Christians have always believed that virtue is not so much taught as caught. Since we acquire qualities more by example than instruction, Scripture advises us to select our friends and mentors carefully. For this reason, I could not be more grateful to have worked beside Virginia Patterson for more than 15 years.
We first met at Wheaton College, at the conference of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) in 1993. Of course her reputation preceded her. While serving as adjunct faculty at Wheaton College and also Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Patterson was nearing the end of a distinguished career as president and CEO of Pioneer Clubs, a position she had held for 27 years. I was awed by her achievements as a leader and author, yet realized she was a humble woman of few words. Her sharp mind fueled her capacity to listen and discern. No wonder there was always admiration in the air whenever Virginia's named was evoked. It seemed everyone in CBE turned to her for wisdom. In this we were not alone.
Virginia's accomplishments in leadership theory and practice were recognized by distinguished awards from various evangelical organizations. Significantly, Virginia was the first and only woman to receive the Christian Management Award (1996) by (what is now) the Christian Leadership Alliance. In observing her participation on evangelical boards like SEND and ECFA, one executive said:
Her commitment, her common sense, and logical approach to things, and her willingness to stand alone if necessary, are just outstanding.
Patterson's willingness to go alone characterized her service to Christ early in life. As a single woman, she sailed to Nigeria where, for 10 years she served with the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), educating hundreds ...1
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