Ray Roennfeldt

Team builder now to let others lead

Monday, November 4, 2019
Avondale’s president announces retirement

Avondale will begin searching for a new president and vice-chancellor following Professor Ray Roennfeldt’s announcement of his retirement after 11 years in the role.

He shared the news with colleagues during a staff meeting today (November 4). “This is something I’d never, ever thought I’d do—I never thought I’d retire.” At 72, Roennfeldt is Avondale’s oldest and third-longest serving president. “It’s been a huge privilege,” he said. “We’ve certainly made progress. And I want to thank you all for the progress we’ve made. This is not the progress I’ve made, this is the progress you have made as staff members of Avondale.”

Roennfeldt says building a team that achieved great things, including status as an Australian university college, is his best work as president and now vice-chancellor of Avondale. “I hope that’s my legacy.” His advice for his successor: “trust God and your team.”

This pastoral approach to leadership formed most strongly in Papua New Guinea, where Roennfeldt and wife Carmel served for eight years. “Working in a cross-cultural context . . . forced me to reflect deeply on the differences between people and how to work with those differences.” Of the four characteristics Roennfeldt said he would bring to the presidency, three—affirmation, consultation and facilitation—are people-centric. “I wish, though, I had more time for visioning rather than dealing with the mundane.”

Roennfeldt said at the time of his appointment that his capacity for ministry and leadership “is dependent on my being a person of genuine openness and ethical integrity.” That has proved true: he has, perhaps, been at his best when advocating for the equality of women in ministry and in challenging his church to put “basic human compassion” above policy.

A paraphrase of a verse from the biblical book of Philippians is not only a good summary of Roennfeldt’s leadership but of Avondale’s future in the higher education sector. “By no means do we count ourselves experts in all of this, but we’ve got our eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward. . . . We’re off and running, and we’re not turning back” (Philippians 3:12-14, The Message).

Roennfeldt graduated as a registered nurse from Sydney Adventist Hospital’s School of Nursing in 1969. He then completed a Bachelor of Arts in theology at Avondale, graduating in 1973. He has also earned a Master of Arts in religion and a Doctor of Philosophy from Andrews University (Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA).

His denominational experience includes serving as a local Seventh-day Adventist church minister in southern New South Wales and as a district director and educator in Papua New Guinea. He began lecturing at Avondale in 1986 and is a former senior lecturer in and dean of the then Faculty of Theology.

Roennfeldt is co-author of the book, Meaning for the New Millennium, and is widely published as a presenter of papers at academic conferences and as the author of articles and book reviews in academic and denominational journals.

Roennfeldt will remain in his role until a search committee has nominated at least two names from which Avondale College Council will appoint a new president.

President reflects on leadership and legacy

Professor Ray Roennfeldt thanks his colleagues for their contribution to the cause in an interview marking the end of a tenure as Avondale’s oldest and third-longest serving president. Public Relations Officer Brenton Stacey also asks the retiring 72-year-old about his leadership and his legacy.

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