Dr. Jeff Hittenberger and his wife, Christine, never made a decision without the other person’s approval, and this decision, involving a giant leap of faith, was no exception.
After moving to Missouri following years of working as Vanguard’s Director of Graduate Studies, the choice to move the family back to California was not an easy one for Hittenberger. To most people, accepting the role as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs of a school that faced accreditation probation would not seem appealing. But there was no doubt in his mind that this was exactly where God wanted him. After weeks of prayer and making sure the whole family was on board, God solidified Hittenberger’s plan when their Missouri house miraculously sold in less than three weeks.
Hittenberger did not accept this call begrudgingly. To him, the benefits of residing in Vanguard’s culture greatly outweighed the challenge of financial crisis. His sunny disposition is clear as he appreciates the numerous draws to Vanguard, including its unique geographical access, diversity, creativity, and proximity to mega churches, or “spiritual wells,” as Hittenberger said. The new Provost is not fazed by Vanguard’s hardships, quite the opposite. He is utterly enthralled with this place.
“For us, learning is worship,” Hittenberger said. “It’s about having our lives transformed and being Christ’s instrument.”
He experienced this firsthand as God revealed his creativity through all Hittenberger’s own college classes. His passion for college students erupted.
“I wanted to help the generation after me to realize that learning is an incredible experience from God,” Hittenberger said.
In his role as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, he is doing just that. Among his goals are a greater involvement in social change, increased enrollment and further incorporation of electronics into education. His most significant aspiration, to equip Christ-centered world-changers, stems from his favorite Bible verse, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” from Colossians 1:27. Although Vanguard is in the process of healing from past wounds, Hittenberger is able to see its world-changing possibilities.
“Vanguard has such incredible potential,” he said.
An optimistic outlook on seemingly impossible situations is not unfamiliar to Hittenberger. When his son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism as a baby, he quickly learned how to abandon his own plans, not only out of deep love for his son, but in pursuit of God’s will.
“You get to learn things you never would have learned any other way,” Hittenberger said.
With Ben, there was no room for Hittenberger’s once-held workaholic tendancies. Ben required unique care that involved a lot of personal interactive attention. Through his son, God taught him how to serve his family by making them his primary focus.
The seed of service was planted in Hittenberger’s heart from an early age. Growing up in the Carribean country of Haiti, his missionary parents helped build the foundation of his longing to worship through service.
His father played a role in leading him to Christ from the pulpit at the young age of six. As he preached, Hittenberger took advantage of every altar call his dad would give, feeling bad if no one else went to the front.
Hittenberger’s cross-cultural journey continued through college. His eclectic education has equipped him to fulfill his position as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He started off his education at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, Vanguard’s sister school. He then attended the University of Mohammed V in Morocco for one year, followed by one semester at Fuller Theological Seminary and finishing with his Masters and Doctorate at USC.
Hittenberger traveled the world, discovered the power of knowledge and has been transformed as a father. His heart of preparation for change has allowed him to answer God’s call to Vanguard.
“You just have to be prepared to completely revise your life.”