The North Central University commencement ceremony on May 4 was double the celebration for John Davis ’77 as he not only watched his son Connor ’17 receive his master’s degree, but received his, as well.
The Davis duo of double degree holders is thrilled they had the opportunity to go through the ceremonial master’s degree hooding together.
John Davis first graduated from NCU in 1977 with a degree in Bible and Pastoral Studies. He is the newly elected District Superintendent of the Wisconsin and Northern Michigan District of the Assemblies of God after serving for 31 years pastoring Poplar Creek Assembly in New Berlin, Wisconsin. He also serves on the North Central University Board of Regents.
His youngest son, Connor, earned his bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministries in 2017 and took advantage of NCU’s 4+1 program to earn his Master of Arts in Strategic Leadership (MASL) just one year later.
Quickening the pace
John started his MASL coursework in 2015, shortly after the degree was introduced. He was taking one course at a time—a pace he could manage with his work as a full-time pastor—when his son’s aspirations stepped in and challenged him to change the pace.
“Connor and I had individual desire for training,” John explained, “and discovered our paths were overlapping enough we could try to finish at the same time. So I went a little faster than I thought I would. [My wife] Diane sacrificed time so that would be possible.”
The 4+1 track for Connor proved to be a challenge, as well, and at one point wasn’t sure he could pull it off. “Doing my thesis and audit in the same semester was more work,” Connor said. Both mentioned that being competitive is a family trait, and Connor said the thought of his dad finishing first kept him going through the rough spots.
While the pair admitted a friendly competition, it was actually the encouragement they offered each other that made the real difference. And to say they are proud of one another would be an understatement.
“He never quits,” John said of his son. “He never deviates from the path that God has spoken into his heart.”
Connor readily reflects back the admiration. “Even as he gets older he continues to want to grow and learn and prepare for his new role—even though he had no idea that was what he was doing until a month ago.”
John affirmed this and said, “I don’t think I would have been prepared without [the degree].”
Applying studies to real life
Both men are excited about what they have learned and applying it to their careers and further studies.
Connor’s thesis addressed why young adults are leaving the church and how the church can reconnect with Millennials and Generation Z. He plans to pursue work in the non-profit world for the near term, with hopes to continue studies at the doctoral level.
Following a similar theme, John’s thesis was about how the Assemblies of God can attract Millennials and help them fall in love with their local church. He was able to use his own church as a living laboratory and is excited about the opportunities Poplar Creek and other churches will have to apply what he learned through his study.
The Davises are equally enthusiastic about their experience with the MASL program.
“The degree is worth the time and effort,” Connor said enthusiastically, “especially if you do the 4+1 program so you can have your master’s degree just one year out of college. It’s applicable to every walk or career, whether you do ministry, business, or missions—it all applies.”
The elder Davis appreciated how at this stage of his career he was stretched. “I was challenged to creative and independent thinking that did not rely on what others had to say but caused me to formulate my own opinions and conclusions based on studying and research.”
Crossing the finish line
Graduation day was somewhat surreal for the father-son team and brought a sense of fulfillment. “I want to be a lifelong learner,” John said. “I don’t anticipate I will stop at this point.”
The uniqueness of sharing this day with his dad was not lost on Connor, and thanks to the alphabet his competitive side got a small victory: “I got to graduate first because my name comes before his,” he said lightheartedly.
Connor did wait on stage for his dad to get hooded, and they really crossed the finish line together.
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