Jessup stepping down, not out

By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Change is good if you’re Dr. Bryce Jessup and the word retirement has nothing to do with rest. The president of William Jessup University was just 4-years-old when his father started a Bible school in the family home to train vocational church ministers. The dream to prepare students for Christian leadership and service flourished into the successful San Jose Christian college — a mission Jessup embraced when school leaders asked him to take the helm 25 years ago. Known for connecting with his students, often eating lunch in the school cafeteria, Jessup recognized a change strategy with diligent innovation. He moved his school to Rocklin in 2004 and put it on a path to becoming a premier Christian liberal arts university, affectionately renamed by school leaders to honor his father. “I think Dad would say he is thrilled to see the increased impact of the school and its willingness to adapt to the needs of the culture,” Jessup said. “In any kind of work, you have to keep current with those you are willing to serve.” As the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredited WJU enters its eighth decade, Jessup is retiring from his post as university president this month to be engaged in more change. First there will be a short hiatus to give his yet-to-be-announced replacement a chance to “put the shoes on.” Then he’ll be back. More time to speak with the community, teach in the WJU school of professional studies, write a book about the school’s journey, share cafeteria lunches with students, and play ping-pong. “He’s very active in student events,” shared Joe Womack, vice president for university advancement. “The campus almost shuts down during ping pong finals and every year he is either in the finals or near the finals. There must have been 150 kids watching him play in the student center the year before last. Students call him Bryce. They joke with him. He’s definitely created a culture here that’s very valuable and it’s been modeled from the top.” Jessup’s pace with school activities has kept him young inside and out. With a little more than 600 students on campus, he knows most by name and his greatest delight is to hear about their journey, watch their service, and influence their mission. “I like to keep connected with them because that fuels my energy and fuels me in terms of inspiration so that I can see the fruit of my labor and I also feel I can contribute to their lives,” he said. First year WJU student Nayeli Mayer is thankful for Jessup during softball season. “He comes out to the games and helps players warm up,” Mayer said. “He was cheering on our pitcher and it’s great he takes the time to support us.” Jeremy Apodaca is double majoring in Business Administration and Public Policy. “The thing about our school is that it’s a big family and Bryce is a big part of that,” Apodaca said. “He doesn’t seem like the big man in charge. He’s just another person in our community who cares about us.” The Rocklin community has honored Jessup twice with Ruhkala Community Service Awards as he and his students perform more than 12,000 hours of volunteer time annually in South Placer County. The idea of a serving culture is modeled by Jessup’s desire to make WJU accessible. “You can now come here for the same price that you can get into most of the UC schools,” he said. “We gave out last year more than $2 million in scholarships and grants as an institution because we want to make this school accessible.” Enrollment is higher than ever and in coming years the university master plan is set for 5,000 students with room for 2,200 to live on campus. Rocklin Mayor Scott Yuill said he knows Jessup as a compassionate and effective leader. “I’m both proud and thrilled to have WJU settled here in Rocklin,” he said. “From the day it opened it cast a shining light on our community.”