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March 2023

Lubbock alumnus impacting students as college president

Dr. Adrien Bennings admitted that she loves to learn. So it was no surprise that she followed her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M with a master’s degree at Wayland and eventually a doctorate degree from Texas Tech in higher education administration.

That love for learning has come in handy for Bennings as she serves as president of Portland

Bennings at desk
Dr. Adrien Bennings

Community College, the largest post-secondary institution in the state of Oregon. While she sees her role as the ultimate cheerleader for the nearly 55,000 learners under her leadership, she is also a student of higher education, constantly learning more about the unique environment.

“Outside of the impact I get to make in the lives of the students and the communities we serve, I am so excited about the platforms and access to the spaces that I have as the president of the largest institution in the state,” said Bennings, a native of Lubbock. “It lets me be a more impactful voice in spaces that I might not have the opportunity had I not been in this position, for example giving testimonies at hearings and being an advocate.”

Bennings said she loves connecting with other partners in the community that work alongside PCC, which has four campuses and serves five counties. She was named to the role in 2022 and is the first president since the community college reorganized from a system of four campus presidents to one overall college president. That dynamic has presented its own challenges.

“We were operating in silos with different ways of doing things across the district. It’s a work in process,” she said. “The challenges are unifying the campuses and building morale in light of not only enrollment but the pandemic and reorganization, and determining what is my role to do that holistically across the campuses so we can address it from a comprehensive approach.”

Luckily for Bennings, she is quite familiar with challenges in higher education. Her first role as a college president came in early 2020 when became both the first female and first person of color to serve as president of Kellogg Community College in Michigan. She was just leaning into the role and enjoying pouring into students at the institution of around 7,000 when the pandemic hit the US, throwing college campuses into a tailspin.

“I was coming in with all these firsts, which honestly create pressures already because you’re new

Bennings group
Dr. Bennings with visitors to PCC

to the culture and the systems and the way of doing things, but also it was (about 8-10 weeks in) that I had to pivot the college and lead it into COVID,” recalls Bennings. “That was challenging, but the thing I love about higher education is I didn’t have to do it alone; I was the person who could lead and coordinate the team members to work together. I was surrounded by a team of individuals who were really vested in the success of the institution and the safety and overall well-being of those we serve so that made it easier.”

The journey to president

Moving into the administrative ranks was a series of upward moves for Bennings, who spent several years in human resources at Texas Tech following a professional track and field career and was newly married after being a single mom. But it wasn’t her goal early on. Around 2008, she felt the timing was right for an advanced degree and found a good fit in Wayland with its flexible night courses that worked with her professional and personal life schedule. She chose the MBA in human resources, feeling at home in the field and “lived and breathed HR.” Though she would pivot to a different career path, Bennings said HR was a clear springboard.

“At every stage in my career since that time, it has been so instrumental and really taught me well. The textbook aspect was really valuable but the practical side of that really heightened the learning that I gleaned from the Wayland program because it translated into so many realms in terms of performance, management, communication and coaching,” she said. “Even though I eventually branched outside of HR, I knew it would be so valuable in higher education administration, and it continues to be to this day.”

Soon after completing the MBA in 2010, Bennings moved into a position of chief accountant at Texas Tech and continued into the Ph.D. program. She then became the regional director for the Small Business Development Center at Tech, knowing she would love eventually to move into an administrative role.

A foot in the cabinet door

She made that leap a few years later by joining the cabinet at Clovis Community College in New Mexico as vice president for administration and finance and CFO. She only stayed for a year, seeking a new challenge further north.

“I felt like I was finally getting my groove. I was in my early 40s and was finally coming into where my purpose can be fully fulfilled,” she said. “It wasn’t that I was just perfect at the work but I found myself seeing in administration a greater level of challenge and level of impact beyond the numbers and the behind the scenes.”

Kellogg provided that needed challenge and was highly rewarding to Bennings as she was able to put all her skills and passions to use.

