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Copresidents Departing from Institute for Christian Studies


The board of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) announced that Tom and Dawn Wolthuis are no longer copresidents of the school effective January 27, 2014, just one year after they took on the role.

ICS is a Christian graduate school in Toronto, Ontario. It receives ministry share support from Canadian members of the Christian Reformed Church.

The board’s announcement gave no reason for the departure. Sources close to ICS said that the presidents did not receive board support as they did necessary staff cutting that had been approved by the board and that the management style of the two presidents exacerbated the situation.

Charity returns available from Canada Revenue Agency show that the school was operating on deficit budgets and was spending a $4.2 million legacy gift from the estate of Lowell Andreas at a rate of more than $600,000 per year.

In late 2012, financial statements showed that the school could accept students for only two more years unless it cut expenses by reducing faculty and staff and increased fundraising.

That was when the Wolthuises moved from Iowa to take on the copresidency. Tom had been a professor at Dordt College in Sioux Center, and Dawn was a partner in a software company.

Until recently, Peter Noteboom was treasurer of the board. He decided not to renew his term as a board member because, he said, normal communication and accountability mechanisms were no longer functioning. “Many board members were not fully informed about what was happening,” he said.

Noteboom said that the copresidents had a nearly impossible task and “without a healthy relationship between Henriette Thompson, board chair, and the two copresidents the task became that much more difficult.” Noteboom said that in the end, the relationship was evidently broken.

Three other board members have also resigned in the past year.

In a statement, the Wolthuises said they were sorry to be leaving ICS. “We both felt we did some of the best and most challenging work of our careers striving to help raise the visibility of the important mission of ICS while also driving toward a sustainable future,” they wrote. “We wish for only the best for the students, faculty, and staff who are carrying on the important work.”

They said they echo the words of Dr. Doug Birdsall when he left his presidency at the American Bible Society: “There are times when the vision and style of a new leader does not mesh satisfactorily with the culture of an established organization or with the expectations of a board.”

Asked about the departure, Thompson said in an email, “The departure of ICS copresidents Tom and Dawn Wolthuis is marked by a sadness and pain that inevitably accompanies these partings because they occur within a wider community of faith where relationships are long-term and precious. The Board of Trustees is grateful to them for the gifts they were able to offer during their time in office and we pray for them and for the ICS community at this time.”

Doug Blomberg, academic dean at ICS, is now acting president. This is the sixth administration change for ICS in the past nine years.

The Wolthuises plan to return to the U.S.

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