Living My Call | Michael Lindsay

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by Marilyn Tinnin

When Michael Lindsay was a little boy he was fascinated with commercial aviation. His ambition was to run an airline. And indeed, it was clear even then that Michael’s intellect and drive would take him to the top of whatever field he chose. In high school at Jackson Prep, he gravitated to academics instead of athletics, but he was always one to enjoy the social side of school – the activities, the clubs, the relationships with classmates and teachers. Michael has a winsome way about him and so his people skills helped open doors for him all along his journey. As a world-renowned scholar, author, educator and sought after authority on matters of faith, culture, and leadership, Michael Lindsay recently became the eighth President of Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

Gordon is the only non-denominational Christian college in New England. Located 22 miles north of Boston, it was founded in 1889 and has an enrollment of 1500+. It is consistently named among the nation’s top Christian liberal arts schools.

An article on the Gordon website says that the 39 year-old Lindsay “hit the ground listening” his first week on the job inviting groups of faculty and staff to engage with him about the daily workings on campus – “listening sessions” according to Michael.

“In the early months of my presidency, my desire is to listen and learn from the various members of the college community. The collective wisdom gained from my colleagues’ responses to open-ended questions I posed in these sessions has provided valuable insight in how I can most effectively partner with them in shaping the future of the institution,” Michael explains.

The student body will return in early August and Michael who considers mentoring among his favorite aspects of being an educator will likely be holding a few of his listening sessions with students as well.
“Inspiring students is primary on my inaugural year agenda,” he says. “By creating a new narrative with them – a new chapter, if you will, that is both personal and institutional – we will help students imagine greater responses to daily and corporate challenges. By bridging academic insights with biblical wisdom, we will continue to introduce them to the wonders of learning, the joys of creativity and innovation, and the immeasurable value of Christian character in an unpredictable world.”

A Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of Baylor University, Lindsay earned a master of divinity degree and a Ph.D in Sociology from Princeton University where he also received the 2003 Outstanding Teaching Award for graduate student teaching. After Princeton, Michael worked briefly with the George H. Gallup International Institute where he directed several national surveys, co-authored two books with Gallup and became a frequent guest of the national media discussing matters of faith and culture. Gallup, who considers Michael “the clear standout” of all the students who worked with him over the past 50 years, says, “He is a man of solid character, highly knowledgeable, and an eager learner, with a rare humility.”

Michael’s book Faith in the Halls of Power was published in 2007 and was nominated by Oxford University Press for the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize. The book began as his doctoral dissertation and morphed into something much bigger over a period of five years.
Michael personally interviewed over 360 individuals who were leaders in their fields. There were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies like Halliburton and Chick-fil-A, entertainment icons like Kathie Lee Gifford and Stephen Baldwin, government leaders like George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter and professional athletes like David Robinson and Tony Dungy. The book serves as a treatise on evangelicals’ faith impacting every segment of culture.

From 2006 until assuming the presidency at Gordon, Michael has been an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University, director of the Program for the Study of Leadership, a Rice scholar at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and a frequent lecturer all over the country.

It is interesting to watch Michael handle an interview with the secular media – confidence without arrogance, respected and respectful. That is Michael through and through. When asked if he ever finds himself on the defensive because of his well documented Christian worldview in a frequently hostile world he said, “The message of Jesus is not embraced by everyone in higher education, but I have been blessed to be a part of institutions where faith has a legitimate seat at the intellectual table, even at ‘secular’ institutions such as Princeton and Rice. More important than being offensive or defensive is the admonition to follow the exhortation in John 1 to be ‘full of grace and truth’ in everything.”

In addition to adjusting to life as a college president, Michael is working on a new book on American leaders following  an unprecedented 550 interviews with American leaders at the highest levels in non-profit, business, and government . “This book,” says Michael, will relate the results of this study and the remarkable stories of these leaders and their rise to the top.”