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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

Sutherland celebrates 35-year career

From TU student to retiree

He made a three-column list.

Who have been the most impactful people throughout his time here?

It wasn’t long before the names spilled onto a second page.

Ron Sutherland, special assistant to the president, is officially ending his three-decade career at Taylor. After his retirement last year, the president asked him to stay another year to see through some of the construction projects he was instrumental in starting.

“Construction-wise and renovation-wise, all you got to do is look around campus — there’s been plenty going on,” Sutherland said. “So it’s been exciting to see what the Lord has provided and the opportunities that we have, but it’s been busy at the same time.”

It’s no surprise that 35 years at a place like Taylor would produce such quality relationships. 

Sutherland has had unique opportunities to see Taylor from many different perspectives — first as a student, then an alumnus, then a Taylor parent, employee and now a retiree.

He has been moved by the dedication and faith of many colleagues and friends throughout his time here.

Sutherland has known the last 10 presidents of Taylor, starting with Jay Kesler, yet has been encouraged by Taylor employees of all levels — he’s even known housekeepers who have impacted him by their praying for students while they work.

Other names stick out from the years: David Gyertson, Tim Herrmann, Bob Gortner, Walt Campbell, Greg Holloway and Paul Patterson.

“I saw Mark Lora today, who’s on our IT team, and I said to Mark, ‘You’re on my list!’” he said. “And you just see different people do their work well. And they impact you. So there’s a lot of people that are on that list that I’ll remember for a long time.”

This year, Sutherland has overseen the continuation of several significant construction projects on campus, some of which have been a long time in the making.

His job is largely preliminary in nature, facilitating initial conversations about what might be done with a space in the future or how to best respond to needs that arise with growth.

“The one that had the longest runway was the film and media building,” Sutherland said. “John and Kathy Bruner began dreaming about it 14 years ago. We’ve had 10 or 11 different locations that we’ve thought of having it on campus. And so having been here the whole time they were here and working with them on it, it’s been an interesting journey to walk through all those changes.”

For many of the projects that have begun this year, Sutherland won’t get a front-row seat to see them finished. Still, he’s grateful to have been able to contribute his time and commitment to get them running.

Beyond the bounds of campus, Sutherland has also invested his time in the community of Upland.

“Most of your connection with the community is driven by your kids being in school and little leagues and all those kinds of things, as normal families do,” Sutherland said. “And once your children are gone, if you’re not careful, you can lose touch." 

The first thing Sutherland did to engage with the Upland community was serve on the Upland Area Greenways Association board.

This spring also marks seven years of service on Upland’s town council and 35 years as a resident.

The Sutherlands are excited to carry on their love for the Taylor community and serve in a different capacity in the coming years.

Sutherland believes he can best continue this ministry from afar by praying for the university.

“I think the major thing that — when somebody’s been connected with a ministry, whether that’s a church, whether that’s a university, whether that’s a mission agency, and you work a long time for the mission agency — retirement gives you the opportunity to say, ‘Okay, Lord, what is my role in praying and interceding on behalf?’” he said.

 He and his wife look forward to moving to Danville, Indiana, to be closer to their family and grandkids.

They plan to look for a new church community to call home and are excited to invest their time and gifts in new ways while they still have the energy to do so.

“The best description I’ve ever heard of retirement is self-funded ministry,” Sutherland said. “What is it that the Lord has called you to do in this time in your life that maybe you’re not getting paid to do but you have the opportunity to do … and what is it that he’s called you to do that gives you purpose?”

Sutherland also wishes to pass this thought on to those just starting in a position at Taylor. 

His ministry has been one of learning to balance dreams and execution — vision and logistics. He believes understanding this balance is key to carrying out one’s purpose. 

“The great thing about a ministry like Taylor is it will take as much as you give it,” Sutherland said. “The challenge, at times — and this is true whether you’re a pastor at a church, you’re an employee at Taylor or you work for a mission agency. It will take as much as you give it. So what’s the balance for each person?”

While seniors at Taylor, Sutherland and his wife got married.

“My wife kind of flippantly one day said, ‘I can see (you) living in a place like Upland and never leaving,’” he said.

And she was right, at least for 35 years.

Now, the couple looks forward to a season of life that will bring them further from the bell tower and cornfields they’ve called home. 

But, as Sutherland says, he and his wife basically bleed purple. Taylor doesn’t leave you so quickly.

“I’ve been far more blessed than I think I bless Taylor,” he said. “It’s just been an incredible journey. It’s been a lot of fun.”