By Meredith Kreigh
Bryan College President Stephen Livesay recently celebrated 10 years at the institution. Livesay has endured struggle and rejoiced in success…and sang a solo in chapel.
Even to this day, Livesay prays a prayer that he began as a youth: “Lord, I just want to be in your service.”
Because of that prayer, “I still don’t know what I’ll be when I grow up,” Livesay said.
He stressed that he wants to be here only as long as God wants him to be here.
“God has his hand on this place,” Livesay said. “The future is even better than the past.”
Livesay always remembered his first day as Bryan’s president. Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, also marked the day the spaceship Columbia crashed. On that day, Livesay was driving from Mississippi to Georgia to speak at a conference of student leaders at Bryan.
“The whole way there, I was hearing of the devastation. Now I never have to second-guess my anniversary date. I know where I was, what I was doing, what was going on and, consequently, the exact day.”
And the past, he recalled, had some funny moments. The first semester that he was here, Livesay sang in chapel. He received a student-composed poem about the joys and hopes of a snow day and, for some reason that he could not remember, he decided to sing a little ditty for the attendees.
“I am not a singer,” Livesay said, “But there I was, putting this poem about a snow day to a tune. The students got great humor at my expense.”
Executive Assistant to the President Margie Legg said that she has seen his continued dedication to the Bryan mission and motto.
One of the biggest impacts has been beginning Bryan’s service day, said Legg. Livesay was the first to envision it. Bryan first set aside a day of service on Jan. 19, 2005, and is now in its ninth year.
In his 10 years at Bryan, Livesay encountered struggle as well. Livesay said one of the most difficult things was taking a small college that was used to a small culture and making a larger impact with it, while preserving uniqueness.
That struggle, said Livesay, has turned into his greatest triumph. Now more people know about Bryan. And the new entrance, he added, really symbolized Bryan’s interaction with the surrounding community.
Additionally, Livesay said he gained a greater appreciation and love for his wife.
“She is a follow-through, detailed, just-do-it type. I could sit and talk with someone for three hours. She gets things done. I like to dream. She makes it happen,” said Livesay.
As revealed by these 10 years, one of the biggest lessons he learned about people, Livesay said, is also his biggest weakness. People are not always great at communicating and not always great at realizing that.
“For me, it comes from my upbringing. My father would need something done and expect me to figure out how to do it. So it is sometimes my default to expect that others understand.”
He contrasted that with another lesson: community is one of the most blessed things. Livesay said it gives the opportunity for extended uplifting, encouragement, and righteous admonishment. At the same time, being in such close quarters opens doors for rumors and gossip. After all, he pointed out, we’re human.
“If we don’t take care of the responsibilities of community, we will lose the rights and joys of it,” Livesay added.
“The hardest part about my career has been letting people go,” Livesay said. “They are a part of our community and it is a heavier burden than anything else I bear, making a pit in my stomach. I have to remember that God is bigger than any one person.”
“I don’t understand the adulation that people give to other people. They’re just other people,” Livesay said. No one stands above the rest.
“All we can ask,” added Livesay, “is to be in His service.”