Partners, Brothers, and Friends: How Two College Presidents Have Come Together for the Greater Good of Christian Higher Education


“…I looked at David, and David may have been a rookie in terms of being a president, but he was not a rookie in terms of Christian higher education, and I immediately thought, I got to learn from this guy.” -Carl Zylstra

I have not one but two good friends joining me in this episode – returning guest Dr. David Dockery and Dr. Carl Zylstra! These two men have worked together over the years for the betterment of Christianity-oriented higher education, and they are here today to discuss their parallel journeys as college presidents and the friendship that they have fostered and enjoyed along the way!

David and Carl talk about how they met and talk about their experiences prior to their current positions and whether or not they had initially seen themselves ever becoming college presidents. They also reflect upon their first ever collaboration, what about their partnership and friendship works, what they have learned from each other along the way, how to combat loneliness when in a position of leadership, and so much more!

It is my sincerest hope after hearing this story that you will see that the friendship and the collaboration between David and Carl is truly a special and unique one and that they are – as is the title of a song by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – partners, brothers, and friends. This has been such a great and insightful conversation, and I thank both gentlemen for joining me in this episode of Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership. Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button so that you never miss an episode, and I also encourage you to share the podcast with a friend who would also be likely to get something out of it!

“It was not a likely pairing. I’m from the south; he’s from the midwest. I’m a Baptist; he’s reformed…so…you try to find those…areas of commonality, and what we found was our commonality around our commitment to Christ…our commitment to Christian education…” -David Dockery

Time Stamps

[1:44] – This episode’s guests are returning guest Dr. David Dockery and Dr. Carl Zylstra.

[3:06] – We learn about how David and Carl met in the summer of 1996.

[4:57] – David reveals whether or not being a college president had been his original plan.

[7:34] – David replies to being asked how much he knew about Carl’s theological background when he met him.

[10:14] – Carl and David reflect on their first collaboration.

[13:02] – Carl discusses how his friendship with David is one in which they can pick up exactly where they left off when they last saw each other.

[15:59] – We learn about whether or not being college presidents was ever lonely for Carl and David.

[17:56] – David emphasizes how important it is to not demonstrate unfair partiality when developing internal friendships.

[20:12] – Carl asserts that his and David’s strengths being in different areas helped cement their friendship.

[21:30] – Having people outside of the institution that you totally trust, David argues, is inevitable and essential.

[23:05] – Carl and David discuss their conversations with each other about their retirements.

[25:35] – David reiterates that he and Carl had very similar visions regarding Christian higher education.

“…I liked higher ed. I was very interested in how the nuts and bolts were put together but really didn’t think of myself as a leader until it came out of the blue, and that’s why, when I met David, I had to glom onto him and say, how can I learn from this guy who has…seen it all and done it all?” -Carl Zylstra

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters – Website

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Partners, Brothers and Friends”

NGNL with Tommy Thomas – “From Disaster Rises Grace: Discussing the 2008 Tornado at Union University with Dr. David Dockery”

The Wall Street Journal – “Five Reasons Why It’s Lonely at the Top”

Forbes – “Is It Truly Lonely At The Top?”

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