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Dr. J. Derek Halvorson of Covenant College

The Chattanooga area is blessed with a number of excellent colleges and universities. One of those outstanding institutions is Covenant College, scenically situated on Lookout Mountain.

Founded in 1955 and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, Covenant has long equipped students both academically and spiritually. As stated on its website, the college exists "to explore and express the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all things."

And now, a new leader will be taking the helm at Covenant to advance that worthy goal. A 1993 Covenant alumnus, Dr. J. Derek Halvorson, will succeed President Niel Nielson on July 1. Nielson plans to step down on June 30 to lead a global Christian education center.

Halvorson, whose selection was unanimous, returns to Covenant from Pasadena, Calif.'s Providence Christian College, where he is president.

He previously served in various capacities at Covenant, including director of constituent relations and regional director of development. His bachelor's degree from Covenant, his master's degree from the University of Arizona and his doctorate from Loyola University Chicago are all in history.

He and his family were enthusiastic about getting back to this area.

"I love the college not only because I went to school here, but because I believe in its mission and the very positive impact the college has had ...," Halvorson said. "We've lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tucson, Ariz., and Oxford, England, but there's no place we've loved more than Chattanooga."

He is not the first person to express such sentiments, and we doubt he will be the last.

Just as important as Halvorson's welcome return to Covenant, the college may acquire his current college, Providence Christian. Covenant is taking about six months to research the purchase, which would be the college's first branch outside the Chattanooga area.

"We believe this sister institution -- a small, Reformed, residential liberal arts college on the West Coast -- is a remarkable fit with Covenant's mission and purpose and offers an opportunity for Covenant to extend the reach of its mission," said board Chairman Martin Moore.

We congratulate Halvorson on his new position and wish him every success.

And we are excited about the prospect of Covenant expanding its valuable presence to California.