How much of a surprise was Carlos Campo's resignation as president of Regent University this month?
As Terry Lindvall, another former Regent president, put it, "One's eyebrows are raised whenever anyone leaves an administrative or faculty post two weeks into the academic year."
Then again, said Lindvall, who served from 1993 to 1997, no president of the school has lasted very long before being replaced by founder and broadcaster Pat Robertson. This week, Robertson announced that he would take over as the school's CEO, marking his fourth time operating the school directly. "Pat was chancellor. He was there, and basically it's his university," said Lindvall. "He founded it, and he still has a vision for it. So the rest of us were there as regents, as stewards for the time."
Campo agrees. "It has been an institution with a pretty volatile past in some ways. Folks come and go rather rapidly," he told CT in an exclusive interview, his first since resigning three weeks after school started.
In fact, this isn't the first time one of Regent's presidents suddenly resigned at the start of the school year. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Paul Cerjan had served less than three years when he announced in September 2000 that he was leaving, effective immediately. (He died in 2011.) Lindvall's departure, too, was announced in September (though he resigned in August and Cerjan took over in November).
"I knew it was likely to happen with me, but I guess it just wasn't in the front of my mind when it occurred," said Campo. "But it's not so unusual at a founder-led institution for there to be rapid change like this." He told CT he believes such change to be "pretty appropriate and typical" of such institutions. "We did not leave with a sense of animus toward [Regent], and really want it to thrive."
But what does make Campo's departure slightly more surprising is that it came as the 55-year-old son of entertainers was becoming an increasingly prominent evangelical leader—and an icon of the emerging and diverse Latino evangelical population. When he became president of Regent in August 2010, he was the first Latino head of any regionally accredited Christian university in the United States. He quickly became a major voice in discussions of Christian higher education and Hispanic higher education. Even after his resignation, he continues to serve as the director of the Alliance for Hispanic Christian Education (AHCE) and as a board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).
Jesse Miranda, CEO and founder of the NHCLC, sees Campo as a key leader of the next generation of Hispanics. Campo is one of a handful of people he sees as key to fulfill his dream of a thriving evangelical Latino population.
"He's a man with class, good education, and good manners. The image of an accomplished Hispanic educator and scholar," Miranda says. His position as a university president was "a significant statement that Hispanics need to consider higher education a priority. He represents the hope of increasing quality and not just quantity for which we're known as Hispanics. … I wish that I would have had that as I was coming up, but I was more of a trailblazer in my time. But today, all that effort is paying off as I see a younger Hispanic community rising up to the occasion."