “You just have to laugh at all my jokes!” which she did and still does as she told this story.
Voss’ early years were spent creating and developing IWU’s unique community and residence life program. His model is now used at other Christian universities.
“He affirmed my belief in community and the importance of community,” said Thompson. “Would I call him a mentor? You bet.”
Voss worked in student development for 18 years. In an email, he described working hard to learn about every aspect of university life: advancement, financial affairs, academic affairs, enrollment and information technology. Among his accomplishments are creating the Center for Life Calling and Leadership and designing the Barnes Student Center.
Executive Vice President
President Smith appointed Voss as IWU’s second executive vice president in 2007.
“Todd Voss is one of the most creative individuals I’ve ever worked with,” said Smith. “He has a way of finding innovative solutions for complex challenges.”
As executive vice president, Voss oversaw all of the administrative offices, worked closely with the board of trustees and the president’s cabinet and contributed to the design and construction of the Chapel Auditorium.
He always had a full schedule but was never stressed, said Brodt. She was continually amazed by his actions: valuing the university’s money, paying attention to every detail and always making time for relationships, especially with students.
When Collin Rhoade (sr) was a freshman, he began looking for a mentor, a faculty member with “untapped wisdom.” At the suggestion of a friend, he sent an email to Voss, who responded right away. They met once or twice a month to talk about life, leadership and self-discovery until the end of Rhoade’s junior year.
“[Voss] is an incredible guy that loves the Lord and loves other people,” said Rhoade. “He definitely brings the best out of other people.”
Though Voss has moved to South Carolina, he and Rhoade still email. Rhoade traveled to South Africa this summer and made sure to go out for pizza with Voss and other SWU friends when he got back.
Brodt recalled her very first days as Voss’ administrative assistant, when he was in high demand for speaking events, workshops and, at times, other job offers.
“He really was happy here. He loved it. He loved the students,” Brodt said. “He loved IWU. He said to me, ‘Unless God tells me differently, I’m content.’”
But doors opened, and Voss traveled to South Carolina to interview.
“While I never aspired to be a college president,” Voss said, “I can now look back and see how all the elements of learning the role aligned in ways God was orchestrating from the very beginning.”
Voss was unanimously approved by Southern Wesleyan University’s board of trustees in May to become the university’s 18th president. He assumed the position on July 1, just one month before the academic year began.
With 632 undergraduate students, SWU resembles what IWU looked like when Voss was hired in 1989. As president, Voss hopes to use some of his IWU experience to foster university growth at SWU.
“SWU is poised for amazing growth for the Kingdom,” said Voss. “It’s amazing really. I wondered why I had worked so hard to develop and refine a growth model for Christian higher education over the years. I had assumed I would be at IWU forever. But God had different plans. I am so grateful for his leading in this amazing transition.”
As for commencement next spring, Voss said he has been listening to the Lord and believes he knows how he is supposed to send the 2012 graduates into the future.
“Illustrations are starting to present themselves, deeper connections are being made,” said Voss. “But I have 10 minutes and will keep that in mind as this growing sermon needs to get condensed.”