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September 18, 2023

President Hayles Interviewed by the RBJ: A top priority is a focus on intellectual maturity and spiritual humility

New RWU president focuses on building students’ intellectual maturity, spiritual humility.

Rupert Hayles Jr. believes his experiences in academia, business and religious leadership will serve him well in his new role.

“I plan to utilize the gifts God has given me to make the world a better place,” he said.

President Hayles Headshot

Dr. Rupert A. Hayles Jr.

Hayles became the 12th president of Roberts Wesleyan University and the fourth president of Northeastern Seminary in mid-July.

Roberts has roughly 1,620 students and offers over 90 graduate, undergraduate and adult-degree completion programs. Northeastern Seminary is a private Wesleyan seminary founded at Roberts in 1998.

The school has positioned itself as a leading university for character education, a discipline committed to the development of the whole person. It focuses on student growth through Christ-centered education, transformational learning and service to others.

Hayles comes to Roberts with more than three decades of experience in strategic, operational and general management, and Christian higher education.

He most recently worked at Pillar College in New Jersey, a private evangelical Christian institution, where he served in various roles since 2019, including chief operating officer, executive vice president and most recently as president for the past two years.

Prior to his time in Christian higher education, Hayles served in the United States Air Force as an officer before transitioning to the private sector to support organizations with strategic management, executive coaching and advancement for more than 25 years.

During that time, he worked with organizations such as Cytec Industries, Prudential Financial and Merck Pharmaceutical.

Outside of academia, Hayles fostered his calling to Christianity through community and engagement as chief operating officer of Christ Church (10,000 parishioners) and executive pastor of Life Christian Church (3,500 parishioners), both in New Jersey.

Hayles is also the co-founder and chair of Organization and People Dynamics Inc., an organizational consultancy that focuses on emotional and leadership development under the auspices of The Center for Emotional Development and the Center for Emotional & Spiritual Development.

He earned his doctorate in organizational leadership from Regent University in Virginia, specializing in leadership, change management and emotional intelligence.

Hayles also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science in management information systems from Seton Hall University.

President Hayles smiles next to the Red Wings mascot.

Hayles gets ready to throw the first pitch at a Rochester Red Wings baseball game on August 23.

Hayles — who is married and the father of 12-year-old twins — had never previously visited the Rochester area. Among his first impressions is how welcoming and friendly the people are, from those on campus to the Rochester area community at large.

He is spending a substantial part of his early days engaging with the community, from business and religious leaders to those at educational institutions and in government.

Such communication helps him learn of each sector’s needs and how the university can help them meet those needs, he explained.

One path toward such collaboration is the $13.9 million Golisano Community Engagement Center, which opened in January and serves as a hub for connection, community interaction and student life resources on campus, Hayles noted.

Among his top priorities at the 157-year-old institution is a focus on intellectual maturity and spiritual humility.

Character development, he said, is critical.

“We want our students to come here to learn how to lead and to lead well,” Hayles said, adding a focus is also on serving people better and being good citizens.

That idea is in-line with the school’s strategic plan which focuses on academic excellence and career readiness, based on faith and community.

Hayles also plans to expand and develop the pipeline of products the university offers — which could include new courses or internship opportunities.

“Everything’s on the table,” he said.

He believes in constant innovation, quoting the late writer William S. Burroughs who said, “When you stop growing, you start dying.”

Hayles’ appointment follows a comprehensive and inclusive national presidential search initiated in February after President Deana L. Porterfield announced to the community that she would depart the university and seminary at the conclusion of the 2022-23 academic year to become the next president of Seattle Pacific University.

Deana Porterfield and Dr. Hayles shake hands and smile at the camera.

Dr. Hayles with former Roberts and Northeastern president, Dr. Deana L. Porterfield.

The committee also engaged an executive search management firm, FaithSearch Partners, to support the work of the presidential search committee and the board of trustees as they sought Porterfield’s successor.

Terry Taber, chair of the Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary board of trustees who led the search committee, said the group was impressed with Hayles’ range of experiences, capabilities, results and commitment to Christian higher education.

“Dr. Hayles is a courageous leader who will advance the missions of both Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary,” Taber said. 

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