When he left Abilene Christian University’s English faculty 13 years ago to become Pepperdine University’s chief academic officer, Dr. Darryl Tippens reminded his long-faced friends and colleagues here that “The road between Pepperdine and Abilene is two-way.”
He was right.
Pepperdine announced today that Tippens will retire July 31, 2014, but his next career move is decidedly eastward and features an Aug. 1 return to ACU, where a new role will combine his talents as a teacher, writer, researcher and scholar in an advisory role to Abilene Christian administrators.
Tippens has been Pepperdine’s provost since 2001, and is being saluted by the California university as “a steady voice for the essential and historical link between scholarship and faith,” according to its president and CEO, Andrew K. Benton.
He returns to ACU as its first University Distinguished Scholar of Faith, Learning and Literature. The externally funded position will include serving as senior advisor for academic initiatives.
“As a University Distinguished Scholar, Darryl will be a tremendous resource to our students and faculty. He will teach and research in his discipline of English while also working to enhance the reputation of ACU through the development of a Distinguished Speaker Series and frequent interaction with other national leaders in Christian higher education,” said ACU provost Dr. Robert Rhodes. “His role as senior advisor for academic initiatives will be equally valuable as we draw upon his extensive experience with undergraduate and graduate program development, international programs, and the recruitment and retention of faculty.”
“President Schubert and provost Rhodes have presented some truly exciting opportunities to use my talents in the service of ACU. Frankly, I find the invitation irresistible,” Tippens said. “I have often thought of my life journey in terms of chapters, and it just seems like perfect timing. It has long been a dream of Anne’s and mine to return to ACU one day.”
“It will be a privilege to have Darryl work with us on a variety of strategically important initiatives and projects,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91). “His love for the church, for Christian higher education and ACU are well known. He is deeply respected by our faculty, staff and trustees, and I look forward to the teamwork he will contribute to our efforts in advancing Abilene Christian.”
Before heading to Pepperdine, Tippens taught at ACU from 1987-2000 as the James W. Culp Distinguished Professor of English. Prior to that, he was professor and chair of the Division of Language and Literature for 14 years at his alma mater, Oklahoma Christian University.
“Some of our dearest memories flow from our days at ACU. I have great recollections of my years teaching ACU’s thoughtful students and collaborating with supportive colleagues,” Tippens said. “ACU had a powerful impact on my life – encouraging my scholarship, teaching and leadership in the academy. I feel a strong sense of indebtedness to the place and its people.”
Returning to Abilene also conveniently tightens the family circle. Tippens’ son, Dr. T. Kyle Tippens (’91), is assistant professor of finance at ACU. He and his wife, Shannon (Cox ’93) have two children – Emily and Julia – who are looking forward to more face time with their grandfather and grandmother. Darryl and Anne have another son, Jeff Tippens (’96), an attorney in Austin.
Tippens earned his M.A. degree (1971) and Ph.D. (1973) in English from Louisiana State University. He served post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Kansas and Baylor University, and has been media editor of the Christian Chronicle.
Most of his research has centered on Shakespeare studies, 17th-century English literature, and the use of biblical literature in other great literary works. In 1997, he co-edited Shadow & Light: Literature and the Life of Faith, a popular anthology for ACU Press featuring fiction, essays and poems by 48 writers, now in its third edition. His latest book is Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life.
Tippens has served congregations in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas as an associate minister, youth minister and elder.
“Since leaving ACU, Pepperdine has given me some extraordinary opportunities to stretch myself in many ways – to think long and deep about what Christian higher education ought to be in the 21st century, to try out new ideas, to build a faculty, to deepen the institution’s Christian mission and identity,” Tippens said. “Perhaps a few of the things I’ve learned along the way can be applied when I return. I count it an immense honor to be invited home to share what I have learned over the decades and to support the faculty, deans, the provost and the president in their aspirations.”