Remembering 60 years of leadership
by Benjamin Smid
Most people don’t frequently receive phone calls in the middle of the night. However, if you were president of a college and you gave out your number to the whole student body, with an offer for them to call you anytime they needed, you might.
This is what Cedarville’s former president, Dr. Paul Dixon, did during his presidency, which began 1979 and lasted 25 years.
Dixon celebrated his 80th birthday on Jan. 28, and he’s still investing in the two things that he says really matter: God and people.
Dixon’s walk with the Lord began in his senior year of high school. During an unplanned visit to church, he heard the gospel for the first time and received Christ — and the mission and direction for his life that he had been seeking.
In 1957, Dixon enrolled as a Bible major at Tennessee Temple University. He began preaching during his freshman year, when he was only 17 years old, taking any opportunities that came his way. Initially, he started visiting the local jail. During his second year, he was asked to join a group of men to travel the country speaking at conferences, churches and camps. Dixon said they would sometimes speak at their last location on a Sunday evening and drive all night to make an 8 o’clock class. By the time he had completed seminary, he had preached at over 100 churches.
In 1960, while still at Tennessee Temple, Dixon married his wife, Pat. After graduating from college, the Dixons had their first and only child, Scott.
After completing his graduate degree at Tennessee Baptist Theological Seminary, Dixon set out as a full-time evangelist, traveling and speaking in local churches.
In 1971, Mrs. Dixon took on a teaching position at Cedarville College in Ohio in the language and literature department. Then, in 1978, after continuing on as an evangelist, Dixon became president of Cedarville College. At first, he was opposed to the idea. He hadn’t led anything other than his family up until that point. Dixon had also always been wholeheartedly committed to his ministry as an evangelist, and he knew that leading a college would change his life completely.
Nevertheless, Dixon took the job, and was president of Cedarville College for 25 years leaving a lasting impact on the university.
His priorities as president were evident by the way he interacted with Cedarville students.
“There are two ways you can treat a college student,” he said, “One: like it’s your last chance with a child, or two: like it’s your first chance with an adult. I chose the latter.”
He wanted to be involved with students’ lives and needs.
Over the years, those needs spanned far and wide, from freshmen locking their keys out of their car at the Dayton Mall, to students whose parent had passed away during the night.
Though Dixon oversaw $100 million worth of buildings and improvements to the campus over his 25 years, and brought the institution to university status, a big part of his legacy was left in the lives of all the people he touched. Whether it be listening to a student’s struggles, visiting the spouse of a professor in the hospital, or praying with people in their homes, Dixon always made sure that he was investing in what had eternal value.
Dixon said that his life has been significantly influenced by three people.
The first was Dr. Lee Roberson, the president of Tennessee Temple College when Dixon attended there. Roberson’s strong leadership left a lasting impression upon Dixon.
The second was Warren Wiersbe. His faithful teaching and his commitment to the Word of God impacted Dixon through his sermons and books.
The third was evangelist Fred Brown, who gave his life to his work.
“There was a level of reality and humility to him,” Dixon said.
Dixon himself has a passion for evangelism, said university president Dr. Thomas White. Dixon recently witnessed to someone living in his neighborhood, and is starting a ministry to reach unsaved men, according to White
Dixon says that Christians need to exhibit excellence in serving God and others.
“It’s neat to build buildings, programs, see money raised,” he said, “But that’s really not the most important thing – it’s what you are doing to please God. That’s it.”
Benjamin Smid is a freshman communication major and campus news writer for Cedars. He enjoys singing tight harmonies, managing schedules, and having deep conversations of any kind.