In the fall of 1960, a tall, lanky freshman walked onto the Abilene Christian College campus as the first member of his family to attend college. Already, he knew his calling: He planned to preach.
Royce Money graduated from ACC prepared to lead a church, and more than 30 years later, he returned to lead a university.
The ACC Experience
During Money’s high school years, his preacher and youth minister guided him toward preaching, and he decided to seek formal training. Drawn to ACC by its contagious Christian environment, he expected to learn the fundamentals that would carry him through his career as a preacher. What he did not expect was how deeply the college would root itself in his life.
He made lifelong friends. He immersed himself in campus life, joining the Knights men’s social club and serving as vice president of the Students’ Association his senior year. He worked as an assistant to the dean of students from 1964-66. He even met his future wife, Pam. The two married in 1965, with Dr. Tony Ash, professor of Bible, officiating.
“Once I got here, I was hooked,” Money says. “I was hooked for life.”
Senior Vice President Emeritus Bob Hunter knew Money as a student and came out of retirement for the third time to work for ACU at Money’s request. He says Money impressed others as a leader on campus and was keenly interested in the university’s foundational mission and principles even as a student.
“I just remember him always being involved with the student life of the campus and, therefore, earned the respect of his fellow students in his leadership roles in a quiet way, an unassuming way,” Hunter says.
Something to Prove
Money graduated from ACC in 1964 with a bachelor of arts and in 1967 with a master of divinity. He left with something to prove, to himself if no one else.
“I always intended to preach,” he says. “I had to find out if I could do that or not.”
Money preached at numerous churches from Maryland to Dallas. He helped shepherd churches through the tumultuous civil rights movement and the horrors of the Vietnam War, consoling parents when children returned from war physically and mentally mangled or dead.
He even met President Lyndon Johnson in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1967. About 20 Church of Christ preachers were invited to the White House to present the president with a Bible in honor of National Bible Week. After waiting more than three hours in the Oval Office for the president’s appearance, Dr. Don H. Morris, then president of ACC, and Dr. John C. Stevens, ACC’s then upcoming president, approached Money, asked whether he’d given any thought to returning to his alma mater.
In fact, he had, and after that conversation, he began applying for jobs at ACC. But he received rejection letter after rejection letter.
“Those doors were absolutely shut,” Money says.
Discouraged but not defeated, Money decided to create his own opportunities. During the next 14 years, Money earned his Ph.D in religion at Baylor University, worked as a part-time minister, and wrote for the Christian Chronicle. He and Pam became certified as members of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. They counseled and encouraged church groups, addressing divorce recovery and adult aging issues and conducting marriage seminars.
No Place Like Home
Still, Money yearned to return to Abilene. He remembers crying out to the Lord in surrender.
“Lord, I did everything I could to go back to ACU. If you want me there, you better do it. I quit.”
He reordered his life, eliminating ACU as an option. Three months later, he received a phone call about an ACU job offer.
Even though working for ACU was a lifelong dream, moving to Abilene meant sacrifice. Money’s two daughters left behind friends, Pam had to give up tenure teaching at a public elementary school, and the move cut their income in half. But the family agreed he should take the job, and Money says it was the best decision they ever made.
When the family relocated to Abilene, Money began teaching as a professor and serving as a minister at the Highland Church of Christ. Eventually, he became provost, the university’s chief academic officer.
Moving on Up
Ultimately, Money found himself considered for the position of president of his alma mater, along with Dr. Gary McCaleb, vice president of the university, and an outside candidate. Though some considered Money a dark horse candidate, the Board of Trustees selected him in 1991 as the tenth president of ACU, succeeding Dr. William J. Teague.
The board gave Money three goals: balance the budget, increase enrollment and improve ACU’s public image. Money gave himself three years.
“If I can’t do it in three years, then I’m the wrong man for the job,” he says.
Since taking office, Money has conferred 15,643 degrees and contributed to an increase in the endowment to $236 million from $55 million. During his term, ACU has been ranked No. 1 for “innovative leadership” in U.S. News and World Report’s list of “America’s Best Colleges.” ACU also remains on the national list of “America’s 100 Best College Buys.”
Jim Holmans, executive assistant to the president, has worked with Money for 12 years, and says his dedication to the job never wavers. He says Money always represents ACU, whether in the office or on vacation. He never leaves the ACU mission behind.
“He goes early in the mornings until late at night, and it’s not just three, four or five days a week – it’s seven days a week,” Holmans says. “I can’t say this too much: he lives and breathes ACU. It doesn’t make any difference where he is; he’s making contacts for ACU. He bleeds purple.”
Hunter says Money empowers faculty, staff and students to work together to further the university’s goals.
“It is a very difficult role that a president has, and he has filled that role with great energy, with long hours and with an unswerving devotion to the task of educating young people for Christian service around the world,” Hunter says.
McCaleb has known Money since their college days and says their two families kept up with each other through the years, even before Money rejoined McCaleb at ACU. McCaleb says Money has always been able to strike a balance between his public and private lives, keeping up with a highly demanding job while still making family a priority. Most importantly, McCaleb says, Money has maintained a strong relationship with God.
“I think he has always had a clear sense of what is important,” McCaleb says. “Those qualities are a nice fit for a place like ACU.”
A New Chapter
Money told the Board of Trustees on May 16 he plans to retire as ACU president at the end of this year. After considering retirement for several years, Money decided to transition to the position of ACU chancellor after 19 years as president.
“I see this as a relay race,” Money says. “I took the baton from Dr. Teague and others. I’m handing it to someone else. I think I handled my race pretty well.”
While Money says he does not want to be involved in the search for his successor, he promises to support the board’s choice and hopes the next president finds as much fulfillment in the position as he and Pam have.
“My goal is to make as smooth a transition as we possibly can to the next president,” Money says. “I hope this president has built a platform of stability for the next president. I do believe that the best days of ACU are still ahead.”
In May 2010, Money will oversee his last ACU graduation as president, and a new university president will transition into office. The move will be a significant change for Money and the university, but Hunter said he is confident Money’s contribution to ACU will be a lasting one.
“People will remember Dr. Money as one who understands the role of a Christian institution in higher education with a resolve to do the very best that we can do to serve the needs of students in a very important way,” Hunter says, “in a way in which it truly matters – eternally.”
Writer Christina Johnson contributed to this report.