‘A Great Leader is First a Great Servant’: Chancellor Gordon Robertson Hosts His Inaugural Chancellor’s Forum with the Honors College
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (Oct. 5, 2023) – Regent University Chancellor, Gordon Robertson, held his first Chancellor’s Forum on September 26 before an exclusive audience of nearly 40 students from the Honors College.
Dr. Simon Tarr, who is both the Dean of the Honors College and the Director of the School of Communication and the Arts, told his students how rare this opportunity was as they sat in near silence waiting for the Chancellor to arrive.
“Our Chancellor has been at the helm of many companies, including CBN, Operation Blessing International, and now Regent University,” Dean Tarr emphasized. “He is so unique in his breadth of experience and ability to communicate.”
On the tail end of Tarr’s statement, Chancellor Robertson entered the library auditorium and tore through the weight of the room’s reverence with his laidback brand of humility. Taking his seat while uttering, “Don’t call me Chancellor. Please, just call me Gordon.”
The first student opened the Q&A, asking the Chancellor about his experience of stepping into a leadership role recently held by his father.
With transparency, the Chancellor admitted, “Dad didn’t peel back the curtain on Regent. When I was approached about the role, I felt like I didn’t know a lot about Regent aside from its conception history. Am I ready for the firehose of information? Two months in, the firehose is still on, but I am wrapping my head around it all. Regent is on good footing, and that makes my job really easy.”
The Chancellor offered a short answer that led to an interesting story when asked what prompted him to end his career in law and move to the Philippines in 1994.
“GOD!” The room burst into a brief roar of laughter at his resounding declaration.
The Chancellor went on to explain, “Dad invited John Gimenez from Rock Church on CBN in 1965, when things were very humble. John told us that God had spoken to him, and he wasn’t kidding. He dreamed that he and I were supposed to go on a mission trip to India, and we were leaving Monday—and it was Thursday. I just knew there wasn’t time to get the needed visa for a trip like this, so I agreed to go if he could get the visa. John had already prepared, and I got the visa. I bought a ticket to Air India, and it was a trip that changed my life. God met me there with a real ‘Road to Damascus’ moment.”
When asked for advice on how to follow Regent’s motto, “Christian Leadership to Change the World,” if you’re going into a non-leadership career, such as animation or accounting, the Chancellor offered this: “What is your definition of a leader?
If I had to tell you what to do, then I would have failed. I should show you and encourage you,” the Chancellor affirmed.
“Under carefully controlled conditions, people still do what they want to do. The Biblical definition of leadership is servitude. In animation, you may serve a whole generation. Superbook has changed the world, and the character Joy is out there in the world. Now little girls want to be like Joy. Joy is showing the next generation how to overcome. True leaders look for what is needed and provide it.”
Norfolk native John Bender chose to grow his strengths in marketing at Regent University because he also desired an education that valued the authority of God.
Bender found the Chancellor’s explanation of the true nature of leadership being rooted in servanthood to be a powerful example of the kind of man that he is.
“The most moving trait about Gordon—as he insisted that we address him—is his humility. He constantly shows how he relies on God’s direction and power and not his own efforts in his career and personal life. I believe being humble is the greatest trait a leader can have,” Bender asserted.
The Chancellor took the next few moments to tackle the idea of how Regent students can use their education to address the moral issues plaguing society.
“The face of evil is in every headline. It doesn’t seem to let up. The level of atrocities inflicted on the innocent in Ukraine could result in nuclear war.”
Suddenly, the room felt heavy as the Chancellor looked out onto the faces of the students as they listened intently.
“Democracy is under attack,” continued Chancellor Robertson. “Authoritarian governments are on the verge of collapse. All of this is pressing. And what is the church facing? We are facing the second coming. What does that mean for you? What will you do? Who are the voices saying there is a better way? Are you willing to be the standard that God raises? Here I am. Send me!”
The next question for the Chancellor came from a budding entrepreneur: “Can businesses in the for-profit sector serve the Kingdom as well as businesses in the non-profit sector?”
“Yes, and amen. A righteous calling can be accomplished by for-profit and non-profit organizations. How many people are you serving? If you stop serving, you won’t be in business for long. What did Paul do? He made tents for profit. Peter and John made and sold fish sauce, which was very popular in its day. What did they do when Jesus died? They went back to what they knew. They went fishing.”
Courtney Toran chuckled to herself while reflecting on how she made her way to the campus: “I didn’t choose Regent; Regent University chose me.”
Well, Toran was accepted into 30 colleges and universities and offered over $800,000 in scholarships. Nonetheless, this freshman from Suffolk is now a Regent Royal with junior standing.
Toran aspires to serve as a child psychologist, providing holistic treatment to underserved communities.
“The Chancellor encouraged us to engage with God often and shared that the key to passion is to stay close to the one who called you. But when he stated, ‘God thinks you can do it.’ That was powerful. So, I declare that by the time I am 25, you can call me Dr. Toran.”
The Chancellor went on to preach, “God has entrusted us with his glorious gospel. God seeks to use us for His glory, and He thinks we can get it done. If He thinks we can do it, then? Amen!”
The students gifted him with an “amen” in agreement with his strong spiritual encouragement.
Dean Tarr closed out the Q&A session, asking the Chancellor to speak on The Great Commission and the possibility of it being fulfilled in our lifetimes.
Chancellor Robertson became energized by the opportunity to share his final thoughts on this hopeful subject.
“For the first time in the history of the church, we can preach in every language. It is incumbent on this generation to say, ‘Let’s finish it.’ But where are the laborers of the harvest? Missionary efforts can birth much. Hospitals in China were birthed by missionary doctors. World missions and the student volunteer movement remain relevant. But don’t try to export American Christianity. Ask God for the keys to the Kingdom—the message to open minds.”
The Chancellor added, “Instead of having to go to a remote place, we should recognize that America too is a mission field. Proclaim the gospel and hit someone right in the soul with it. And when they get it—seeing that transformation—nothing else comes close!”
The Chancellor then thanked the students for their time and graciously posed for a group picture before heading on to his next engagement.
“This was an opportunity for some of our brightest undergraduate students to interact with a vibrant and knowledgeable speaker,” acknowledged Dean Tarr. “Every time I am around Gordon, I learn something new. Every single time.”