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Robert Wesleyan holds inauguration ceremony for its new president, Rupert Hayles Jr.

Rupert Hayles Jr. was inaugurated as the new president of Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary in a ceremony on Friday, Sept. 2, 2023.
provided photo.
Rupert Hayles Jr. was inaugurated as the new president of Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary in a ceremony on Friday, Sept. 2, 2023.

The new president of Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary said that among his goals for the institution is to improve the value of the education they can offer.

Rupert Hayles Jr. made those comments in an interview with WXXI News after inauguration ceremonies held Friday at the campus in North Chili. He has been in the job since July, when he took over for Deana Porterfield, who left Roberts Wesleyan after nine years to become president of Seattle Pacific University in Washington.

Hayles joins Roberts Wesleyan from New Jersey’s Pillar College, a private evangelical Christian institution where he served in various roles since 2019.

Prior to his time in Christian higher education, Hayles served in the U.S. Air Force as an officer before transitioning to the private sector.

Hayles believes that besides offering courses in fields that offer excellent career prospects, such as cybersecurity, health care management and data analytics, Roberts Wesleyan can offer potential employers of their students additional benefits.

“Corporations are looking for students who can think analytically, students who can jump in, they have good leadership, good teamwork, and at Roberts one of the things we focus on is to prepare thoughtful, spiritually mature, service oriented people, who are going to impact society,” said Hayles.

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Hayles also indicated that Roberts Wesleyan is seeking other partners, when it makes sense, to broaden its offerings in a cost-efficient manner. For instance, he said that their students in some cases might also take courses online at other academic institutions.

Hayles realizes the university and college landscape is a competitive one but he said it all gets back “to this idea of providing value.” Even if other institutions can offer similar courses, he said Roberts Wesleyan offers spiritually engaged, thoughtful and service-oriented students, “what I call servant leadership.”

The chair of the Roberts Wesleyan and Northeastern Seminary board of trustees, Terry Taber, said that in the post-pandemic era, “colleges and universities need to address numerous challenges and issues to remain strong and relevant for students,” and Taber cited Hayles’ background in corporate roles, finance and higher education as helping Roberts to achieve those goals.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.