John Ward was an honorable LCC International University member, serving as Chief Financial Officer for more than two years. Spending the majority of his life working in different newspaper organizations, John found his way into Christian higher education. One unexpected conversation led him to LCC, and now he will carry the memories for a lifetime of student smiles and warm conversations.
Can you briefly tell me about yourself?
I have had two careers in my working life. I was in the newspaper industry for 26 years, worked for two large newspaper chains and served as an Internal Auditor for one and then leading up to General Manager at the end. I had a pretty long career with two different newspaper companies and then I made a switch as the newspapers were becoming less important to the public with the digital world changing so much. I lived all over the USA in the newspaper, and experienced the different cultures of the Midwest and the South and the West Coast. Later, I got an opportunity to move into a Christian higher education and that was the best career of all. I have done this for about fourteen years now at two other institutions - Fresno Pacific University for eight years, and then at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena for six years.
What motivated you to choose and pursue a career in finance?
Back when I was in high school, if you were a male and you were going to college, you either went into Engineering or into Business Administration. I was more geared for business and wound up getting my degree in Business Administration, majoring in Accounting. That led to jobs with a CPA firm initially in Philadelphia and then later with the newspaper organizations. I was always pretty good with numbers. I like doing analysis of numbers. I love spreadsheets and developing formulas and looking at trends and doing projections. The financial end was something that came natural to me, and was why I chose to study in college and what led me to the jobs that I have had throughout the years.
How did the journey to LCC start? What have you been responsible for at LCC?
I was already in retirement but was informed by my former boss at Fresno Pacific University that LCC International University was looking for a Chief Financial Officer and could not find the right fit to fill the role. I was asked if it would be something that would interest me to do for one to two years. The three different areas that I have overseen at LCC are Accounting, the IT Department and Facilities. I spend most of my time in the financial side of things, but oversee the other two departments as well.
It was an unexpected turn of events in my life. I definitely feel it was God directed that we wound up here. The fact that we had the connection through my former boss who is on the board of LCC and ended up meeting Marlene and one of the board members is unbelievable. There were several hours of conversation that led to our coming over to Lithuania that has now turned out to be for over two years. That was the beginning of my journey to LCC. It has been two years and five months since I came here and it has been great.
Why did you decide to move across the continent for this job leaving a fully established life with your family and friends in the United States?
It was very appealing to come to Europe and do something like this for a couple of years. It was a short-term commitment. I was looking for meaningful work and to contribute more than what I had done for the two years after Fuller Theological Seminary. It all kind of came together, a chance to explore Europe and to live in a different culture for a period of time.
What differences or challenges have you noticed between your life in the United States and Lithuania?
Certainly the language was a big difference. We did have an opportunity to take some courses in Lithuanian, but being here for only two years did not seem to make a lot of sense to invest the time, since so many speak English as well. Another thing I noticed was the way the traffic lights work, the abundance of coffee shops, and a lot more gatherings outdoors than what we experience back in the US. It was new, it was different. To me it is always exciting to experience other cultures and understand more of the background of the people. It was also very comforting to have some expats here especially early on in our commitment. It even turned out we had some ties with expats here, to the church we used to belong to back in the US.
What will you miss the most about LCC and your life here in Lithuania?
I think the friendships with everybody is what we will miss most with the expats as well as the Lithuanian side. We developed a lot of really nice relationships with people that work at LCC. I will miss that collegiality that is very unique to working at a university. As I said I used to have a newspaper career and then I moved into Christian higher education, which is much more satisfying, more interpersonal, relational, and the time you are around young people is also nice. I will miss the campus atmosphere, the people that are here, and the students I got to know.
The faculty staff lounge is the place that I enjoyed going around lunchtime on the way back from the cafeteria to see people and just to talk to them. That lounge was definitely the place that I gravitated to if I had to get away or wanted to take a break from my office. You never know who is going to walk in there and it is just nice to have some conversations with people.
What are your main takeaways from your job as a Chief Financial Officer?
I have had the same job at the other two universities prior to LCC, and there are a lot of similarities. LCC is a lot smaller, but a lot of new things to learn, the fact that we had Euros as the currency was an interesting adjustment, along with having both the United States and the Canadian currency. The fact that we have three different currencies and are always converting it makes the accounting part of the job a fairly complicated process.
Another takeaway would be our connection with the students. Having students from over 50 countries here, is just an amazing bonding and interaction of students, and that was fun to observe. I wish I had started out working at universities, it would have been a richer overall career, although the newspapers paid a lot better. (laughs)
How would you describe your overall experience with the LCC community?
It has been extremely positive and both the Lithuanians and the expats were very welcoming to me and my wife from day one and it stayed that way throughout. We were warmly embraced here and have loved the experience. LCC has been a very unique experience. It has been a wonderful time, that has been really good and satisfying. I feel I have been able to contribute here and use the experiences I have had in Christian higher education on the financial side of things.
Is there anything you wish you knew at the beginning of your career that you would like to share with the students following a similar path?
When you get into finance or the world of accounting, these jobs are very interesting because you wind up learning about the entire institution. Everything eventually becomes either a revenue or an expense. If you work in the financial field, you become very knowledgeable of the entire institution's operations. You end up in a very broad role working with understanding all the parts that make an institution work.
What are your future plans as you are now returning to the United States?
We are going to settle in a new location in Palm Desert, California. We will be spending more time with our kids, traveling around to visit them. That area is a destination spot for a lot of people. We will be the home base for a lot of family events, which we enjoy. Of course it would be nice to come back to Lithuania to visit LCC in a year or two. It seems that anyone who has ever worked here, always has a part of LCC in their blood. For now, we will be just a Zoom call away.