Continuing the Mission
by Linnea Hanson, class of 2011
Northwest Nazarene University is pleased to introduce its 13th president, Joel K. Pearsall, JD.
Joel has a rich family heritage within the Church of the Nazarene as well as a deep love for and personal history of caring for the university and its community. Liz Reisch remembers this well from her time serving alongside Joel on NNU’s Foundation Board.
“While Joel is fully versed in his profession, he got to know me well enough to give weight to my expertise in my business. This allowed us to work together to bring about what I believe were consistently the best solutions to honor and recognize individuals involved with NNU. He trusted me with enormous responsibility and then did all he could to make me successful in fulfilling my duty to NNU. I look forward to others at NNU and the institution as a whole benefiting from Joel’s desire and ability to get the best out of people.”
Joel moved from Boston to Nampa as a sophomore in high school in 1973 when his father, the late Kenneth Pearsall, accepted the position of leading the university as its 8th president. His mother, Ruby, still resides in Nampa.
It didn’t take long for Joel to feel comfortable in his new home. “There was some initial culture shock, but within six months I had fallen in love with the West and had really come to appreciate the benefits of a small community.”
Joel attended Nampa High School before graduating in 1976 and enrolling at NNU. His involvements—like today’s NNU students—included a little bit of everything. He was on the tennis team and participated in a choral group every year, including Crusader Choir and Northwesterners. He was an RA in Chapman Hall his junior year and he played on the newly formed soccer team his senior year.
In the summer after his junior year, Joel married Nikki Moritz, his high school sweetheart. Joel and Nikki have three children: Trenton, a graduate of Southern Nazarene University; Chadwick, a 2011 graduate of NNU who is married to Chelsea (Pounds), a 2014 NNU graduate; and Graydon, a senior elementary education major currently at NNU. This summer the Pearsalls celebrated 36 years of marriage.
“I’m excited about the future; I have great hope for the future. I believe the best days for NNU are ahead.”“I’m a pastor’s kid, a district superintendent’s kid, a Nazarene university president’s kid. I’m the youngest of four children, all of whom are Nazarene educated—my parents were, my wife is, my wife’s family is, and our children are. We believe in Nazarene higher education. It’s part of the fabric of who we are. Both Nikki and I feel there is an incredible richness that goes far beyond the academic experience we had here.”
Joel graduated from NNU in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and Business Administration and then earned a Juris Doctor from Willamette University College of Law in 1983.
Following law school, Joel served as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Charles Donaldson of the Idaho Supreme Court and practiced law with Meuleman & Miller in Boise. From 1985 to 1994, he was in private practice in Salem, Oregon, specializing in business and tax law with an emphasis in employee benefit planning. In 1994, Joel assumed the role of business administrator for Salem First Church of the Nazarene.
Before rejoining the NNU community as a staff member, Joel sat on the University Board of Regents (now Trustees) for seven years, 1992 to 1999. In 1999, Joel became NNU’s vice president for financial affairs and in-house legal counsel. For Joel and Nikki, returning to Nampa and NNU felt like a natural continuation of their family heritage.
During his years in the Office of Financial Affairs, the NNU campus underwent significant physical growth, including the building of the Helstrom Business Center and the Johnson Sports Center, redesigning the sports complex, expanding the Kirkeide Apartment Complex and acquiring what is now the Admissions Welcome Center. As CFO, Joel had important roles in each of these endeavors.
After being named vice president for university advancement in 2008, Joel helped oversee the completion of the Thomas Family Health & Science Center from his new role. He also helped to develop the university’s campus master plan and contributed to the receipt of the major gifts from the Leah Peterson Estate and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation to build the Leah Peterson Learning Commons. As vice president for university advancement, Joel also served as executive director of Northwest Nazarene University Foundation, Inc.
“It’s been very rewarding to be involved in helping to develop the campus. Each building is unique, and they all have stories that go with them—some that make me smile, some that make me shake my head. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy every job I’ve had. I’ve found all of my work to be very fulfilling.”
In May 2015, the Board of Trustees appointed Joel president of NNU for an interim period. Due to his extensive experience, skills and dedication to NNU and its community, the board asked President Pearsall to fill this vital role for up to two years. He accepted the role with humility and hope for the future.
“I’ve been very fulfilled serving in vice presidential roles, so I just assumed that’s what I would do until God told me to go do something else. To be able to serve in this role on behalf of NNU is a great privilege and a great responsibility.”
As president, Joel plans to continue to guide the campus community in living into Vision 2025 and the campus master plan while also addressing some of the cultural issues that have come to light over the past several months.
“We’re going to continue to deliver an exceptional education to our students that goes beyond academics to transform the whole person. As we do that, we also need to focus as a campus community on our relationships with each other, the structure of our organization and the shared culture and identity of NNU. We’ve got phenomenal people who work at NNU and make this place what it is, but we all need to be pulling in the same direction. This will take our best effort, but I think we’re going to get there.”
“I’m excited about the future; I have great hope for the future. I believe the best days for NNU are ahead.”
Photo caption: Joel Pearsall visits with families at the President’s Pancake Fest during New Student Orientation, which he hosted for the first time in his new role as NNU’s 13th president. Watch a message from Joel at nnu.edu/president.