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CIU Welcomes New President

By Bob Holmes

An experienced and respected Christian higher education administrator has been named

the seventh president of Columbia International University. The announcement was made

following a vote by the CIU Board of Trustees on February 2 to confirm Dr. Mark A. Smith

as president beginning July 1, 2017.

Dr. Smith comes to CIU from Ohio Christian University (OCU) where he served as

president for 11 years, increasing enrollment from 400 to approximately 4,600 students

during his tenure. In addition, under Smith the university opened 14 sites in rural areas for

student learning and began offering online educational programs. Smith also directed

$30 million in capital construction projects and the increase of university personnel from

50 to approximately 800 employees.

Prior to coming to OCU, Smith served as vice president for adult and graduate studies at

Indiana Wesleyan University where he oversaw the doubling of enrollment from 5,000 to

approximately 10,000 students in four years.

Smith succeeds Dr. Bill Jones who has led CIU since 2007. Jones suggested to the CIU Board of Trustees that Smith be considered

for president. At each board meeting for the past seven years, the board has requested Jones submit the names of potential

candidates in case something ever happened to him. Jones says when he turned 60 years old, 18 months ago, he began to pray

more intensely about who one day would replace him as president. Not long after that, he had a providential conversation with

Smith at a conference the two were attending. Smith had a simple question: “Would there be a role for me to play at CIU?”

Prayer and Conversation

“Over the next few months, Dr. Smith and I continued our conversation,” Jones said. “Right away, I made an entry in my prayer

book to pray over the opportunity on a regular basis.”

At the May 2016 board meeting, Smith’s name was introduced to the Executive Committee by Jones. CIU Board Chairman Doug

Rutt says it was the board’s “love and appreciation for Dr. Jones, as well as his leadership that caused us to be interested in

learning more about Dr. Smith.”

By the end of October, more CIU leadership was brought into the discussion and after Christmas, Smith visited CIU to meet key

board members, administrators and faculty leaders. After many conversations and much prayer, Rutt and the board agreed to

pursue the possibility of Smith as CIU’s next president.

“As the Executive Committee interviewed Dr. Smith, and then as the entire board interviewed him, there was a very strong sense

among us that God was providing a man who loves what we love at CIU and is uniquely gifted and experienced in ways that

would benefit our institution greatly while being in step with us missionally,” Rutt said.

Confirmation, but more Prayer

Meanwhile, in God’s providence, Dr. George Murray announced he was retiring as chancellor. The board and Smith asked Jones if

he would serve alongside the president as chancellor for several years and continue the tremendous progress that God has given


In late January, faculty, staff and students were asked to pray for the board’s decision, a process that was well received. Speaking

for the board, Rutt told the CIU family: “We are as intent as ever to have a president who is committed to educate students from a

biblical worldview to impact the nations with the message of Christ.”

Rutt also asks alumni and friends of CIU to “please join us in continued prayer for Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones, as well as the rest of

the CIU faculty and staff, as we ask God’s guidance during this exciting time of transition.”

CIU’s new president, Dr. Mark A. Smith



CIU Today