Ergun Caner steps down as president of Brewton Parker College

by Joni B. Hannigan , Editorial Staff |

UPDATED at 3 p.m.

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- Ergun Caner, 50, the 16th president of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist affiliated institution which in December learned its accreditation would be reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), today announced he will step down to return to Texas where he will "heal" with his wife and 10-year-old son.

Caner said he survived the crisis with SACS, but meanwhile he "missed two very obvious event of the past year," citing the death of his 15-year-old son, Braxton by suicide, and his own hospitaization in November requiring a heart catheterization that removed seven pints of fluid.

"All the tests in the world can't revolve this one issue," Caner said in a prepared statement. "Brewton-Parker College cannot become a healthy, growing and stable college under the leadership of a man who is broken. And I am admitting to you that I am broken."

Caner told Christian Examiner shortly after stepping down that his wife, Jill, has maintained the family home near Dallas, Texas -- even following the death of their son, Braxton, and that he does not feel comfortable with her being alone in her grief.

"It's a major decision to move out of that house now," Caner admitted. "That is a 'resonate' place. We can't just automatically sell it. It holds precious memories and is part of the grieving process."

The family has had two homes since Caner was tapped as president of Brewton-Parker in December of 2013, one on campus at the school and the other in Texas, where Caner was on staff at a college before he went to Georgia.

Braxton Caner "loved football" according to his father, and was a starting lineman on the local high school football team and had made friends at church.

"I always said I didn't want him to resent the ministry," Caner said. "He loved football. We would have put the house on the market after Braxton graduated."

Caner's full statement follows:

"I have asked for the unusual privilege of calling together the board of trustees this morning, before the committees meet.

"I believe a summary of the past twelve months is in order, given our context. When I arrived last year, we immediately set out to prepare for the [Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)] Team visit in April. That visit did not go as we had expected, and it led to our appeal in San Antonio in June. Though the appeal vote did not resolve our five-year struggle, in September we won a remand of our case with SACS, and along with our attorneys and the entire executive team, we prepared in earnest for December. We presented our case before the SACS committee on Dec. 6, and two days later, we accomplished what no other college has ever done – we were reaffirmed by SACS and taken off probation. After five years of struggle we are out of crisis.

"Intermingled with all those legal meetings, the college saw over one hundred students saved in our fall revival, balanced our budget and ended our fiscal year in the black.

"This herculean effort and victory could not have been accomplished anywhere else, I believe. The faculty, staff, board and students of BPC are to be commended, and BPC is now ready to once again be a thriving institution.

"I missed two very obvious events of the past year however. In July, my fifteen-year old son Braxton committed suicide. I was back to work a week later because, frankly, that's all I knew to do. The subsequent result was my hospitalization in November. A heart catheterization, the removal of seven pints of fluid and all the tests in the world can't resolve this one issue.

"Brewton-Parker College cannot become a healthy, growing and stable college under the leadership of a man who is broken. And I am admitting to you that I am broken. I can't get over his death, and I am not sure I want to. I do know that I cannot muster the fight needed to be the leader of our college. My family and my heart need healing, and you deserve better.

"Therefore I am resigning as president, so I can go back to Texas and heal with my wife and ten-year-old son, Drake. It is one thing to lead a college through a crisis, but this position demands a person's full attention and full strength. At the moment, I have neither. When Braxton died, a part of me died as well.

"I shall endeavor to fulfill whatever obligations are necessary through the year, though I believe attending to the needs of my family are most important to me at the moment. I want to personally thank you for calling me as President, and allowing me to see the greatest victories I've ever experienced in my entire 30-year professional life. I believe God has an incredible future in store for Brewton Parker College. I shall be cheering you on."

Blessings,
Ergun Caner, D.Theol.

Chairman of the trustee board, Gary Campbell, after Caner read his resignation, called the board into executive session and dismissed all who are not members of the board. After about 45 minutes, according to a statement on the school's website, the board released the following resolution of support they had unanimously adopted. 

The board of trustees resolution in full follows:

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, Dr. Ergun Caner served as President of Brewton-Parker College from January 1, 2014 to January 20, 2015, a crucial and pivotal time for the college; and

WHEREAS, during Dr. Ergun Caner's tenure, Brewton-Parker College overcame a monumental challenge when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) first voted to remove the school from accreditation, then, upon a successful appeal of this decision, the school celebrated a great victory in December 2014, when SACS fully reinstated Brewton-Parker's accreditation; and

WHEREAS, during Dr. Ergun Caner's tenure, Brewton-Parker College continued to grow stronger financially, lives were won on campus with decisions for Jesus Christ and the mission of the school continued forward; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Caner and his family recently suffered a tragic loss in the death of their son, Braxton; now

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Brewton-Parker College hereby express our thanks and appreciation for Dr. Ergun Caner's service; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Brewton-Parker College, pray for God's blessing and restoration for Dr. Caner and his family as they move forward through a time of personal tragedy and healing; and for Dr. Caner much success in his future endeavors.

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