A 1988 graduate of Wheaton College will be returning to his alma mater to serve as president following a unanimous decision by the school’s Board of Trustees.
Dr. Philip Graham Ryken, who grew up in Wheaton, Ill., and moved to Philadelphia after graduating, will officially step in July 1 as Wheaton College’s eighth president.
Ryken is currently senior minister at the 1,500-large Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he served at various capacities since 1995 before stepping up in 2000 at the age of 33.
“My simple hope is to fulfill my calling as a wise and visionary leader for Wheaton’s faculty, staff, and students,” Ryken stated in Saturday’s announcement. “I pray that during my tenure Wheaton will grow in academic excellence and spiritual vitality, so that our graduates are equipped to go out into the world and make a difference for Christ and His Kingdom.”
Ryken’s selection concludes a more than two-year effort that got underway 16 months before outgoing president, Dr. Duane Litfin, announced intention to retire last March.
According to Donald Meyer, co-chairman of the Presidential Selection Committee, the decision to select Ryken as president was rooted in a presidential profile document that highlighted desired qualifications for the role. This profile was created with input from multiple groups within the Wheaton College community.
“As a committee, we thought deeply and prayed fervently for the Lord’s guidance in choosing the right leader for Wheaton College,” Meyer stated.
In the end, Ryken was "a clear choice,” as his gifts and abilities were said to be aligned with the qualities specified in the presidential profile document.
“The Board of Trustees is confident in the selection of Dr. Ryken,” Meyer concluded.
One day after Wheaton's announcement, the elders of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia informed their congregation of Ryken’s acceptance of the presidency.
In announcing Ryken’s decision at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday, the church elders praised Ryken for his “very special gifts” – the gifts of teaching/preaching, administration, resolving interpersonal conflicts, as well as gifts of faith and prayer – all of which they said God had used in building the ministry at Tenth.
And while George K. McFarland, Tenth Church's Clerk of Session, acknowledge that Ryken’s departure is a loss for the church, he said he and the elders also consider it their privilege and blessing to send Ryken and his family to the new work the Lord has planned for him.
“The Lord has now called Phil to use these gifts at Wheaton College,“ McFarland commented.
"We acknowledge that the Lord is doing a special and unique work in Dr. Ryken’s life, in the ongoing ministry at Tenth, in the ministry of Wheaton College, and in his kingdom worldwide," he added.
That said, the church's leadership will be meeting this coming Tuesday to begin planning for the transition while waiting for God to provide the congregation with a new senior minister to lead them.
Ryken was the 12th senior pastor at the more than 180-year-old church.