“The most rewarding piece was that it was not about me but about what I could pour into others and what I could give so they could become their better selves and best selves and be motivated to continue and succeed despite whatever they were facing or backgrounds they came from. That for me remains the most rewarding to this day,” she said.

“Through my leadership and championing and advocacy and support they could be successful at even greater levels because they had someone in their corner who was really for them for greater outcomes.”

Challenges and rewards

Now at Portland, Bennings is enjoying the same role for the students across the campus locations and teaching sites she oversees. But like many in higher

Bennings on tour
Dr. Bennings on a tour at PCC

education administration, she is weathering the challenges of a tough season in the industry while navigating with her staff the reorganized structure at PCC.

“Our biggest challenge is enrollment. Many community colleges have been declining; here at PCC it has been specifically over the last 10-12 years. At one point in time, we were serving 80,000 students,” she noted. “The challenge is how do we need to shift and pivot as a community college, and where do we need to evolve the way we do things to really meet the community needs and workforce needs and connect to business and industry partners in ways that we haven’t. That’s a challenge but also an opportunity.”


Retired FBI agent recalls exciting career

Despite what movies or TV shows may depict about the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one Wayland alumnus said the reality of FBI service is quite different.

“I don’t watch most of those shows past one episode. I haven’t seen one that accurately portrays the FBI,” said John Wetherington, a 1989 graduate of Wayland in Anchorage who spent 20 years in the bureau. “We have a lot more paperwork than they ever show on TV.”

While the life of an agent is perhaps not as glorified as Hollywood would have viewers believe, John said it was nevertheless a rewarding career with challenges. But it was not his early life’s goal or even his first career choice. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., John tried the traditional college route but the timing wasn’t right.

“My first semester out of high school, I was majoring in ping pong and going to the beach, so I went

Wetherington Quantico
Wetherington at FBI Academy

into the Air Force and was a paramedic,” John said. “I started in Panama City, then was transferred to Anchorage after reenlisting. That’s when I finished my degree with Wayland.”

Hoping for an officer commission, John earned a human services degree at the Anchorage campus in 1989. When that didn’t happen, he went a different direction, getting out of the military in 1991 after serving eight years and pursuing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at Northwest Christian College.

Moving into social services work

He worked as a counselor therapist at a psychiatric hospital while working on the degree, then at an inpatient facility working with teen girls. After four years, John went into law enforcement and became a juvenile probation officer in Washington state. It was a conversation with a coworker there about interesting jobs that got John thinking about the FBI. Both got a packet of information about the agency, but only John applied. He knew there was a one-year waiting period, but a hiring freeze had extended that to four years. In the meantime, he took a position with a software company in Lexington, Ky., but knew it wouldn’t be long-term.

John finally got the nod to join the FBI in 2002 and headed for the Academy in Quantico, Va., where all agents and analysts learn the skills of their trade over 16 weeks, living in dormitory housing as they navigate weapons training and other aspects.

“We have a little city here that is a mock-up where we do arrests and takedowns and the bank gets robbed almost daily. Agents and analysts go through it together and analysts graduate earlier,” explained John. “We have to learn interview and interrogation techniques, legal aspects and all that is right here. Everyone is assigned to a location once they graduate, and you can list the assignments in order of preference.”

Agent life in Texas

For John, that first duty station would bring him to Texas, where he worked public corruption, served on the cyber squad and the violent crimes squad coverings kidnappings and bank robberies in Dallas. For 10 years, he coordinated the Dallas division of bank robberies, which is considered a federal crime and therefore handled by a federal agency. During the years of 2006-08, John said the bureau was incredibly busy with bank robberies as the area had many institutions.

John’s last assignment in Dallas was at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, one of the

Wetherington with student
John says goodbye to students

busiest facilities in the country and hub for American Airlines. These positions were coveted within the bureau, with agents serving as liaisons for several law enforcement agencies and deal with crimes ranging from those taking place on airplanes – also under federal jurisdiction – and in airports. Agents stay busy, John said.

