Jon Spence: Director of Leadership Studies
November 1, 2013
Dr. Jon Spence is no stranger to Evangel University. Spence grew up around Evangel’s campus, and has created his own footprint as a student, alum and faculty member.
He graduated in 1988 with a bachelor of science in Social Science after competing for the Crusader football team. He joined Evangel’s faculty in 1998, an in 2003, was instrumental in starting the school’s Leadership program.
Spence attained master’s and doctorate degrees and served as directorof Evangel’s affiliate James River Leadership College from 2007 to 2013. Now, he has returned to Evangel to serve as full-time director of the Leadership Fellows Program. He also teaches many of the courses required for EU’s Leadership minor.
Dr. Spence’s hobbies include attending sporting events, participating in outdoor activities and spending time with his family. He and his wife, Danica, have four children.
Why did you come to EU?
As a kid, long before I started school here, this was like a second home. When I was in junior high, I was a ballboy on the football team during football season, and during basketball season I was a waterboy. So I was always around it. As I moved into high school, I got closer and closer to those who were here. I got letters from different places, and I just didn’t think there was any other place I really wanted to be because I just knew that Evangel had everything I needed.
What was it like attending Evangel as the son of President Spence?
I was always driven to make my own way. When I came in, I told people my first name, and I went around making friends as fast as I could. People come in as a freshman group, and they don’t know you from Jesse James. A lot of people didn’t even know who I was until The Lance wrote a story on me.
Though there were some things that came with it that were pretty frustrating, that’s just part of the deal. The challenges were small compared to all the benefits that came with it, and as time has gone by I’ve kind of forgotten about all those things. I think what I enjoyed more than going to school here was being able to come back as a professor and honor him and all these teachers that had really worked to help me figure out life.
What were you involved in during your time here, and how did that influence you?
I played football and was involved in Ministries of Evangel College Students (now CROSSwalk). One of my floors, Lewis Fourth South, had a reputation of being a fun-loving group of guys, and it was probably the most fun I had. I knew everybody on the floor. I never had that experience anywhere else. I watched guys who didn’t have a thing to hang their hat on, come on that floor and become somebody. The experience that I had there showed me that if you give people something to belong to then they’ll stay. That’s the heart of this institution.
You were classmates with several others who have also come back to Evangel as faculty. What does this bring to the school?
It’s kind of funny how that kind of thing works. Oftentimes universities will not hire their own graduates, but the power of Evangel is in that one thing. You’ve got all of us here, and then there’s an older layer of teachers here who also all went to Evangel together. We’ve also got this new level of people like Dr. Brandon Schmidly, Diane Twigger, and Shonna Crawford – they were my first students when I came here. These people understand the Evangel culture, and it stays that way because they know what’s important.
What advice do you have for students considering coming to Evangel, especially those interested in leadership?
There are leaders on every layer. And if we’re answering the call to obedience to God, we’re answering the call to lead. I believe that Evangel is a place that will equip students with working through those challenges of “what am I supposed to be?” If you do your best with what’s on your plate, and you trust the Lord, just do those things, your path will illuminate because you’re being a good steward of what He’s given, and you’re trusting in His faithfulness, which is what He asked us to do.