Minister to the University Ira DeSpain directs the Baker pep band during a football game in 2011. University President Pat Long announced DeSpain's retirement effective June 2014 in a campus-wide email Tuesday.
From directing the pep band while it plays the YMCA at football games to leading a standing-room only crowd in Collins Center in prayer, Minister to the University Ira DeSpain has worn many hats during his 21-plus years at Baker University.
However, the 2013-2014 school year will be DeSpain’s final year at BU as he plans to retire on June 30, 2014.
After announcing his retirement, DeSpain received numerous responses from the Baker community. You can view some of the feedback here.
“It seems like a good time,” DeSpain said. “It seems like everything is coming to a conclusion there, so it’s just a good time.”
DeSpain is a 1970 Baker alumnus and has served as the university minister since January 1992. During his last year of working at his alma mater, DeSpain plans to deliver his favorite chapel messages and continue to provide “new energy” through the music incorporated in chapel services.
“I’m looking for a lot of vibrancy … and just to make it a year of celebration,” DeSpain said.
Although he will no longer be the familiar face behind Baker’s pulpit after next year, DeSpain will continue to serve as a religious leader after his retirement from BU. He was asked to be a member of a two-person leadership team at Lake Quivira, where he will lead worship services a few times each month.
During his time at Baker, DeSpain connected with students as an adviser for several campus organizations. DeSpain served as an adviser for Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Student Activities Council, Baker Ambassadors and an organization promoting the responsible use of alcohol.
DeSpain said what he will take away most from his experience at Baker is memories of students and other campus members who bonded together during times of tragedy or connected through their passion of serving others.
“The friendships that I’ve made across the campus, not only with people who are around me a lot in religious life … but just people who are students of the campus and we can connect through our common interest of community service.”
University President Pat Long announced DeSpain’s retirement in a campus-wide email Tuesday. In the email, Long congratulated DeSpain on an “outstanding career” and wrote of his “love and faithful spirit.”
“Ira, your ministry has spanned four decades and you have impacted countless lives in the churches you pastored and here at Baker. Baker’s United Methodist heritage is paramount to this institution, and you have been a wonderful embodiment of our founders’ vision and mission,” Long wrote.
DeSpain said he has heard and read many positive responses since announcing his retirement and is humbled by the feedback he has received from the Baker community.
“It’s really gratifying to see some of the responses that have come through, and it just makes me feel a great sense of humility and pride,” DeSpain said.