Ergun Caner steps down as Brewton-Parker president

by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index, posted Tuesday, January 20, 2015 (3 years ago)

MOUNT VERNON (BP) -- Citing his ongoing brokenness following the suicide of his teenage son in July, Brewton-Parker College President Ergun Caner resigned Jan. 20 to return to Texas.

Caner's family had never moved to the South Georgia town where the college is located since he accepted the presidency on Dec. 2, 2013. Caner cited his November heart catheterization as being linked to the stress of losing his son in the midst of a grueling yet ultimately successful reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

"A heart catheterization, the removal of seven pints of fluid and all the tests in the world can't resolve this one issue," he stated in referring to the loss of his son in Texas while he worked in Georgia.

"I am broken"

"Brewton-Parker College cannot become a healthy, growing and stable college under the leadership of a man who is broken. And I am admitting to you that I am broken," Caner said in a prepared statement.

"I can't get over his death, and I am not sure I want to. I do know that I cannot muster the fight needed to be the leader of our college. My family and my heart need healing, and you deserve better."

He then stated he was resigning "so I can go back to Texas and heal with my wife and ten-year-old son, Drake. It is one thing to lead a college through a crisis, but this position demands a person's full attention and full strength. At the moment, I have neither. When Braxton died, a part of me died as well."

Caner said he will fulfill whatever obligations are necessary through the year, "though I believe attending to the needs of my family are most important to me at the moment."

President for 13 months

He concluded by thanking the trustees for calling him as president 13 months ago and allowing him to see "the greatest victories I've ever experienced in my entire 30-year professional life."

Trustee Chairman Gary Campbell then called the board into Executive Session and, 45-minutes later, released a resolution of support for the outgoing president.

Caner's first year -- from December 2013 to December 2014 -- was consumed with pursuing the reaccreditation of the struggling college which was already on probation when he accepted the position.

-- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) team visited in April 2014 and it "did not go as we had expected," Caner said.

-- On June 19 the agency suspended the Brewton-Parker's accreditation status which began a lengthy appeals process.

-- On July 29, shortly before the Mount Vernon community observed Stand With Brewton-Parker College Day, Braxton Caner committed suicide in Texas.

-- On Sept. 29, just 103 days after learning of the suspension, SACS notified the college it would remain fully accredited through the appeals process.

-- On Dec. 9, SACS reaffirmed Brewton-Parker's accreditation status without any blemish on its record. The crisis had ended five years after it began.

Struggles, victories

In the midst of the year of struggle, the college reported more than 100 confessions of faith from students during Brewton-Parker's fall revival, balanced its budget and ended the fiscal year in the black.

Caner, 50, was elected the 16th president of the college barely two months after President Mike Simoneaux announced his retirement. Simoneaux came to the college on academic loan from sister Georgia Baptist institution Truett-McConnell College in March 2011 and was named president six months later.

Caner's younger brother, Emir, has served as president of Truett-McConnell in Cleveland since August 2008.

Ergun Caner came to Brewton-Parker from the position of provost and academic dean at Arlington Baptist College in Texas. Previously he served as dean at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.

Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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