Most interesting man on campus

By: Jacob Jones

Managing Editor

“I don’t always teach, but when I do, it’s at Bryan College.” Dr. John Sterling could be qualified to star in Bryan College’s version of a Dos Equis commercial, with his professional careers ranging from cowboy to professor to Desert Storm veteran.  Sterling, the coordinator of the criminal justice program originally from a small town in Kansas, said he did not intend to end up as an educator, his typical career in the past has been more action oriented, but God apparently had other plans.

First becoming a police officer in 1975, Sterling spent the next 20 years in various jobs in the law enforcement field.  Near the end of that stage of his life, after three years as a Corrections Officer, Sterling grew dissatisfied with his position and began law school at 28 years old, where he was one of the oldest students in the law program.  He entered the program with the intentions of practicing law, but shortly after receiving his juris doctorate, 9/11 changed the direction of his life completely.

As the country increased its Homeland Security programs after the national tragedy, it required experienced people to man the posts that were being created.  One of those posts was Tennessee regional director of Homeland Security, and though in competition with ex-CIA and FBI agents, Sterling was chosen for the position for his broad base of experience.

Before this, a younger Sterling worked as a manager for a high rate finance company while satiating his urge for action by serving in the National Guard.  His unit was deployed to both Operation Just Cause in Panama, as well as Desert Storm.  Deployment to high action areas was uncommon at the time for National Guard Units.

Sterling attributes his opportunities to nothing but God’s sovereignty.  He explains that many times he was simply in the right place at the right time, which led to things like a role as a detective in a crime documentary and assorted cases on the X-files. 

While still making a living in law enforcement, Sterling was fulfilling his passion of the ranch life: riding and working odd jobs as a cowboy.  Other passions of his came and went with the years, but he said, “When I get burned out on a hobby or passion, I metaphorically ‘put it on a shelf’, and I can always come back to it later if it interests me.”  Some of these recurring interests include motorcycles, sailboats, hot-rods, farm animals, and more.

When asked his opinion on the new law in Tennessee allowing faculty and staff to carry on campus, he responded,

When the Tennessee legislature ‘granted’ authority to colleges to make their own policies regarding campus safety, the move is in the right direction, but erroneous in the sense that the right of self-protection is an inalienable right, and NOT something within the power of any legislative body to ‘grant’ in the first place.

Commenting on his new position as Director of Campus Security, Sterling said,

“Bryan College has delegated [me] to be the person responsible for implementing… policy.  I am happy to do so, because my life’s work has been security and defense and I want to do everything in my power to make certain Bryan College is the safest environment it can be.

Sterling believes that,

The biggest barrier to security anywhere is the absence of personal situational awareness.  People (individually) must be knowledgeable concerning risk assessment, and threat awareness, and tactical response.  When people do not place a high priority on personal safety, they might as well paint a big target on themselves.  
Another obstacle is that people are unwilling to deal intellectually with the greatest threats to our campus and our students, because of ‘political correctness’.  If we cannot talk openly and honestly about Doctrinal Islam, the violence of cultural subgroups, the general (and increasing) hatred that Christians will be selected for as the power of anti-Christ grows in the last days, then we cannot prepare for our own physical defense in a meaningful way.

Sterling’s students comment that he is an entertainer and educator.  Sophomore Bryce Pickens was short and sweet when asked about his professor, he simply said, “He is a character.”

He gives this advice to students and young people, “Have a solid plan for your life, but be flexible; God will often change those plans.  Some people may tell you to settle down and stick to one career, but it was my wide range of experience that God used to send me to the places I have been.”


Jacob Jones is an outdoor fanatic who just happens to be a Bryan College Criminal Justice Major. Born and raised in the Tenn. valley, Jones writes and edits for the Bryan newspaper, manages volunteers for the college anti-human trafficking group, and captains the Bryan College Rugby Football Club. His post-graduation plans include military service and a career in Law Enforcement.