DUE WEST, S.C.—There’s one thing Erskine’s new Vice President for Advancement David Earl can say with certainty: he’s not in Kansas anymore.
At least he’s not in Kansas until he goes back to gather his family for their eastward journey. The former director of alumni relations at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas, will soon be settling in South Carolina with his wife, Sherry, and their youngest son, Austin, a rising high school junior.
Meanwhile, Earl, who began his tenure July 5, has already met with his team for a retreat on Lake Greenwood. The two-day event gave him a small taste of South Carolina’s recreational opportunities, and also helped him get to know staff members in the advancement division he will be leading: Administrative Assistant Dena Hodge; Director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving Buddy Ferguson; Administrative Assistant Ann Hawthorne; and Gifts Coordinator Corey Anthony. Also joining the group for portions of the retreat were Erskine President Dr. David Norman, Chief Communications Officer Cliff Smith, and Interim Director of Seminary Development Jane Greene.
“Our retreat was a good opportunity to begin the bonding process as a team,” he said. “We were able to begin important conversations about bringing me up to speed on Erskine issues, policies and procedures. The advancement/alumni team also introduced me to some of the local eating establishments, for which I am very appreciative.”
Earl, who is in the final year of a three-year master’s degree program in philanthropy and development at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, said he had been “searching for a VP position with a CCCU school”—a college that is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities—when he found the “vice president for advancement” job posted on the Erskine website.
“Erskine’s membership in the CCCU was a draw, but reading through the mission and commitment to Christ-centered liberal arts education was the hook,” he said.
And while it’s true that Earl won’t be in Kansas anymore, he is bound to bring a little bit of Kansas to Erskine with him. “Being from a small rural community in Kansas, the size and location of Due West appealed to me,” he admitted.
There’s also a genealogical bonus. “My family has historic roots in the Starr-Anderson area, so moving to this part of South Carolina has a strong attraction for me.”
As he gears up for the coming year, the new vice president, who majored in history, looks to the past as well as to the future. “My expectations are to immerse myself in the history, traditions, culture and life of Erskine College,” he said. “It is critical that I become ‘Erskine.’ I hope to meet as many alumni and supporting friends of Erskine as possible to begin developing strong relationships.”
Earl’s experience at Sterling College, his alma mater, includes his most recent work as director of alumni relations as well as terms of service as director of development and, earlier in his career, major gifts officer. His experience should enable him to find his feet quickly.
“This may sound cliché, but honestly, I plan on taking things one day at a time,” he said, commenting on how he plans to proceed.
“I need to ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to the answers and information that faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends share with me,” he added.
Earl and his team will “take daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual steps to achieve the desired goals.”
He has several aims in mind for his first year, and expects to be busy.
“My goals for the first year at Erskine College are to develop and build strong relationships with alumni, friends, staff, faculty and students; to work with the advancement/alumni team, Dr. Norman, the Board of Trustees and the Alumni Board to achieve the Annual Fund needs for fiscal year 2011-12; and develop a long-range strategic plan for the division.”
As for that family back in Kansas, they are preparing for the move. “Packing up our entire lives spent in Sterling and central Kansas and moving 1,200 miles has been both difficult and exciting,” Earl said. “Changing employer, neighbors, routines, high school, and leaving family and friends is not an easy process.”
For the Earl family, soon to be the newest Midwestern transplants to Due West, the change seems right. “We truly believe that God has blessed this move and we are all excited for new opportunities and adventures.”
A little elevation—not to mention a sea level that includes the sea—also sweeten the deal. “South Carolina is beautiful, the mountains of North Carolina and the coast promise to offer some wonderful weekend excursions, and the people have been extremely welcoming and kind,” Earl said.
“So far there are only two things that will take time to get used to—the humidity, and, as a bow hunter, the tiny deer compared to the big grain-fed deer of Kansas!”
The Earls have two other children. Older son Jon is in Germany at a missions training school, and may be joining them in October “depending on possible opportunities in Europe.” Daughter Ashley and son-in-law Paul Brandes live in Illinois, where he is a student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.