An Interview With Retiring Queen’s College Provost, Dr. Rick Singleton

Dr. Rick Singleton
By on May 1, 2021
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Dr. Rick Singleton has been Provost and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s College since August 1, 2016. He will retire as Provost on April 30, 2021. Dr. Singleton provided Anglican Life with this interview. 

Dr. Singleton, can you give a quick sketch of your involvement with Queen’s College?

Since around 1992, a student would have had to work hard to avoid me at Queen’s College! I have been involved as an adjunct faculty member at Queen’s since 1992. I taught courses in Pastoral Studies each semester. I was also the original Director of the Diploma in Theology and Ministry Program, and I have offered courses each semester in the Associate in Theology program. 

As you look back, what are the highlights of your time as Provost?

The most joy for me as Provost, no different than as an instructor, has been connecting with the students and being part of the Queen’s Community. Journeying with students as they explore their faith and discover new perspectives is the magnet for all people involved in theological education. And that growth and development isn’t all accomplished in the classroom. The chapel life and common room experiences are just as important as the classroom learning in nurturing the discoveries and the insights offered in a faith-based learning community.

Another couple of specific highlights are the success we had with offering courses online and expanding the diploma program to sites outside St. John’s. Queen’s is now more available and accessible than ever for people who wish to study theology and develop skills for lay or ordained ministry and leadership in the Church in NL and beyond.

Finalizing the agreement with the Diocese of Cyrus and the Gulf to offer the Discipleship and Ministry Program, and renewing the Lease Agreement with MUN were both important and worthwhile ventures for all involved.

What led you into the role as Provost of Queen’s College?

Well, that’s still a mystery to me. I was asked by representatives of the Corporation to take on the role at relatively short notice. From my familiarity with Queen’s, the Provost had always been an Anglican priest. I was asked in late June 2016 to take on the role on August 1. I agreed to take it on, and I have no regrets. An interesting thing happened on that June day. After being asked to take on the Provost role, I said I needed time to think about it. I went to my office—I was the only one in the building. I sat there thinking and praying and pondering—you know what it is like—sort of bewildered. I heard steps on the corridor and who was it but Canon Frank Cluett, a former Provost. I just felt that Frank showing up would be the source of enlightenment on the situation for me. I shared the perplexing dilemma with Frank. Well, in his inimitable way, he guided me to the decision I have never once regretted. 

What changes do you foresee for Queen’s College?

I can’t say I see any specific change, I hope to see the College continue to adjust to the needs of the Church and the role of Church in the 21st century. In my mind, the clarity for Queen’s College will come from the clarity of the mission of the Church. The sequence of questions to answered, in my way of thinking, is this:

What is the Church?

What is the mission of the Church?

How do we prepare people for leadership in the Church?

The answers to those questions will give shape to Queen’s College and any other theological school planning for the future.

Some say it would be more efficient to send students to other schools than operate Queen’s College. What do you think?

Bluntly, they don’t know what they are talking about! But I can tell you how they find out. They go and talk to many people who have been ordained in the three dioceses of NL over the past decade. They can talk to the lay people who have taken on more substantial and effective leadership roles because of the education and training they received at Queen’s College in Master, Bachelor, Associate, and Diploma Programs. They can ask them if they would have gone off to a school elsewhere to get their education and training. I know the vast majority of them would not have left this province. The Church in NL would be much worse off if these people had not been able to pursue their vocational discernment and education at Queen’s College. 

What makes Queen’s College successful?

Like most organizations, there are many factors that contribute to Queen’s success. Some that seem really clear and important to me are the following:

Clear mission. We exist to contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God by offering spiritual, theological and pastoral formation for women and men discerning leadership roles in the Church.

Broad-based support and collaboration. Governance by committed members of the Corporation, engagement of qualified and competent faculty members, participation of committed students, collaboration with other denominations, loyalty from our alumni,  friendly affiliation with Memorial University are all essential to Queen’s. And, parishioners’ prayerful and financial support are equally important. 

Continuous quality improvement. It is an industry sort of term … but essential. No matter what you are doing or how you do it, you have to always look for ways to improve. At Queen’s, it includes evaluating every course and taking the feedback seriously, it means spotting symptoms of problems and finding the real problem … not just addressing the symptom, it means good communication … explaining what you are doing and why you are doing, it means being open to revision … if you are doing something and it isn’t working out, don’t be too proud to admit there was a mistake … and as Provost you have say “It was my mistake.”

What do you expect to miss most when you retire?

I will miss the constant deadlines. My whole life, I have had long to-do lists. I think that is my nature, so I will likely generate lists of things I need to do. The deadlines won’t be as demanding. I will like that.

Do you have any plans for your retirement?

Oh yes! And others have plans for me too. I love to sail, so right away I will be getting my sailboat ready for the sailing season. I am involved with some volunteer work and I will likely step that up a bit. My wife, Donna, and I hope to do some traveling, when things open up.

Do you have any advice to your successor?

I know Rev’d Dr. Joanne Mercer, so I can genuinely say to her, “Be yourself!” She is competent, qualified, experienced and filled with hope. She is a person of faith and pastoral sensitivity. She will do great.

I know it is risky, but are there any individuals you wish to acknowledge as you wrap up your time at Queen’s?

Oh, there are so many!

The Leadership Team was an essential for me. The Leadership is the Provost, the Dean, the Chaplain, and the Director of Student Programs. David Bell, John Courage, and Neil Kellett before him, and Carmel Doyle bring extensive experience, broad perspectives, and numerous gifts to all discussions. 

I must note the support and advice from former provosts was very helpful to me in getting established and throughout the years. Canon Cluett and Fr. Boyd Morgan had long histories at Queen’s and they were always available to answer questions, provide background, but never interfere. The Venerable Bill Bellamy, Rev’d Alex Faseruk, and the late and beloved Bishop Geoff Peddle were likewise supportive, encouraging, and helpful as I got settled in to the position and throughout my time as Provost.

The Chairpersons (Rev’d Cynthia Haynes-Turner and Rev’d Gerald Giles) and members of the Corporation were always interested and supportive. They were open to initiatives and determined to provide for the best interests of Queen’s College. The Treasurer, Mr. Frank Janes, educated and guided me to ensure responsible financial management of the College. 

The Bishops were always interested and committed to Queen’s. Bishop Coffin, Bishop Organ, Bishop Watton, Bishop Peddle, and Bishop Rose—all alumni of Queen’s and committed to Queen’s. I found them all respectful and wholesome to work with.

And I must say, the other Bishop: Dana! Like Ms, (now Dr.) Susan Foley before her, Dana has her fingers on the pulse of Queen’s. She is the first to answer the phone or respond to an email to people making contact with Queen’s. Her skills, charisma and dedication has been essential to any success we have had at Queen’s. Who else could have come to work on Monday morning November 23 expecting to have an in-person convocation, and then, due to COVID, be ready for an online convocation on Wednesday, November 25. 

I must thank my family—my wife Donna, my daughter Chloe and my son Chris. They are always supportive and provide the joy, variety, fun and free advice (solicited or not) needed for a balanced life and a resilient spirit.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective and thanks through Anglican Life.

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