On Friday, Aug. 21, late acting president Dr. Daryl R. Yost passed away unexpectedly at Lutheran Rehabilitation Hospital, Fort Wayne.
That morning, during Taylor’s first chapel of the fall 2020 semester, Paige Cunningham’s message focused on Hebrews 12 and the “great cloud of witnesses.” Taylor, she said, has its own “faith hall of fame,” and Yost was included in her list of figures who have impacted the university throughout history.
“There is another cloud of witnesses more familiar to us — those who are a part of Taylor’s history,” Cunningham said. “…Daryl Yost, Taylor’s only other interim president who served as provost under Dr. Jay Kesler, this morning a few hours ago he passed into glory.”
Yost served Taylor in a variety of capacities over the years, including as acting president in 1985 before former president Jay Kesler was inaugurated. He also served as Provost and Executive Vice President alongside Kesler.
In an email memoriam sent to the Taylor community later that afternoon, Provost Michael Hammond described Yost as an efficient yet empathetic leader who served Taylor with deep love and humility. Hammond said Kesler and Yost’s joint leadership brought Taylor from declining enrollment to a thriving liberal arts college ready for the 21st century.
“Daryl was sort of the man behind the scenes — he was very quiet (yet) not unopinionated, but just wasn't the center of attention,” Hammond said. “He had a depth of relationships with people. He cared about people's families. He remembered their names, he knew their children, he knew what they were involved with, and he cared deeply for everyone in this community.”
His connection to Yost began while Hammond was student body president at Taylor his senior year. He was able to sit in on meetings with Kesler and Yost and Yost’s mentorship lasted long after Hammond graduated. Over the years, Hammond and his wife would call Yost when seeking wisdom and advice.
Hammond said Yost was the type of person to always follow through and set a date when someone would suggest they get together. He said Yost would drive two hours from his home in Fort Wayne to visit him and his family when they visited Indiana in the summer. Yost would come sit on their porch to talk and watch Hammond’s kids grow up.
Special assistant to the president Ron Sutherland also attested to Yost’s sacrificial love for others as an administrator and a friend.
“Daryl was not a wishy-washy leader — he had pretty direct thoughts and opinions about how things should be done,” Sutherland said. “He led that way, but he cared so much about people and he'd loved them so well that even though sometimes those decisions weren't everybody's favorite decisions, they gave him a measure of grace, because they knew he cared about them as an individual.”
Sutherland got to know the Yost family through his son, Regional Director of Development Kent Yost, as they both attended Taylor together.
Sutherland has worked for Taylor for over 30 years and Yost was one of the people who interviewed him. He recalls Yost showing him around campus and not only remembering the names of a housekeeper they ran into, but also her grandson’s name and an illness he was recovering from.
He remembers being stunned that a busy man like Yost had the capacity to know and love others deeply in such great detail.
Sutherland experienced this love most personally after losing a brother to suicide in 1997. Yost, who was executive vice president at the time, was the first person to knock on their door to greet and comfort them.
That October, Sutherland attended a Taylor play that ended in a suicide scene. He and his wife were sitting in the front two rows and Yost was seated closer to the back.
“I looked at my wife as it ended and I said, ‘I'm okay, but let's just go, we won't greet anybody,’” Sutherland said. “Too late — Daryl was bounding down the stairs against the grain to get to me, to make sure I was doing okay. For somebody who had such an important role at Taylor, to care that much about individuals, Daryl had this remarkable ability.”
As Hammond and Sutherland reflect on Yost’s leadership, friendship and mentorship, both said they hope students recognize his legacy and the numerous contributions he made to help form the Taylor they know today.
As many Taylor leaders face difficult decisions, they know that the “Taylor cloud of witnesses” goes before them.
“Now I'm in a role similar to the one he had, and so every day is kind of a reminder of who he was and how he did this,” Hammond said. “And I'm not the same personality as him, but there are so many lessons and things that he modeled… the way he's served this place and the legacy that he instilled in this place, it's my hope I could live up to that. But I can try to carry the weight of Taylor in the way that he did, and to serve the people at Taylor the way he did.”
Sutherland said that even though most students may not have been able to meet Yost, he looks forward to everyone getting to know him better in eternity.