03/21/10 — Kerstetter officially takes reins as MOC president

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Kerstetter officially takes reins as MOC president

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on March 21, 2010 1:50 AM

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Mount Olive College President Dr. Philip Kerstetter and his wife, Mary, share a smile during the president's inauguration ceremony Friday at Kornegay Arena.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Alumni, friends and supporters of Mount Olive College officially welcomed college President Dr. Philip Kerstetter into office Friday in a ceremony seen only three times before in the private institution's 59-year history.

Kerstetter, the fourth person to hold the office of president at the school, was greeted by students, staff and community leaders at the official inauguration ceremony that installed him in the leadership role. The Pennsylvania native has overseen the college since July when he moved to Mount Olive from his previous post as president at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kan.

In the months since coming to Mount Olive, the president has already had an impact on the students of Mount Olive College, religion major Kelli Kosuda of Goldsboro said in her welcoming remarks.

"During the short time that Dr. Kerstetter has been serving as president, he has encouraged students to shift from the future tense, into a strong and active present tense. Instead of questioning, 'What will I become?' we are now asking 'What am I becoming?'" Ms. Kosuda, a junior, said.

Craig Walker, a Heritage student at the college's Washington campus, offered words from the non-traditional student body of Mount Olive College. The inauguration week theme of "Transforming through Connections" was an appropriate choice, he said.

"The non-traditional programs here at Mount Olive have transformed the lives of hundreds and, dare I say, will transform the lives of thousands through their being connected to this institution," Walker said.

Brenda Cates, a professor in the department of science and mathematics, welcomed Kerstetter on behalf of the college faculty. The professors of the school recognize the president's wisdom, experience and leadership qualities, Ms. Cates said.

"Ours is a rich heritage. We have overcome many obstacles to be where we are today. As we reach for new possibilities and face the challenges that lie ahead, we offer you our collective support and pledge to match your energy and enthusiasm with our own," she said.

Mount Olive College Alum-ni Association President Gregg Paul, Mount Olive Pickle Co. President Bill Bryan and Director of Mount Olive College Church Sup-port Jean Ackiss also offered greetings to the new president. A. Hope Williams, president of N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, Marsal P. Stole of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Joyce M. Mitchell of Sen. Kay Hagen's office and the Rev. Charles L. Renfrow of the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists also gave welcoming remarks.

In his inaugural address, Kerstetter thanked his friends and family, especially his wife Mary Kerstetter, for helping him along the way to the office of president.

"It has been quite a journey since Brandywine High School, but I hope that it has been a journey of love, wonder and meaning. I know that I could not have made this journey without you by my side," he said to his wife of more than 38 years.

The president said it would be presumptuous of him to try to fulfill the college's mission on his own, and that is why he has begun working with the campus community to create a strategic planning process that will engage all members of the academic community to map out the college's future.

"I can assure you that the future of Mount Olive College will be a combination of actions that will continue some initiatives, will modify some initiatives and will discontinue some initiatives. With the respect due to our heritage, together we will examine the present and look into the future," Kerstetter said.

Already, the college has seen new developments under the president's leadership, establishing new educational locations to better serve the needs of adult students, creating the first formal program in the state that allows focused students to earn a college degree in three years, and initiating the Success Advocates program that operates as a case management approach to help students on an individual level.

"In the vision of the future of Mount Olive College, I can assure you that we will continue our heritage of being transformational," Kerstet-ter said.

To accomplish that goal, the president said he plans to strengthen the connections between the college and its founding body, the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, the college's students and communities served by Mount Olive.

He also hopes to remain true to the college's mission and purpose, engage its students and encourage the school community to pursue ever-higher dreams.

"Without those dreams being expressed, the reality is that they cannot be considered. For me, I dream at all levels, from the complex dream about becoming a university to the more simple, but perhaps equally important dream of finding ways to keep some of our sidewalks from flooding in heavy rains," Kerstetter said. "Regardless of the specifics of our dreams, our dreams connect us as we work to transform this college."