Nancy Taylor, president of United Way of Madison County, remembers asking Anderson University President James Edwards to speak to her volunteers when the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, happened. That infamous day was the day United Way of Madison County had planned on kicking off its campaign.
“We called clergy from the area,” she said. “They just said the right thing at the right time.”
Edwards spoke to the volunteers about pulling the community together in that dire time of need, Taylor said.
“We really appreciate him,” she said. “He’s always been a good friend to United Way and to this community.”
Through his 17 years as president of Anderson University, Edwards has held strong to the mission of the university to educate students for service, and he’s been a role model to that cause, working with several community service organizations including United Way.
Edwards’ commitment to community is why The Herald Bulletin editorial board chose him to be the Person of the Year for 2006. Edwards will receive a $500 donation to the charity of his choice with the award. Edwards said he would like the money to go to United Way.
“The intent of this opportunity is to help the community, and they are doing that,” he said.
Edwards said he appreciated the chance to donate the money when he would not normally have the opportunity.
Edwards is the fourth person to take the role of president at Anderson University since its founding in 1917.
He grew up in a minister’s home, graduated from Fairmont High School in Kettering, Ohio, and completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Anderson University and the Anderson University School of Theology. He took his doctor of philosophy degree in educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University in 1987. His dissertation was titled “Connections: Things That Matter to Teachers in Small Colleges.” While completing his doctoral studies, he received the Earl W. Anderson Award for Research in Higher Education from Ohio State’s College of Education.
Edwards has extensive involvement in the arena of higher education in Indiana and nationally, and is a busy community leader. He serves on the board of directors of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He served as chair of the Independent Colleges of Indiana and Independent Colleges of Indiana Foundation. He also holds board membership on the Indiana Council for Higher Education and the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Association.
Locally, Edwards serves on the board of directors of the Madison County Community Foundation and Madison Community Bank. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Anderson where he was honored with the 2003 Community Image Award. He has served on the board of directors of Saint John’s Healthcare System, Citizens Banking Company and the United Way. He has also served as a director and officer of the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Prior to his election as president of Anderson University, Edwards was president and chief executive officer for Warner Press, publishing house for the Church of God. In this assignment, he directed the work of the largest religious publisher in Indiana.
“Jim Edwards is just a fine member of the community and he’s done wonderful things for the university,” Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said.
Since July 1, 1990, when Edwards started in the position, he has worked on a number of projects for the university including a student enrollment increase, the partnership with the Flagship business incubator and the soon-to-be-open educational facility attached to it, the acquisition of almost 70 acres of land for buildings and university use and, most recently, a $110 million fundraising campaign which will go toward building projects, endowments and operational support. More than $65 million has already been raised.
“He has really instilled in the faculty, staff and students to be community supporters,” Tom Bruce, executive director for university relations and alumni affairs, said. “He challenges all of us to find ways to support the community.”
Bruce has worked under three of the four presidents of Anderson University in his 30 years at the school.
“Each president, as each of us as individuals, brings gifts or strengths to the university,” Bruce said. “He is certainly a leader. He is able to present challenges to our faculty, staff and students.”
An ordained minister, Edwards has served the church for more than 30 years in a variety of assignments. Prior to national executive service, he was senior pastor of the Meadow Park Church of God in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier pastorates were in Indiana and Michigan.
Two positions were held by Dr. Edwards at Anderson University covering a span of seven years. From 1966 to 1970 he was Director of Student Recruitment. After pastoring in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he returned to the campus to direct Church and Alumni Relations, serving from 1972 to 1975.
Edwards has authored a number of articles that have appeared in various publications. He has been a consultant in the church’s organizational life at all levels, and is often called upon to address conferences, conventions, and community and church gatherings across the nation.
Linda Dawson, deputy director of economic development, said the university has become much more involved with the city since Edwards was elected into presidency.
“I can say from personal experience, several years ago, the university took a more isolated approach, and through Dr. Edwards’ efforts the university has become much more involved in the city,” she said.
Dawson said partnerships between private universities and governments is a rarity. Edwards said he saw the university as a cultural rock for the city.
“Universities are really about becoming a learning community,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better setting to have a college.”
All three of Edwards’ children went to the university as well. And Edwards shows the same kind of care and support for the 3,000 students at Anderson University as he did for his children when they attended the school, Bruce said.
“The campus community will be very pleased to find he has been chosen,” Bruce said.
Dr. Edwards is married to the former Deanna Monteith. They have three grown children and one granddaughter.
Through all of his hard work, Edwards credits his faculty and staff at Anderson University with the support and assistance needed to complete his goals. He also said he appreciated the amount of support and involvement his wife Deanna provides for him.
“I know you can do this job alone,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to.”
--JESSICA KERMAN is a reporter with The Anderson Herald-Bulletin. Story reprinted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.