Written by: Blythe Moseman
It’s no secret that Oklahoma Wesleyan University has a new president and first lady. In fact, many of you have probably already met Dr. Jim Dunn and his wife, Wendy, or at least seen them in chapel for the convocation ceremony. But what might be unknown to you is the story of how they got here.
Jim and Wendy were both students here in the late 1980s (back when our university was known as Bartlesville Wesleyan College). Jim earned his Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry (now called Pastoral Ministry), continuing on to earn his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and his Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Wendy earned her Associate’s Degree at BWC and then continued her education to earn a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Arizona State University and a Master’s in School Counseling from Liberty University Online.
Interestingly enough, the Dunns did not date while they were here at BWC. In fact, although they were good friends, they tended to run in different social circles. They each married others and moved away. Jim pastored for 15 years after seminary; was an executive director for the Wesleyan denomination, which supports 1700 churches in North America; and most recently he was a church consultant for the Wesleyan Investment Foundation, helping churches with strategic planning to build momentum for maximum effectiveness. Wendy worked most recently as a school counselor and previously was an elementary school teacher.
Several years after Jim’s first wife died, Jim and Wendy reconnected on Facebook, he in Indianapolis and she in Topeka and then in Phoenix. Jim says, “We each traveled different paths to singleness, both filled with pain. But we use the word redemption in our family a lot, and God has done amazing things through our journeys.” The couple will be celebrating their first year anniversary in November 2019. Despite the pain from their road to singleness, their hearts are filled with compassion for others going through various difficulties. It is very evident that their pain has gentled them instead of hardening their hearts, to the glory of God.
The Dunns’ wedding joined more than just two people together, since each have two children from their first marriages: Caleb (24) and wife Matlin, who now have a 9 month old named Abraham, Kayli (23), Courtney (23), and Brooke (21). Caleb and Courtney are following in their father’s steps attending Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and Kayli and Brooke are living in their hometown of Topeka. Despite the newness of a blended family, the Dunns have acclimated with grace. Wendy says, “There have been a lot of changes for us,” but they are “resting in God’s plan and practicing waiting on God.” Wendy continues that “OKWU was where our friendship started, and God has provided this opportunity to serve OKWU together in this place where we were both started our adult lives.” Coming to OKWU felt familiar to both Jim and Wendy, and they say it is a good change for them.
Soon after the former president announced his impending retirement, the Board of Trustees contacted Jim and asked him to pray about applying for the position. Jim did pray about it and asked Wendy to pray as well. They were not yet married and Jim had not been looking for another job. After much prayer and time to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit, both felt that God was calling them back to OKWU and submitted to the selection process. Jims says, “I really wanted to make an impact, and God was calling me to begin ministering again on a larger-scale.” After countless interviews, inquiries, background checks, and lots of prayer, Jim made it into the top 19 candidates, top 8, top 4, top 2, and finally was elected President.
Jim says, “We had a deep peace about accepting the position. Not that it would be easy, but that it was right. We weren’t aspiring for a big position with a fancy title, but we believe this is what God was calling us to. We really believe it was Spirit-led.” Wendy added, “It had to be both of us. This position definitely has the potential to be overwhelming, but I was never overwhelmed after I had prayed about it. All I felt was indescribable peace.”
“Three of our four children are similar age as college students here at OKWU, so the prospect of being First Lady wasn’t that frightening,” Wendy continues. “I’m really excited about pouring into people. College is a serious time in life where you have to make relationships, figure out what you’re doing, figure out what’s really true, figure out how to balance between how you were raised versus what God’s calling you to do… It’s a hugely important part of people’s lives.” Jim smiled and said, “We’re excited: OKWU is an important place. Our lives were transformed here. People are still being transformed. We want to be a part of that.”
Wendy says, “As alums, Jim and I know how OKWU shaped our early adulthood in positive ways and we look forward to being a part of the incredible team of faculty and staff with the opportunity to pour into the lives of current and future students. We are a newly formed team ourselves and both feel called to serve as a part of the larger team of Christ-followers serving through OKWU. My role here at OKWU is less concrete, more fluid, than Jim’s role, but I love people and I am excited to ‘lean into’ what God has planned and trust in His guidance.”
When asked what advice they would give to current students, Wendy says, “I had no concept of ‘go to college and have some fun.’ I was too serious. I needed to learn to have more balance in life. The time to learn the balancing act is now. It never stops, so you might as well learn how to do it.”
Jim continued, “You need to give yourself. When I say that, I mean invest yourself. Invest in friendships, in God and your relationship with Him, in other Christians, in your classes. You don’t know how investing now will pay off in a good way later in life.” Looking at the Dunns’ example proves his point: they invested in friendships during their time as students here, and their willingness to pursue God has not only made them lifelong friends but also partners in their roles as President and First Lady.
So, how can we as students pray for the Dunns, our leaders? Wendy says to “pray that we will continue to have smooth transitions in all these changes.” Jim asks for prayer for God’s wisdom and “the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we might be grounded in Scripture and be offering the right mission for the right cause. Christian education is changing and we, as a university, need supernatural help. Pray that we all become people that influence our society because of what we learned here.”