On Sunday, June 10, 2018 the Board of Trustees of Middle East University met and elected Dr. Larry Lichtenwalter as its new president.
Holding a PhD from Andrews University, he is a published author, renowned speaker, and international lecturer. As the 18th president of this distinguished institution, Dr. Lichtenwalter brings a clear vision for a strong Adventist identity for Middle East University. (MEU)
Dr. Rick McEdward, chair of the Board of Trustees and president of church’s regional headquarters, said, “Dr. Lichtenwalter has demonstrated clear leadership and vision and a deep commitment to Middle East University and its role in the MENA region.”
Dr. Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, Director of Education for the General Conference of SDA, added her congratulations and assured the ongoing support of the GC Department of Education, saying, “This university has a special standing among Seventh-day Adventist universities and unique opportunities for the work in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Serving as interim president since December 2017, Lichtenwalter accepted the position recognizing the great need for MEU to be a light of hope in the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENAU).
The only higher education institution in a region that serves nearly 500 million people, MEU has been training indigenous pastors, teachers, business administrators, pre-med students, and tentmakers since 1939. Its rich heritage of resilience and transformation is reflected in its commitment to preparing men and women who are distinguished by their personal, professional, service-oriented and faith-based lives.
Dr. Larry and Kathie Lichtenwalter came on a pilot visit in November 2012. When first called to MEU to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy & Theology and Director of the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies, Lichtenwalter struggled with a sense that while he did not want to say yes, he could neither say no.
God laid a strong burden on his heart for the work in MENAU, particularly through directing the efforts of training ministers for the gospel at MEU, and he soon found himself following that call in 2013.
As a young boy in rural Pennsylvania, Lichtenwalter was intrigued with crayfish because of their ability to swim upside down, on their side, forward, or backward, and not be confused. Tiny granules in their heads, statoliths, responded to gravity to help orient them to what was up and what was down.
Lichtenwalter is convicted that MEU is here to bring dependable “statoliths” of truth to the young people who come to our campus.
He says, “We want the next generation to know what is real, what is stable. What they can orient to that is dependable. We want their lives—and their hearts—to be directed to God.”
Lichtenwalter sees MEU becoming increasingly unique in Lebanon as an Adventist Christian campus in terms of its identity and ethos.
He knows it comes not without cost, though, nor has it come overnight. It reflects nearly a decade of steady transformation where an identity and ethos balance has tipped enough to clearly see.
With full dorms, engaging vespers programs, mission trips, small groups praying and sharing together, baptisms, the spiritual maturing of young people in our midst, the level of discussion in classes, prayers of thanksgiving during an academic awards assembly, the moral/spiritual direction a writing contest exhibited, a new personal and interpersonal ethic is challenging and being absorbed by students.
Having a strong group of dedicated Adventist teachers is an important part of quality academic and spiritual education that MEU offers.
With the majority of our courses now being taught by committed Adventist teachers, curriculum changes have also been seen in the intentional nuancing of integration of faith and learning—especially in the sciences.
“What we see happening now is just the beginning,” said Lichtenwalter. “If we keep our hand to the plow now in terms of our strategic vision and priorities, what we dream for the next generation will become the reality we can only faintly imagine now.”
Dr. Larry Lichtenwalter completed his MDiv and PhD in Christian Ethics at Andrews University. His wife Kathie completed an MA in Islamic Studies from MEU in 2016 and has been serving as personal assistant for Middle East and North Africa Union’s Total Employment Tentmaking Initiative since 2013.
Kathie says, “I’m blessed, because I get to think mission, read mission, write mission, live mission. It’s an extremely rewarding pastime!”
The Lichtenwalters are deeply committed to nurturing their community as they pour out their lives and hearts in ministry. They have four sons and their families living in the United States with three beautiful granddaughters and a January grandbaby on the way.