“I really loved being out and active in cases. I just really enjoyed the variety of the job,” said John of those years as an agent. “If you don’t like some things, there are always other things to do. We have evidence recovery teams, SWAT teams and other options. I did go from violent crime to counterterrorism, and that really wasn’t for me.”

Back to the classroom

After 17 years with the FBI in Dallas, John returned to the Academy, this time as an instructor facing mandatory retirement in just a few years. Having turned 37 during his academy stint, he would reach the 20-year mark in June 2022 and knew his time would be coming to an end.

“I was getting toward the end of my career in Dallas and had thought about teaching after I retired, in law enforcement or maybe counseling,” he said. “So I went back to teach and finish my career. When I first got there, the new agent side of the house was really low and I was teaching interrogation. Then in January 2020, I moved to the National Academy, teaching the essentials of leadership for law enforcement leaders from around the country.”

Regardless of his role with the FBI, John said he’s enjoyed his career and what he sees in hindsight was a natural progression into the field.

Wetherington couple
John and Denise

“It was a progression from counseling to working with juveniles in probation, and I really liked the law enforcement aspect of it. When I started looking at the FBI and saw it was a good place, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I liked being able to carry my military experience into the federal side,” said John. “As an instructor, I liked being part of the next generation of agents and helping them prepare. I loved the interaction with people from literally all over the world. We really saw ourselves as facilitators to work through problems and share those new perspectives and ideas with each other. Class members usually stay in touch, and it’s a strong bond.”

Now retired, John and wife Denise, whom he met in high school in Maine, live in Port Charlotte, Fla., but regularly visit the Dallas area where their grown children live with their grandchildren. They enjoy a quieter life with their family and reflect fondly on a life spent helping people. 


Devotional: For the glory of God

“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Gratitude requires mindfulness — living with eyes wide open. It calls for knowing that every good gift, everything beautiful and right and perfect and lovely, comes from God. And we must know where to direct our thanks. We know that at the center of the universe is the God who is strong and good. And we know what we’re most thankful for—that when we were helpless and hopeless and

lifting hands

dead in our sins, Christ gave us a new life, a clean slate, a holy purpose. We understand that although we deserve nothing, we have been given everything through God’s grace. Going about our days with mindful gratitude makes a difference in us. And it makes a difference to those around us.

Paul wants us to be careful about the way we live out our faith. Our joy and thankfulness for God’s gifts should be something that others find contagious, not condemning.

It’s been said that our Christian witness in this world would be much stronger and more effective if we stopped shouting about the things we are against and started speaking more compellingly about the things we are for. That shouldn’t be hard for us, for we believe that God is overwhelmingly for us and for this world.

How might we demonstrate that beautiful truth to our neighbors today?

By Jeffrey Vera, Director of Alumni Relations and Career Services 


In the Mix

Another year of WBU Homecoming, has come and gone, and I am proud to say that there was plenty of camaraderie, great finishes to basketball games, and I even had the opportunity to listen in on some stories from 1973’s Honor Class. Let me tell you, professors were very much the ones to trend set the word “pioneer” when it comes to trips to the Pacific Coast in 1973. Thanks for the story, Mike!

No matter how you experienced “Homecoming 2023,” school spirit will always resurface into hours of memories both past and present. Thank you to all who attended this year’s homecoming – whether virtually or in person.

Now that we are coming into March, I would like to personally extend an invitation to our DFW alumni by presenting two opportunities to join us as we paint the city blue and gold. We will be in Ft. Worth and Frisco on March 23 and 24, respectively. Our “Alumni and Friends” events are wonderful ways to connect while learning how you can help Wayland thrive into the future.  For more details, please visit our “Coming Events” section of our “Alumni and Friends” webpage, listed here: https://www.wbu.edu/alumni-and-friends/events.htm

“Consistency is what transforms average into excellence.” - Tony Robbins