Editor’s Note: The online version of this article was updated on Oct. 12, 2021 for clarification.
When Rebecca Ward met Michael Lindsay, the entire trajectory of her life changed.
At the time, just a sophomore in college, Rebecca was focused on her studies. An English major, she was an ardent reader and learner. She loved being challenged and changed by literature, especially historical fiction.
Her life plan seemed simple — in the same way that books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Rebecca” had captivated her, she wanted to instill a passion for literature in others.
Rebecca had traveled with her family some, but she wasn’t interested in a crazy lifestyle. She had grown up in Dallas, and Texas felt right where she belonged. She even had broken up with her last boyfriend partially because he seemed disinterested in staying in the area.
Yet, a sense of wonder occupied Rebecca’s mind as she prepared for her upper level Latin class.
“It was very strange,” Rebecca said. “I had this really strong sense of expectation before I went to this class … I told all my roommates and suitemates, ‘I’m going to this really hot class,’ and they said, ‘Why would you think (that about) an upper level Latin class?’”
She got there early — a rarity for her at the time — and sat in anticipation of what the class would bring.
Then, Michael opened the door.
“Whatever I felt like I was expecting, somehow that was it,” Rebecca said. “Michael walked in and sat down beside me and said, ‘Somehow, I know you.’ It was a really strange sense of deja vu.”
From there, the two started to get to know each other. Michael was in a Christian fraternity, and asked Rebecca to one of their events as a first date. Rebecca, wanting to return the favor, planned to ask Michael to one of her club events by sneaking the question into her Latin homework, which they would normally compare before class.
“I had had more Latin than he did — he had two years and I had four,” Rebecca said. “He looked at my paper and saw a date and panicked because he knew he didn’t have any numbers in his translation. So, he quickly gave it back to me and started reworking his translation like he’d done something wrong … Now, we say Latin is our love language.”
When Rebecca, who was one year behind Michael, graduated, the two married.
At that point, everything in Rebecca’s life was like she had hoped — she was settling down in Texas with her family. She even began teaching English at the same middle school she had attended. She knew the families of her students and her boss had been her sixth grade language arts teacher.
However, it wasn’t long before the subtle changes to the once-simple plan began setting Rebecca on an entirely unexpected path.
As Michael, who planned to go into higher education, was going through seminary at Princeton University, Rebecca began doing graduate work at the Columbia University Teachers College, the No. 1 education program in the country at the time.
This became the pattern — as Michael chased after his next goal, Rebecca ran alongside him in her own regard.
When he began working on his master’s degree at Princeton, Michael and Rebecca’s grandmother encouraged her to do the same at Columbia University.
“Michael told me, ‘You know I really feel like we’re so close — maybe you should consider doing this,” Rebecca said. “So, we graduated back-to-back and all our family came up. It was like our wedding.”
Afterward, they lived in Oxford, England for one year. Rebecca taught in a local school, learning a completely different education system and teaching philosophy. When they returned to Princeton, she returned to her first middle school again.
Teaching at the front of a classroom felt like home. Her graduate work was spent studying literature circles and teaching students how to engage with literature, not just present a book report.
She always wanted to create a community of readers. When Mrs. Lindsay gave independent reading time to her students, she didn’t take the time to grade papers or work on lesson plans — she modeled it herself at the front of the classroom.
When the Harry Potter series came out, Rebecca made a point to read it before adding it to her classroom library. The students waited in eager anticipation for her to finish.
“They’d fight to get the next book and ask me, ‘Have you finished?’” Rebecca said. “And I’d say, ‘I’m trying — I read for three hours last night!”
The memories of students growing from begrudged participants to fervent bookworms are still a rewarding residual of her work.
When Michael and Rebecca welcomed their first daughter, Elizabeth, into the world, the mother and daughter commuted to school together — Elizabeth, to her special needs school, and Rebecca to teaching part-time in the elementary literacy room close by.
It was only as Michael was inaugurated as president at Gordon College and their twins, Emily and Caroline, were born that Rebecca moved on to a new chapter of teaching — homeschooling her children.
With the demands of being a first lady of a college occurring primarily in the evening — hosting dinners and attending events — Rebecca decided to stay home during the day with the girls.
“(The balance) is tricky, as I guess it is for all moms,” Rebecca said.
Together, they poured into their studies and into each other. Plus, it allowed Rebecca to be available as Elizabeth needed with her various health needs.
All the while, Gordon College became a home of extended family members and friends. Like an entire village helps in raising a child, the campus had come around the family as the three Lindsay daughters grew up.
“We’d sit down for lunch and (Caroline and Emily) would plop themselves at some student table,” Rebecca laughed. “Or they wouldn’t want to walk next to us on the street because they’d find other (friends).”
And so when Rebecca experienced a similar sense of expectation as she did before her Latin class all those years before, she knew another trajectory pivot was coming. It had settled into both her and Michael’s heart — their days at Gordon were coming to a close.
Although it was bittersweet to say goodbye to so many students, staff and faculty who had been so close to their family, they felt a new, promising chapter beginning at Taylor.
This new chapter included a myriad of firsts, like a new school for Elizabeth and the start of public middle school for Caroline and Emily.
For Rebecca, it brought the opportunity to invest in an entirely new student body.
“I feel really blessed to be a part of the mission and ministry of Taylor,” Rebbeca said.
Now, it seems strange now to look back on those college days, thinking she would spend her whole life in Texas. England, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana — they had never crossed her mind back then.
Yet, in God’s perfect planning, each place became exactly where she needed to be.
“I’m so thankful we took the opportunities given to us when we were young,” Rebecca said. “It was scary at the time, leaving the familiar … I’m so, so grateful we stepped out of our comfort zones at different times and we’ve been led to where we are today.”