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Seattle Pacific University President Leaving Amid LGBTQ Challenges

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Seattle Pacific University President Daniel J. Martin will resign April 5 to take a new leadership role at the foundation of a national healthcare system, he announced in an emailed statement to the SPU community.

Martin, the 10th president in the Christian university’s 130-year history, led SPU for nine years.

He did not name his upcoming employer but said the healthcare system’s expectation is that he take the role before the end of April, requiring him to transition prior to the conclusion of the academic year.  Other reports say that Martin will join St. Luke’s Foundation, affiliated with St. Luke’s Health, based in Houston, Tex.  He will serve as Division Vice President of Development for St. Luke’s Foundation. In this role, Martin will provide leadership, management, and stewardship of the philanthropic arm of St. Luke’s Health Texas Division’s ministry.

Martin cited a desire to be closer to family in the Midwest and an interest in working in the healthcare sector following the deaths of his father and sister last year as some reasons for the change.

“As I journeyed with them through their battles with Alzheimer’s and cancer, I am grateful the focus for the next chapter in my professional calling will be empowering and resourcing others who face similar critical health concerns,” he said. “I am also grateful as the foundation I will serve is close to my hometown and family; especially near to my mother and my sister’s family.”

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SPU Board of Trustees Chair Cedric Davis said Martin will serve as a resource during the leadership transition.

The university marked several financial milestones under Martin’s leadership, including the school’s largest year for fundraising in fiscal year 2019. He led a $6 million effort to retrofit the university’s oldest building, and a new residence hall, health sciences building, and music performance and rehearsal studio were constructed during his tenure.

The university’s endowment more than tripled during his presidency to top $137 million. A “Tuition Reimagined” campaign launched in fall 2020 reduced tuition by 25 percent, capped future tuition increases, and initiated new scholarship opportunities.

He also expanded SPU’s leadership team to include a new vice president of inclusive excellence to lead diversity efforts.  The school has been facing challenges from LGBTQ activists who want the college to abandon biblical teaching on issues related to sexuality.  It was recently named in a class-action lawsuit against 25 Christian colleges by LGBTQ activists.

José Flores, president of the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific, SPU’s student government body, told “Diverse,” a  publication that advocates for LGBTQ issues, that Martin’s news would mean moving the attention of the Board of Trustees’ away from discussions about a SPU sexuality and sexual orientation policy to searching for an interim president.

In his statement, Martin reflected on how the university reacted to a tragic campus shooting in 2014.

“During those days, our community came together and leaned into our faith in Christ in remarkable, supportive ways—even in the face of grief and trauma. This was a glimpse into our community’s core identity as people of faith that I will always remember.”

SPU has been following a virtual learning model during the pandemic but has announced plans to return to in-person instruction in fall 2021.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.