published on November 14, 2014 - 12:11 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
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Richard Kriegbaum, President

Fresno Pacific University

What we do: Fresno Pacific University transforms people, families and communities through higher education that stresses solid academic preparation and a strong ethical foundation. The face of our student body is the face of the Valley—we are a Hispanic Serving Institution and are committed to offering opportunities to first-generation students. And we are successful! FPU has the highest four-year graduation rate of any Central Valley college or university, is one of the top 10 HSIs nationally in graduating Hispanic students and is ranked in the top tier of our category by U.S. News & World Report. We are also accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). For us, being the region’s only comprehensive Christian university is all about living out our tagline: “Empowering leaders. Transforming lives.”

Education: Ph.D. in higher education, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1976. M.A. in Spanish, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 1966. B.A. in Spanish, Wheaton (IL) College, 1963, with high honor.

Age: 73

Family: My wife Peggi and I enjoy a blended family of three children, their spouses and our seven grandchildren. Our children are Janine (husband Matt) Zulim, Arnold (wife Mimi) Kriegbaum and Sonya (husband David) Wainscott. Five of these folks have degrees from FPU. 


How did you come to position as Fresno Pacific University’s 12th president, Richard?

On short notice! I was appointed by the FPU Board of Directors September 16 after the resignation of President Pete C. Menjares. It was not the normal procedure.

What are some of your goals as president and how might you achieve those, Richard? 

A slate of goals was approved by the board in October. First and foremost is that FPU finish this fiscal year with an operating surplus of at least $1.25 million. We have a plan in place and are already on track to do this. My other major goal is to resolve the issues and concerns resulting from the sudden resignation of President Menjares, who was much appreciated. The rest of the goals revolve around fundraising and capital projects, such as raising $850,000 of unrestricted gift income and at least $1 million in major gifts, and providing a broad-stroke strategic plan and reviewing policies regarding the board and faculty.

What projects or efforts at the university are you most excited about getting involved with, Richard?

The performing arts center. We have a very useful external rendering and a floor plan that’s nearly complete. I’m very eager to see that happen. It’s been a long time coming and I think we’re ready. We are also implementing a dual-leadership model with myself and Steve Varvis, provost/senior vice president. Under this system the president takes the lead in issues that are primarily external, and the provost takes the lead in issues that are primarily internal.

What’s changed at FPU since you were president from 1985 to 1997, Richard?

This is exactly 30 years since I started as administrative vice president at Fresno Pacific, and I began as president one year later. That appointment was unexpected, as well. I remember walking to the board meeting with President Edmund Janzen and him telling me he was going to submit his resignation. Today the budget is 13 times larger than it was then; that’s a quantum change. Enrollment is about six times as much, with 3,700 students now and about 600 in 1985. We have eight more major facilities as well as athletic facilities and centers in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. The seminary (now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary) is also a part of the university, adding more graduate programs and our professional development programs now reach 10,000 educators and others each year. Much of our growth is the result of Broadening the Base, a plan created by President Janzen that has produced an enormous growth in diversity among students, staff, faculty and the board. All those bodies now represent a much richer tapestry of ethnicity and culture, age and spiritual and religious backgrounds and traditions. That’s a good thing—that’s what the kingdom is about. And still, the underlying Anabaptist traditions and evangelical faith of the Mennonite Brethren, our affiliated denomination, are a big part of the place.   

Enrollment has increased in recent years at Fresno Pacific University. What do you attribute that to, Richard?

All our enrollment areas—traditional undergraduate, bachelor’s degree completion, graduate and seminary—have grown and are important to us, but the largest part of our enrollment growth is in the degree completion programs that allow working adults to complete their bachelor’s degree. Developing regional centers has been a central part of this. The quality of our academics and faculty also continues to rise and new programs address areas of interest and need in the region, especially in applied and professional areas such as business and nursing.

What is the main message you convey in your book “Leadership Prayers?”

That leadership is messy and that leaders pray because they’re constantly trying to get people to leave the comfort of their present in order to reach an uncertain future. In writing the book I learned about how much of leadership is followership and how much the two are linked—it takes less time to spin a vision of the future that it does to get people there. The work is in getting behind others to get them to the future. That’s followership! You can stand on a hill and wave your arms all you want, but if people don’t come up the hill with you, you’re not leading.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Richard?

When I was 12 years old I earned 50 cents an hour cleaning a bookstore. The money went into the family pot to buy food, and that made me feel good. I learned that the most important thing was to show up. Nothing’s going to happen if you don’t show up.

What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Richard?

Family, friends, colleagues and the community. I grew up in the Midwest and came here from Wheaton, IL. I have transplanted the tree of my life to this Valley.

What do you like to do in your spare time, Richard?

I spend time with my wife, children and grandchildren. I enjoy music, organic gardening, laughing and praying. Also eating ice cream whenever possible, especially if it has some sort of topping created by my wife. Maybe the ice cream is just an excuse to enjoy her great cooking.


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