SLU founder, CSU alum receives honorary doctorate
Charleston Southern University bestowed the honorary doctorate of Christian leadership upon Dr. Jay Strack, president and founder of Student Leadership University, at commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 5 at North Charleston Coliseum.
Based in Orlando, Florida, Student Leadership University provides leadership training for students ages 13 to 24. Student Leadership University says, “We believe that God has called us to prepare the next generation to Think, Dream, and Lead through a challenging series of leadership training processes.”
Anna Dyer, a Charleston Southern graduating senior, has participated in Student Leadership University and been an SLU intern. She said, “SLU opened my eyes to the magnitude of God’s power in both the intricate details of who I am, as well as His sovereign plan over my life. Jay Strack is a large part of this, because he believes in the power of God to radically transform hearts and minds. I have watched SLU change many lives, including my own. I am incredibly grateful Dr. Jay has dedicated his life to a mission he feels called to, because his calling is helping others discover where God is calling them.” Dyer graduated with a major in psychology and is originally from Hurricane, W.Va.
After overcoming a childhood of abuse and drug addiction, Strack landed at Charleston Southern University, formerly Baptist College at Charleston, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1975. His background inspired him to present a message of first imagining and then executing positive change. For years he led evangelism crusades and has spoken in 10,000 high schools.
Strack said, “It is a huge honor to receive an honorary doctorate from CSU. I feel a lot like the turtle on a fencepost who realized he had not gotten anywhere by himself, but only from someone who had lifted him to put him where he was.” After Strack was turned down by 13 schools, an alumnus of Baptist College at Charleston’s (now Charleston Southern University) original graduating class called the president and told him about Strack, a young man with a lot of sharp edges, but with the Lord’s hand on him. Strack was allowed to enter on academic probation.
“The amount of knowledge gained at CSU has prepared me for not only leading SLU but also various other opportunities around the world,” said Strack. He recalls being mentored by Professor Fred Worthy and his wife, Susan. They helped him navigate a lot of challenges including getting tested for and then dealing with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. “I learned that in order for me to comprehend certain subjects, I needed to have people read to me,” said Strack. “I also mentored students, and they helped me in certain subjects.”
President Jairy C. Hunter Jr. said, “Dr. Jay Strack is one of CSU’s most committed graduates for youth evangelism. He has worked with the university through the years as he founded Student Leadership University which serves thousands of students all over the country. In recent years, CSU has developed a unique working relationship with Dr. Strack’s organization which serves as a recruiting network for some of the best college student prospects in the Southeast. Dr. Strack is a member of the President’s Council of the CSU Board of Visitors Scholarship Program which provides approximately 200 scholarships each year.”
Strack’s goal at Student Leadership University is to give students a 20-year head start. “We teach them what many Fortune 500 companies spend thousands on to teach their employees,” said Strack. Instruction focuses on the leadership qualities of time management, team building, ethics, guest relations, goal setting, conflict resolution and more.
“Today, Christian students need to be reminded that out of the four most critical questions of their life, three or potentially even all four will be answered by where they go to school,” said Strack. The questions are:
- What will I do with Jesus? Is He Lord, is He a Liar, a Lunatic or just a Legend? Answering this question is the single most important decision of our existence.
- What will I do with my life? This question focuses on how to make a living, have influence and navigate life.
- Where will I go to school? Strack advises, ‘Go to a school that will help you build a foundation for the rest of your life.’
- Who will I spend my life with? He said, “The average age of marriage is 26; the odds are overwhelming that you will not meet the person you spend your life with in high school but most likely your junior or senior year of college. I would encourage anyone to go to CSU as many of the students have a passion and focus for life, as well as an excitement to chase the Lord and pursue excellence in all things.”
One of the key things Strack impresses on students is the thought, “Five years from now you will be the same person you are today except for the books you read, the people you meet, the places you go, and what you memorize.”
Strack also established a free training program for U.S. youth ministers through Youth Pastors Summit. He is a published author and has been a speaker at organizations such as NASA, Wal-Mart, Chick-fil-A, General Motors, Walt Disney Company, Pfizer Pharmaceutical, Universal Studios, and twice for the NBA All Star Games. He has been a pastor, was vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992-1993, and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Faith Leaders for the President of the United States.
He holds a master of arts in theology and a doctor of ministry from Luther Rice Seminary. Strack and his wife, Diane, have two daughters.