written by special contributor Lance Fleming

Dr. Monty Lynn has served ACU and the College of Business Administration for 39 years as a Professor of Management. In all honesty, he’s been much more than that in a career that, in June, will officially end in retirement.

He’s been a researcher, and a writer, worked on social and emotional issues, dabbled in religious studies and poverty, and is now studying and researching how financial scarcity affects decision-making. He can’t be pigeon-holed into one category, which is just fine for a man who spent his youth in Portland, Oregon, and Memphis, Tennessee, found his way to Searcy, Arkansas, where he earned two undergraduate degrees at Harding University, then went to Cornell University, where he earned a master’s degree and then to Utah where he earned another master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Brigham Young University. Later, he earned a post-graduate degree at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. 

His varied background allows him to converse or serve as a mediator on any number of subjects, something two of his co-workers in COBA appreciate. 

More than once, I have walked into Monty’s office frustrated about something, and he has helped me talk it through (to a solution),” said COBA Professor Dr. Mark Phillips. “I have heard him described as ’Steady Eddie,’ as in no flash, just consistently there to help.” 

It’s the same for Andy Little, the Associate Dean for COBA and Associate Professor of Business Law. 

photo courtesy of the Prickly Pear

Monty has been an extraordinary colleague and friend to so many of us for so many years here in COBA,” Little said. “He is a gifted and beloved teacher, a focused and respected scholar of the highest caliber, and a generous and thoughtful mentor to the rest of us on the faculty.  

“Many times, I have ushered myself into his office, plopped down in one of his chairs, and sought his advice,” he said. “He never fails to help me work through a problem or challenge with insight, clarity, and grace.” 

Lynn’s varied interests and how he’s gone about his business reflect the leadership he’s served under for 39 years in COBA. The deans he’s worked for – from Bill Petty to Brad Crisp and the others in between – have allowed him to research and teach in a way he might not have been able to teach at other universities. 

“I’ve been blessed that COBA has always supported research,” he said. “Education can be territorial, but that’s never been the case in COBA. We work in an open research community that affirms the pursuit of interesting and valuable questions that often have a faith component.” 

Lynn taught management, health care administration, international poverty and development, and the Introduction to Business course, incorporating his natural curiosity into teaching.

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

“I’ve taught the freshman business course the last couple of decades,” he said. “We sampled several different topics, from accounting to marketing to financial management and law,” Lynn said.,“That breadth sparked several ideas to follow up on in research.”

Lynn began his ACU career in 1985. He and his wife Libby had married in 1983, and the day before he interviewed at ACU, he interviewed with Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan, which would have meant a return home for Libby. But when he got to Abilene and ACU, they knew they weren’t leaving. 

“What led me here was a dream,” Lynn said. “Bill Petty was the Dean of COBA, and he wanted to build a high-quality, faith-based business school. That resonated with us. We lived in Utah then, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go into business, consulting, or teaching. I interviewed in all three areas and considered what each would be like. 

“But once we got to Abilene, the decision was made,” Lynn said. “It’s like those stories from students who say, ‘Well, I was undecided until I came to campus, and then I was sure ACU is the place for me.’ It was the same for Libby and me. Being on campus and meeting the people made it an easy decision. I was going to take it one day at a time. That turned into nearly four decades.” 

With retirement looming, incoming freshmen won’t be taking Introduction to Business under the mild-mannered Lynn. They also won’t be experiencing his first test. 

“Freshman students often need a great deal of guidance and nurturing, and Monty provided that on top of his excellent teaching,” Phillips said. “I suspect that Monty has taught more of our current grads than any other faculty member in COBA’s history. The funniest student comment I ever heard about Monty was, ‘He is so nice, and he looks so gentle, and his class is so enjoyable, and then BAM, the first exam is a killer!’ ” 

Any praise for Lynn and his career is quickly deflected by the soft-spoken father of two and grandfather of seven, who credits any of his success back to COBA’s leadership and the college’s continued commitment to ACU’s Christian ideals. 

“The mission has stayed consistent in mission and ethos,” Lynn said. “There’s been no mission drift. The values that inspired Libby and me when we visited in 1985 are in place today. Those values include a deep commitment to Jesus Christ, a commitment to actively living your faith, to living your faith in the classroom, to valuing students, and to not dying on the vine but staying active professionally and growing. Those are strong and unerring. We’ve had so many great leaders at COBA who’ve continued to help us keep our eyes on those values.” 

The humble Lynn has held many leadership roles in COBA: Chair of the Department of Management Sciences, Associate Dean for COBA, Director of the MBA program, and Director for the Center for Business and Economic Research, and holds the chair of W. W. Caruth Chair in Owner-Managed Business.  Even though Lynn has not been in the Dean’s chair in his tenure, Little said he still draws the kind of respect those men have attracted, and he deserves a great deal of credit for COBA’s continued excellence. 

I can’t think of a more esteemed faculty member during my 13 years in COBA, and part of what makes him so respected is that any words we might offer praising him upon his well-deserved retirement will be met with humility and a little bit of deflection on his part,” Little said. “He is a model professor, and we all are better because we worked alongside him.  It’s been one of the distinct honors of my career to have called Monty a colleague and friend.” 

Lynn already has reflected on what it will be like to only research and write during his last year, and he knows it will be an adjustment. 

“It’s rare to have 18-to-21-year-olds want to hang out with you,” Lynn said. “As a teacher, there’s an automatic connection to students because we teach. So, when they see you, they say, ‘Hi,’ or they want to get a cup of coffee or come by the office. Unfortunately, that will be instantly gone, and I know I will miss that. 

“I don’t know what else I would have done,” he said when asked if he had any regrets from the last 38 years. “I can’t imagine a life in consulting or business. My life has been here, and it’s been as a teacher. And I identify with that more than anything else.” 

And he’s one that Phillips aspires to be like one day. 

The three things that come to mind for me when I think of Monty are the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, and the impressive white mustache of Mr. Monopoly (from the board game),” he said. “I have said more than once that I would take a bullet for Monty Lynn, and when I consider what I hope to be like when I am a little older, Monty is one of the people I hope to become more like.” 

There can be no higher praise for a self-described explorer from Oregon who found a home in Texas.