Eric Bruntmyer is the newest president of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Prior to 2016, Bruntmyer served as chief financial officer at Dallas Baptist University. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on leading this BGCT school. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you worked, and what were your positions?
I worked at Dallas Baptist University for 15 years and was the CFO for 13 of those years. Prior to my time at DBU, I was an attorney in Fort Worth.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Titusville, Fla., but my parents moved around the country since my dad worked for the federal government.
I have lived in Portland and Salem, Ore.; Baltimore, Md.; Mobile, Ala.; and Arlington, Texas. I have spent most of my time in Arlington.
When my family lived in Baltimore, we were members of the Mountain Christian Church. My brother recently had accepted Christ, and because I was the little brother, I wanted to accept Jesus as well.
In my early faith, I believed Jesus was the Son of God and had come to save me.
However, it was in my high school years, when I re-read The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that I realized Christ had come to atone for my sins and had been a replacement for me on the cross. It was after this point that my life began to change dramatically.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I spent my first year in college at Dallas Baptist University and was able to meet Dr. Gary Cook at that time. I then transferred to Texas Tech University where I began to grow in my faith and was encouraged by Bruce McGowan, my BSM director and by Keith Brister at First Baptist Church in Lubbock.
I received early admission to Baylor Law School and finished my doctorate of jurisprudence in 1994. After that, I was able to go back to school at Dallas Baptist University and get my MBA in accounting in 2006.
Why do you feel called to your particular vocation?
My father was a first-generation college student and had to pay for his own way through school. He constantly reminded my brother and me that we would be going to college to get a degree, no matter what our future career turned out to be. It was his push and desire for us to be educated that encouraged my brother to become a doctor and for me to eventually go to law school to become a lawyer.
Education has provided a way for my family to be able to experience so many wonderful blessings in life. It is my desire to repay what has been given to me as a gift. And it is my hope, that each and every individual can see education as a pathway out of poverty and into service to the community.
Please tell us about your BGCT institution, the breadth and the nature of its work, including its mission, measures of scope, etc.
I am so blessed to be at Hardin-Simmons University and doing life with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. The same people that I work with to provide an education enlightened by faith are the spiritual descendants of those who have come before us here at HSU.
The breadth and the nature of our work is simply to be the hands and feet of Christ in any way that he should call us. We have a specific mission to be a community dedicated to providing excellence in education enlightened by Christian faith and values. This has been in our DNA since 1891.
What do you like best about leading your institution? Why?
In reality, I do not lead our institution, but Christ is the one we chase after. It has been so much fun running alongside the most amazing people as they make themselves available to God’s work in the usage of their talents for his glory. It makes me smile to see people finding great joy in their work and serving others for Christ.
What aspects of your institution and/or it’s Mission do you wish more people understood?
I have found all of our students have three things in common. They either climb over walls, tear down walls or intervene for others. I don’t know what it is about the water in Abilene or the atmosphere at HSU, but I have found this in almost every one of our graduates.
How has your institution and its mission changed since you began your career?
It hasn’t changed since I’ve only been here two years so this may not be a ripe question for me to answer yet.
How do you expect your institution and or its mission to change the next 10 to 20 years?
I believe we will continue to be nimble and innovative as we provide new and challenging programs for students to be able to equip themselves and to turn and serve in the places God calls them. It is my hope that as we are faithful in the small things, God will provide abundantly for the greater things he’s calling us to do.
Name the three most significant challenges and or influence is facing your institution.
On the surface, it always appears to be that funding is the problem, but God “owns the cattle on 1000 hills.” As a result, it is our duty to seek out where he’s working and make sure we partner alongside him to be his hands and feet as he expresses his love for the world. Therefore, the challenge is to find out what his heart and mind is and how we could be a part of his work.
What one aspect of your job gives you the greatest joy or fulfillment?
Seeing the students being mentored and loved by the faculty and staff at HSU and experiencing the joy of our faculty and staff and serving our students gives me the greatest fulfillment.
What are the key issues facing Baptists?
I believe Baptists have always been able to hear God as he speaks, and serve and love the world on his behalf. I believe it is when we lose our love of God and love of others that our greatest issues come to life. I believe the tension between loving God and loving others is where Baptists excel. Hopefully, we won’t forget our role in being his hands and feet to the world.
What would you change about the Baptist denomination state, nation or local?
If I could change one thing about us it would be my hope that we daily desire to go “back to the garden” to walk with God as he pours his love into us and shares his wisdom with us so that we can make it through the days ahead.
It is also my desire that we continue to create tight relationships with our Baptist family throughout the world through the Baptist World Alliance. There are so many needs in the world today, and the Baptist World Alliance is the linchpin that helps hold us together.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors and explain why.
C.S. Lewis has made the greatest impact on my life through many of his writings. I have a deeper appreciation for what he’s done not only for me personally, but so many that are growing in their faith.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Right now my favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:7. It says we are to “pray for the peace and prosperity of the city to which God has carried us into exile.” God knows that when we are working towards the betterment of our friends and neighbors in our city, when our towns and cities spiritually prosper, we also will prosper spiritually.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I love the story of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was not the king, but he served the king and was able to work alongside the people as they did things they already wanted to do and did them in record time.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you well.
First of all, I learned to windsurf at Texas Tech University and enjoyed it all throughout college and law school.
But maybe most importantly, I have the same breakfast and lunch each and every day. Breakfast consists of a bowl of oatmeal and three espressos. Lunch consists of a chicken salad sandwich, chips and water.
If you could get one do-over in your career, what would it be and why?
My “do-over“ moments consist of those times I have failed. However, as I have gone through each and every failure in the past, I have learned so much more than I ever learned during the successful times. So, I don’t think I would ever “do-over“ anything because I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity of having learned from that failure. Failure is sometimes a harsh teacher, but it is vital to bring about change.