The vice presidents told her she needed something big, something dramatic, something that made a statement.
The first female president of an Assemblies of God university had unpacked her books, hung her diplomas and dusted off her knickknacks from around the world. But one wall, framed by two stark white bookshelves and beaming lights, stood naked.
“I wanted an old-world map that [would be] a reminder of the global reach of Vanguard,” President Carol Taylor said.
On the outskirts of Henderson, Nev. was the art gallery. As a friend was passing by, she knew instantly the painting was just what Taylor was looking for. A phone call later, the painting was being packaged for the car. A conversation later, the painting was no charge.
As Taylor unwrapped her new decor, a slow but humbling tear trickled down her face. It was exquisite. The painting itself is edged in rich tapestries, framing two perspectives of the world; above them floats heavenly bodies, below them sits earthly beings. The rich strokes of chocolate, auburn and cream compliment the room’s already beautiful brunette furniture and long off-white drapes. She remembers the painting completed the room: it was made for such a wall as this.
“Every day it’s a reminder that God provides in the most supernatural ways,” Taylor said. “And when God does it, he does it well.”
If anyone has the ability to clearly identify God’s provision, it is Taylor. After accepting the position as acting president last March, Taylor knew the journey would be rough and the possibility of failure lingered.
“Six months ago, there were so many unknowns. There’s always a risk when stepping into a big challenge. ‘What if it’s not successful?’” Taylor said. “But there’s also the possibility you get to be a part of something God is doing.”
Some members expressed doubt, saying the necessary changes couldn’t be done on such a short deadline. Not only were they accomplished, but a stellar line-up joined the Board of Trustees, including former Chief of naval operations, Vern Clark. In addition, Taylor was contacted within days of her acceptance by other presidents who had mended previously sanctioned schools.
“Even on the worst days, there was a strong sense that God was in the midst of it all and whatever happened would be for his glory,” Taylor said.
Under Taylor’s direction, Vanguard is clearly earning its reputable status back. Only four months ago, the university was placed on Probation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), yet was again ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the top five best colleges for the third consecutive year.
In addition, the school has shown vast improvement in the eyes of WASC, per their Commission Letter, dated June 26, 2009: “Still, without a doubt, the University has taken significant steps to address Commission concerns and is clearly headed in the right direction. It has laid an important foundation for the University to come into full compliance with Commission Standards.”
The letter also reported that if progress continues, the sanction may be reduced or removed in one year, instead of the standard two years.
“God isn’t finished with Vanguard,” Taylor said.
Last semester, Taylor would sometimes sneak away to attend an event on campus that showcased the talent of students: an orchestra concert, an open mic night, a chapel. Her commitment to excellence was and is strengthened by campus life.
“I look at the students; they deserve our best efforts. I think of all of our alumni serving around the globe; they deserve our best efforts,” Taylor said.
Early in the morning, Taylor can be found sipping her fair-trade coffee and reading e-mails while Bach plays quietly in the background. Then she’ll pause from her trying, yet imperative to-do list to look at the painting. The painting is a snapshot of an ever-turning globe; a reminder that God is in the chaos as well as the stillness; a reminder of Vanguard’s commitment to the Great Commission, manifested in such alumni as Olivia Klaus, director of “Sin by Silence” and Brandon Stiver, full-time missionary to Tanzania; a reminder of Psalm 33, that “No king is saved by the size of his army . . . But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love . . . he is our help and our shield.”
A painting that is low in cost, but high in value frames the president as she begins her next assignment.
“I think of the fruit of Vanguard and I’m excited about working hard another day,” she said.