Avondale University College has begun the search for a new vice-chancellor following Professor Ray Roennfeldt’s announcement of his retirement after 11 years in the role.
He shared the news with colleagues during a staff meeting on Monday (November 4). (A link to the job description for the vice-chancellor role is at the end of this article.)
“This is something I’d never, ever thought I’d do—I never thought I’d retire.”
At 72, Professor Roennfeldt is Avondale’s oldest and third-longest serving president. “It’s been a huge privilege,” he said. “We’ve certainly made progress. And I want to thank you all for the progress we’ve made. This is not the progress I’ve made, this is the progress you have made as staff members of Avondale.”
Professor Roennfeldt said building a team that achieved great things, including status as an Australian university college, is his best work as president and now vice-chancellor of Avondale. “I hope that’s my legacy” he said.
His advice for his successor: “trust God and your team.”
This pastoral approach to leadership formed most strongly in Papua New Guinea, where Professor Roennfeldt and wife Carmel served for eight years. “Working in a cross-cultural context . . . forced me to reflect deeply on the differences between people and how to work with those differences,” he said.
Of the four characteristics Professor Roennfeldt said he would bring to the presidency, three—affirmation, consultation and facilitation—are people-centric. “I wish, though, I had more time for visioning rather than dealing with the mundane.”
Professor Roennfeldt said at the time of his appointment that his capacity for ministry and leadership “is dependent on my being a person of genuine openness and ethical integrity”. That has proved true: he has, perhaps, been at his best when advocating for the equality of women in ministry and in challenging his Church to put “basic human compassion” above policy.
A paraphrase of a verse from the biblical book of Philippians is not only a good summary of Professor Roennfeldt’s leadership but of Avondale’s future in the higher education sector. “By no means do we count ourselves experts in all of this, but we’ve got our eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward. . . . We’re off and running, and we’re not turning back” (Philippians 3:12-14, The Message).
Professor Roennfeldt graduated as a registered nurse from Sydney Adventist Hospital’s School of Nursing in 1969. He then completed a Bachelor of Arts in theology at Avondale, graduating in 1973. He has also earned a Master of Arts in religion and a Doctor of Philosophy from Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA).
His denominational experience includes serving as a local Seventh-day Adventist church minister in southern New South Wales and as a district director and educator in Papua New Guinea. He began lecturing at Avondale in 1986 and is a former senior lecturer in and dean of the then Faculty of Theology.
Professor Roennfeldt is co-author of the book, Meaning for the New Millennium, and is widely published as a presenter of papers at academic conferences and as the author of articles and book reviews in academic and denominational journals.
Professor Roennfeldt will remain in his role until a search committee has nominated at least two names from which Avondale College Council will appoint a new president.