Q&A with the President
Dr. Robert J. Graham shares his start in academia, his vision for Christian higher ed and what he's learned about Redeemer.
5 min. read
March 11, 2019

Q: WHEN AND WHY did you decide to do the work that you’re doing now?

In my second year of university, Al, a longtime family friend, invited me for lunch and I shared that I was struggling with whether I should stay in university or go back to the electrical work that I’d done before starting my degree. Was I giving up on God’s call? At that time, I understood calling as specific “sacred” vocations: a pastor, a missionary or a youth or worship leader.

Al replied: “Bob, God can call you to be an electrician just as much as he can call you to be a pastor. The world needs Christian electricians too.” That conversation completely changed my perspective.

Dr. Mundy, one of my professors at Lee University, also influenced me. With her encouragement, I took on a teaching assistant position that terrified me at the time. But, in that experience, I discovered how much I enjoyed working with students.

When I’d completed my doctorate, Dr. Mundy reached out and encouraged me to apply for a teaching position at Lee, which led on to leadership positions at Waynesburg University and Grove City College.

Looking back, I see God’s hand at work, preparing me for where he has brought me and what he wants me to do.

Q: What has stood out to you about Redeemer since arriving in August?

I’ve been struck by the strength of Redeemer’s support community and its stories. As post-Second World War immigrants who were still very new to Canada, they gave sacrificially to make Redeemer a reality. I feel a great deal of obligation to that legacy and to our supporters’ faithfulness as they invest in generations of Christian leaders.

Q: You’ve already become well-known on campus for attending many community events. Why do you make that a priority?

Quite simply, because I enjoy them! But to go a bit deeper, I want to share with the faculty, staff and students who are organizing or taking part in these events that each of these activities matter enough for the president to be there. Christian education is a whole experience. Our community is an essential part of that. And when we meet one another in these different settings, we combat a very human tendency to see each other one-dimensionally. We learn to more fully recognize the people around us for who they are.

Dr. Graham Participating in Redeemer's Annual Food Drive

Q: You’ve been living in an apartment on campus since August and plan to move into the President’s Guest House, which is currently being renovated. Why is it important to you to live on campus?

I believe that the residence experience brings something essential to the whole of Christian higher education. I want to support and participate in that work and to be involved in events and life at Redeemer.

My wife Cheryl and I also wanted to be able to host faculty, staff, students and visitors as a part of being connected to and known by this community. I grew up in a pastor’s home — I know the value of being close to the community that you are serving!

Q: What are some of the challenges that you see facing Christian higher education?

Many Christian universities find themselves in some tension with the larger culture. In face of this tension and rapid change, our greatest challenge is a loss of identity.

There is pressure to adopt a more generic form of Christianity to attract students. Or universities may distance themselves from their Christian faith and history in order to better fit with the higher education environment.

The question that Christian leaders must wrestle with is: “What is non-negotiable?” We must adapt where possible but have the courage to stand when needed. We must respond to and innovate within a quickly changing higher education environment in such a way that we do not lose our Reformed Christian identity.

Redeemer has held true to its mission and its identity, recognizing that Reformed Christian higher education provides the theological framework and the knowledge needed to understand ourselves and the world around us. It prepares Christians for all realms of life, which is a pivotal task. The clarity that Redeemer has in its mission, rooted in the Reformed tradition, is still so needed.

We must respond to and innovate within a quickly changing higher education environment in such a way that we do not lose our Reformed Christian identity.

Lightning Round

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

I run, golf, hike and play bass guitar. I’m also learning to play squash.

Q: What was the last book(s) that you read?

I channel-surf with my books a bit on my Kindle. Recently, I’ve read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and Richard Mouw’s book on Abraham Kuyper.

Q: What is your top movie pick?

It’s hard to choose! I enjoy fun movies like Galaxy Quest and Labyrinth and classics like Chariots of Fire and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Q: Here’s a common question: are you related to Billy Graham?

I’ve had the question before! I’m not related to Bill Graham. In my family, however, Robert Graham is a name that goes back hundreds of years.

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