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La Sierra University President Wisbey Announces Plans to Step Down


January 8, 2019

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( Randal R. Wisbey, president of La Sierra University since 2007, announced today that he will step down from the presidency on June 30 of this year.

In a letter to the university community, President Wisbey shared that the decision was a difficult one. “However,” he said, “due to the continuing challenges with my eyes following four eye surgeries within the last 18 months, and after much reflection, prayer, and counsel with my family, I have come to the conviction that this is the appropriate decision for me personally, as well as for the university.”

Ricardo Graham, chair of the university Board of Trustees, said, “During the years that Randal Wisbey has served as president of La Sierra University, his leadership has been outstanding. He has led the university in difficult times, providing stability and focus as the leader of this world-class institution of higher learning. His courage, compassion, and educational leadership experience has been a blessing to La Sierra and the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. We wish him all the best.”

Faculty Senate Chair Leslie Martin noted that President Wisbey “has led our campus through some challenging waters, always tenaciously advocating for La Sierra University — and always with grace and diplomacy. He leaves us at a time of relative peace and stability, and although he will be sorely missed, we are grateful to have had him as a true partner in shared governance here at La Sierra. We wish many good things for him as he moves into this new phase of life.”

During Dr. Wisbey’s tenure as La Sierra University’s third president, the institution has grown and developed in significant ways:

Total enrollment has expanded from 1,675 in 2007-08 to 2,356 in 2018-19.

The financial health of the university grew, as did its endowment, which rose 63%, from $56.77 million in 2007 to $92.6 million in 2018. Net assets also increased by 49%.

The 60,000-square-foot Tom & Vi Zapara School of Business building opened in 2013, not only increasing classroom and office space, but adding much-needed event space in the Troesh Conference Center. In addition, facilities across campus have undergone major renovation, including Gladwyn Hall, Humanities Hall, South Hall, Hole Memorial Auditorium, and the Center for Near Eastern Archaeology.

The university was recognized by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education as number one in the nation for diversity. And, recognized by the federal government as a Hispanic-serving institution, La Sierra in 2015 received a $2.6 million Title V grant to support innovative learning programs.

Among the new academic programs launched was criminal justice, now the university’s largest major. Other new programs included film and television, neuroscience, archaeology, and the Ph.D. in Leadership, housed in the School of Education. It is La Sierra’s first Ph.D. program.

The School of Religion became the HMS Richards Divinity School and achieved accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools, one of only three Adventist theological programs to attain this recognition.

The School of Business became the Tom & Vi Zapara School of Business. It is the largest business school in the Adventist system of higher education. Its Enactus team won the World Cup in 2007 and the national championship in 2007 and 2016.

University governance, both through the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate, were strengthened through careful stewardship and cooperative leadership.

Before entering university administration, President Wisbey spent most of his career in Adventist higher education, first as a campus chaplain at Washington Adventist University and later as an associate professor of youth ministry and the creator of the Center for Youth Evangelism at Andrews University. Thus, he was especially proud of the university’s first Spiritual Master Plan, developed and implemented during his tenure. He also oversaw the strengthening of the university chaplain’s office as a critical resource that helps inspire the spiritual care and development of La Sierra students. 

Dr. Wisbey served in a presidential role for 21 years, first at Burman University in Alberta, Canada, and then at Washington Adventist University in Maryland, before coming to La Sierra University. “I have loved my work here,” he said. “Without a doubt, I could not have asked for a more invigorating place to conclude my 34 years in Adventist higher education.”

“La Sierra has not only been good to me professionally — it has been good to my family,” he added. President Wisbey and his wife, Deanna Clay Wisbey, were delighted that their son and daughter-in-law, Alexander and Leslie, both graduated from the La Sierra University Honors program in 2011.

As he looks toward his conclusion of service, President Wisbey says he has assured the board chair “that I will do whatever I can to be of assistance as the search for the next president begins.” President and Mrs. Wisbey plan to move to their home in the state of Washington in early July.

A letter from Dr. Wisbey to La Sierra University faculty and staff is available here:

A letter from Dr. Wisbey to La Sierra University students is available here:

About La Sierra University

La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

U.S. News & World Report for six years named La Sierra University the most racially diverse university in the western United States. In addition, in September 2016 and 2017, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education top colleges ranking named La Sierra University the most diverse campus in the nation. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges guide listed La Sierra ninth in the 15-state western region for best value. This follows the July 2015, Money magazine list which ranked La Sierra University eighth in the nation for providing value-added education that helps students surpass expectations. Each year, from 2008 to 2014 the Corporation for National and Community Service included La Sierra in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. These awards include La Sierra’s receipt of the prestigious 2013 Presidential Award, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The corporation’s awards recognize La Sierra’s students for providing thousands of hours of service including international economic development projects by La Sierra’s world cup-winning Enactus team, and community projects through La Sierra’s campus-wide, Service-Learning program.

In December 2008, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its 2008 Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States. La Sierra University achieved re-classification status in 2015.

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the 150-acre campus provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for about 2,300 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.

“To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.



This article was provided by Darla Martin Tucker, director of public relations at La Sierra University, and originally appeared on the university’s website.

Image: Randal Wisbey, courtesy of LSU / Natan Vigna.

Editor's Note (Jan. 9, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. ET): The fifth bullet point in this press release has been updated to clarify that the Leadership program is La Sierra’s first PhD program, not its first doctoral program as was originally stated. The sixth bullet point has been updated to reflect that there are three Adventist theological programs that have achieved accreditation, not two as originally stated.


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