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Ross Allen Named Bethel University’s Sixth President-Elect

With extensive experience in business, healthcare, and higher education, Allen is set to become the first alumnus to lead the university.

By Jenny Hudalla ’15, senior content specialist

February 27, 2020 | 11:20 a.m.

The Board of Trustees has named Ross Allen the sixth president-elect of Bethel University.

After graduating from Bethel with a degree in business administration, Allen enjoyed a decades-long career as an executive at Medtronic before transitioning to work in higher education.

After an extensive nationwide search, the Board of Trustees unanimously named Ross Allen the sixth president-elect of Bethel University. Currently chief financial officer and vice president for business and finance at Azusa Pacific University, Allen was chosen to succeed President Jay Barnes, who announced his retirement last year. 

The decision marks a significant milestone in the work led by Presidential Search Committee Chair Jim Green and Board of Trustees Chair Julie White, who narrowed an extensive pool of candidates down to one. “Of all the candidates we interviewed, Ross demonstrated a uniquely thorough understanding of Bethel’s mission and the challenges facing Christian higher education,” White says. “He is a deeply committed Christ-follower, a seasoned executive leader, and a transformative developer of people, culture, and organizations. We are thrilled to welcome Ross back to Bethel.”

For nearly his entire career, Allen has specialized in helping organizations transform their financial results and sustainability while clarifying and advancing their mission and vision. During his 25-year tenure at Medtronic—a multinational medical device company—he used his strategic, relational, and operational expertise to lead seven successful corporate transformations in Denmark, Switzerland, and across the United States. In his most recent position at Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian school in California, Allen played an instrumental role in positioning the institution for a strong and vibrant future.

“It’s deeply humbling to look back and see how God has used the last 20 years to prepare me for this role at Bethel,” Allen says. “It’s an honor, and I’m thrilled to be able to work with such talented people who are passionate about developing scholars to pursue God’s glory and do great things for Christ.”

Allen was a Royal long before he received the call to the presidency—he attended Bethel as an undergraduate student, where he ran track and cross country, met his wife, Annie, and graduated with a business administration degree in 1984. “My time at Bethel profoundly shaped who I am and how I live,” Allen says. “It’s the place where my faith became my own, where I started my family, and where I realized I could glorify God through a career in the marketplace.”

Allen retired from Medtronic in 2016 with the intention of using his medtech background to help provide healthcare access to underserved populations—but as time went on, he felt pulled toward opportunities within higher education. After joining the Board of Trustees at Azusa Pacific University in 2015, he served on several committees and led a strategic visioning process. He also helped Bethel establish the Center for Healthcare Excellence and served on the advisory board of the University of Minnesota’s Venture Center. 

During an annual retreat to Yosemite National Park with college students, Allen had “a literal mountaintop experience” that helped him recognize an unexpected call to a second career in Christian higher education. He remembers looking out over the Sierra Nevada mountain range, silently trying to discern what God wanted him to do next. “I sensed God speaking within my heart,” Allen says. “I felt as if God was saying, ‘Look around you, Ross. Everything screams out My glory. There’s nothing you can do that’s more glorifying to Me than stepping forward in faith.’ In that moment, I realized I needed to stop searching and make a commitment.”

A few days later, Allen stepped off the Board of Trustees and accepted the chief financial officer role at Azusa Pacific University, where he helped lead a dramatic turnaround and prepared the university for a new season. “Through his consistent demonstration of kind, patient, and highly competent servant leadership, Ross has been a valued member of our new administration,” says Azusa Pacific University President Paul Ferguson. “He has effectively built strong relationships with faculty, staff, and students during our fiscal recovery. We are so grateful for his service.”

"The results Ross achieved in his previous role align with our recent work to position Bethel for a bright future. We are incredibly excited to see how his ability to build relationships with faculty and staff—along with his experience in healthcare—will drive Bethel’s mission forward."

— Jim Green, chair of the Presidential Search Committee
Ross Allen, formerly a vice president at Medtronic and currently the chief financial officer at Azusa Pacific University, has been named Bethel University's sixth president-elect.

Besides traveling and spending time outdoors, Allen and his wife, Annie, enjoy spending time with their four children and seven grandchildren.

Pending a final vote of affirmation by delegates of Converge churches this summer, Allen will begin his first term on July 1. He inherits a strong foundation from Barnes, whose 12 years of leadership were marked by strategic academic growth, campus expansion, and intentional efforts to increase diversity. 

“I’m excited to get to know people at Bethel and continue the great work that’s already being done,” Allen says. “I can’t imagine doing anything more critical for society than developing leaders who own their faith, step into the world with boldness and confidence, and act with integrity as Christ’s vessel—for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good.”

At Bethel University, we're called to more.

As a leader in Christ-centered higher education, Bethel University integrates faith with top-ranked academics to prepare women and men for excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service. Through meaningful relationships with faculty, experiential learning opportunities, and a Christ-centered community, our students learn to tackle the world's most challenging problems as they prepare for unique callings in the Kingdom of God. 

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