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After 'Careful Investigation,' Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Ousts President

(UPDATED) CCCU once wooed Edward Blews with 'voice of God' phone call. Today it fired him 10 months into the job.
After 'Careful Investigation,' Council for Christian Colleges and Universities Ousts PresidentCourtesy of CCCU

Editor's note: Updated at 6:30 p.m. Central time.

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) wooed Edward Blews Jr. to its presidency by, among many things, pretending to be the voice of God calling on the phone. It selected him unanimously, and even waited six months for him to begin work.

Today, it unanimously fired him after less than a year on the job.

The CCCU board of directors announced today that it had "unanimously decided to transition [Blews] from the position of president" after "careful investigation and prayerful consideration."

"The [board] recognizes that this presidential transition has caused disruption in the programs and to the people of the CCCU, and we are truly sorry for this disruption," stated a press release from the Washington D.C.-based association, which represents 174 "intentionally Christ-centered institutions" from 20 countries. "We appreciate your patience and prayers in this time of transition and your continued support of the programs and the people of the CCCU."

The CCCU declined to comment further to CT on the nature of the investigation. Blews did not return CT requests for comment.

William Robinson, president emeritus of Whitworth University, will serve as interim president effective immediately. Robinson currently serves as chair of the board of trustees for Princeton Theological Seminary, and has written two books on leadership.

Blews's wife, Debra McKenna Blews, whom he described as part of a "presidential partnership" during his inauguration, was still listed as a CCCU senior fellow as of 6:30 p.m. Central time. The couple were named a "dynamic duo" of Christian higher education by Asbury University this summer.

Blews, the CCCU's sixth president since its 1976 inception, described the job as the "culmination" of his nearly three-decade career, and laid out an ambitious six-fold vision for the council's future in his inaugural address. He was selected in July 2012 and started with the CCCU on January 1, after representing independent Michigan colleges for 28 years. He replaced Paul Corts, who retired after six years of service.

CT noted at the time how Blews's prior experience with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) might prove useful to the CCCU, given the ongoing battle over DOE regulations intended to prevent financial fraud at for-profit universities. Although the regulations included an exemption for religious universities, the CCCU was concerned that the exemption's definitions were too narrow and would create opportunity for the federal government to influence curriculum and standards at CCCU schools.

Hopes by both parties were initially high. "In these complicated times of simultaneous challenge and opportunity for Christian higher education, [Blews] possesses the vision, experience, and skill to effectively lead the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities and its membership," said Kim Phipps, then-CCCU board chair, at Blews's inauguration. "The board of the CCCU is eager to work with Dr. Blews to ensure a healthy and robust future for Christian colleges in the United States and throughout the world."

"As the search committee examined Ed Blews' track record for the past 30 years, we were impressed with the loyalty of college presidents to him as their leader and the ability of staff to rally around the vision he sets," said Carl Zylstra, retired president of Dordt College who chaired the search committee that selected Blews, in a press release at the time. "We have every confidence to believe that Ed will be a stunning leader for both our organization and our movement."

A CCCU international forum scheduled for this February in Los Angeles will still take place, but will now be changed to a series of plenary sessions. "We think it is more important now than ever to come together and consider the future of the CCCU and Christian higher education," notes today's press release.

A profile by The Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes Blews as being "known for his sunny disposition, savvy political strategizing, and knack for doggedly but respectfully buttonholing lawmakers to talk about grant aid for students," includes this anecdote of how Blews became CCCU president:

Just to hurry things along, Kim S. Phipps, chair of the council's presidential-search committee and president of Messiah College, called Mr. Blews one day while he was still considering the offer. "Ed, this is God," she intoned, "and she is calling you to the CCCU presidency." Shortly after, he accepted.

CT's past coverage of the CCCU can be found here. Today's press release is below:

October 22, 2013

WASHINGTON – After careful investigation and prayerful consideration, the Board of Directors of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities has unanimously decided to transition Dr. Edward O. Blews, Jr., from the position of president effective October 22, 2013.

The CCCU Board is pleased to announce that Dr. William Robinson, president emeritus of Whitworth University, has agreed to serve as interim president of the CCCU. Bill earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern Iowa, a master's degree from Wheaton College, and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. He has also studied at Moody Bible Institute and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Bill served for seven years as the president of Manchester College in Indiana before moving to Whitworth, where he served as president with great distinction for 17 years. Bill is currently chair of the Board of Trustees for Princeton Theological Seminary and a board member of ING Educators Advisory Board, Max De Pree Center for Leadership, and the Stewardship Foundation. He has written two outstanding books on leadership, Incarnate Leadership and Leading People from the Middle. Bill is well known to many in the CCCU, and the Board is deeply grateful for, and excited about, his willingness to help in this time of transition. He will be ramping up to this new role over the next several months as he finishes other longstanding commitments.

"During my years at Whitworth, I enjoyed being on the receiving side of so many CCCU programs and services," Robinson said. "So, I'm very revved up about moving over to the giving side of the equation. The CCCU claims a strong history of serving Christian colleges and universities in their efforts to enrich the world of higher education and advance the kingdom of Christ. I know I will enjoy being a member of the CCCU team as the Board searches for a new president."

The CCCU Board of Directors recognizes that many members have been wondering about the CCCU's plans for the International Forum scheduled for February 2014. Our planning for the Forum has been delayed for many reasons, including this presidential transition. We are sorry for that delay.

We have decided that we should still host a conference for all of the peer groups on February 12-14 in Los Angeles. In fact, we think it is more important now than ever to come together and consider the future of the CCCU and Christian higher education.

Instead of a Forum as in the past, and in order to facilitate the organization of this conference, we will change the format to feature plenary sessions. The conference will also include a dedicated, extended time for peer group meetings. We are presently finalizing the full slate of speakers and registration details. These details will be available in a few weeks. This conference will be the highest priority for Bill and the CCCU staff, and we look forward to gathering together in Los Angeles.

The Board recognizes that this presidential transition has caused disruption in the programs and to the people of the CCCU, and we are truly sorry for this disruption. We remain deeply committed to the mission of the CCCU, the most important aspect of which is serving our members. We appreciate your patience and prayers in this time of transition and your continued support of the programs and the people of the CCCU.

Posted:October 22, 2013 at 3:06PM
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