Fairbanks elected commissioner of education
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Kansas City
Upon a unanimous election by the General Board, General Superintendent Jesse C. Middendorf announced Saturday, February 23, former Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) President E. LeBron Fairbanks will be the denomination’s next commissioner of education. The election took place during the 85th Session of the General Board held in Overland Park, Kansas.

Fairbanks replaces Jerry D. Lambert, who is retiring after serving 14 years as education commissioner.

Fairbanks most recently served as president of MVNU, a position he held for 18 years before retiring in 2007. He was elected MVNU’s fifth president in 1989.

A highly accomplished leader, educator, and student, Fairbanks earned his undergraduate degree at Trevecca Nazarene University in 1964. He received three master's degrees—M.A. from Scarritt College in 1967, M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary in 1970, and M.Th. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1971.

In 1976, he was designated a Fellow in Pastoral Leadership Education by Princeton Theological Seminary, earning the D.Min. degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary in 1978. In addition, Fairbanks is a 1991 graduate of the Harvard University Institute of Educational Management being also a Research Fellow while on sabbatical in 1999 at Yale University Divinity School.

Fairbanks was involved in local church ministries in Tennessee and Pennsylvania for 14 years, after which he became academic dean in 1978 for European Nazarene College near Schaffhausen, Switzerland. In 1982, he became associate professor of Christian Education and Lay Ministry Development, and coordinator of the Master of Ministry program at Southern Nazarene University.

Two years later, Fairbanks was elected president of the Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines, where he served until accepting the presidency of MVNU in July 1989. Under his leadership, APNTS received full accreditation from the Asian Theological Association and was granted "recognition" status (accreditation) by the Philippine government Department of Education. The Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary was the first graduate theological seminary not associated with a university in the Philippines to receive this recognition.

During his 18 years as president of MVNU, the university enrollment grew to 2670 (+150 percent), the operating budget expanded to $43 million (+300 percent), and new and expanded academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels were developed and taught in traditional and non-traditional formats.

The institution transitioned to university standing and received discipline-specific national accreditation and regional academic recognition. New academic and residential life facilities were constructed, including a spacious library/learning resources center and a beautiful student center. Nine satellite campuses were created.

Also, a Campus Ministries Division was developed and cultural diversity initiates were launched. Campus property expanded from 279 acres to 405 acres. The MVNU endowment expanded to $12.6 million (+400 percent).

The cumulative current (or emergency) fund increased to $2.7 million (+153%). The debt burden ratio was reduced to 2.1 percent. The university continued a long tradition of closing each school year with a balanced budget. A Foundation Board was created to manage endowment and university reserve funds.

Strategic plans and leadership agendas were adopted to guide the university during the tenure of President Fairbanks.

Fairbanks has written numerous books and articles, including the modular course of study book, Leading the People of God: Servant Leadership for a Servant Community. He has traveled to 34 countries worldwide and serves on a variety of community, state, national, and international boards. His article on "Institutional Collaboration as Institutional Strategy" has appeared in several national publications.

From 1995-1998, Fairbanks served as chair of a Church of the Nazarene Council of Education subcommittee developing a strategic plan for networking and collaboration. He has served since 1977 on the International Course of Study Advisory Committee. He chaired the committee "Who Owns Ministerial Preparation?" from 2001-02, and served as secretary of the International Church Committee from 2001-05. He was the speaker at leadership conferences in India and Bangladesh in 2003.

Fairbanks was also a presenter at the Johannesburg 2000, in Johannesburg, South Africa, an international conference of Nazarene educators worldwide. He has served on the executive committee of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges and as a member of the board of directors of the 500 member strong Council of Independent Colleges. He was a presidential mentor in the Executive Leadership Institute, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Sub-committee on "Housing and Community Development," Committee on Financial Services in March 2003, and was an Issue Group Convener at the Lausanne Forum on World Evangelism, Pattaya, Thailand in October 2004. He spoke at the IberoAmerican Confrence of the Church of the Nazarene in April 2006 in Madrid, Spain.

Dr. Fairbanks and his wife, Anne, have one son, Stephen.
--NCN News with biographical information courtesy of Dr. E. LeBron Fairbanks