Dr. Carol Taylor is the first woman to serve Vanguard University as president in its 90-year history.
Taylor was named president of the Costa Mesa, California, school in 2009, having served as provost and vice president for academic affairs since 2007. She has led Vanguard through times of crises, and they have emerged strong and infused with a renewed commitment and hope for their future.
A 1973 Evangel graduate, she is being honored at homecoming this year by the Evangel Alumni Association with the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The award will be presented at the homecoming banquet, which takes place Saturday, October 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the University Plaza Convention Center.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree in elementary education that she obtained at Evangel, Taylor also holds a master’s degree in cross-cultural communication from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in multilingual/multicultural education from Florida State University.
Taylor has accumulated more than 30 years of teaching and administrative experience; including 12 years at Educational Testing Service in Princeton. ETS develops and administers tests such as the SAT and GRE and is the nation’s leading testing research company.
Her first reaction to being told of the Distinguished Alumnus Award was one of disbelief.
“I feel very, very honored and humbled by this,” she says.
The meaning of ministry
In the same spirit of humility, Taylor talks about her successful career and life accomplishments. It has not been a journey of grasping for opportunity, but rather allowing God to show the way.
She remembers clearly a day when she was a student at Evangel, and her understanding of God’s calling began to crystalize. She was talking with one of her favorite professors, Dr. Thurman Vanzant, and he shared with her a concept that has stuck with her.
“I knew Dr. Vanzant had at one time been a pastor. I got up the courage to ask him why he had left the ministry,” Taylor says.
“He placed his hands on his desk and said, ‘I never left the ministry; God just changed the shape of my pulpit.’
“That was the moment I began to understand that your vocational calling is that place where God calls you to be His presence in the world. Whether in vocational ministry, for-profit ministry, not-for-profit ministry . . . God gets to decide the shape of the pulpit.”
When the first female president of Vanguard University is asked what advice she now gives to other aspiring young people, especially women, her answer is in keeping with her philosophy.
“Let your career pursue you,” Taylor says.
“As women, our paths are diverse and unique. If you had told me when I was a student at Evangel that I was going to be president of a university someday, I could not have even imagined it. I am convinced that if we live each day of our lives in obedience to Him, everything else takes care of itself. If we really believe that the One who created us knows where our deepest desires and passions lie, He will lead us to places where we get to discover that in profound ways. Our job is to say yes.”
This is how her own career evolved, without a planned progression into leadership.
“I was simply given the opportunity to do things,” she says. “It wasn’t a sudden a-ha moment. It was a natural transition into leadership. I remember when I first went to ETS, I thought someone would come to my door and say, ‘I don’t know what we were thinking, hiring you!’ But they never did, and I was given wonderful opportunities to lead large projects and programs.”
“It was later, as I began reading and thinking more intentionally about leadership, that one day it dawned on me, ‘Wow, this is what I’m meant to do.’”
God’s leading hasn’t always been easy, but He has always been faithful and worthy of trust.
“I will never forget the day I was standing in an emergency meeting of the executive presbyters and executive committee of the board at Vanguard,” she says. “They turned to me and said, ‘Carol, would you be the acting president?’”
“In that moment, there was a deep, quiet voice that said, ‘What if this is why you came?’
“I was asked to take leadership during a difficult time for Vanguard University,” Taylor says. “Only 15 months later, their accrediting commission declared that the university had made ‘phenomenal progress’ and ‘a significant institutional turnaround.’”
During this time, Taylor learned about her own strength and resiliency. Most of all, she learned once more to lean on God.
“I encourage young leaders: don’t be afraid of the hard place that God places you,” Taylor says. “You will discover how big God is in those places. You only discover that when you have to depend on Him. We’re reminded again and again that we never have enough resources in ourselves. The resiliency isn’t in our own strength or cleverness – it is in the profound sense that God is at work. We don’t get to write the journey. We just follow it. It’s far better than anything we could do on our own.”
Release from Evangel University.