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Mar  2016 17
Seminary President Remembers Chester Cadieux

NOTE: Phillips Seminary President Gary Peluso-Verdend sent his remembrance of Board Chair Emeritus Chester Cadieux to the seminary community this week. We wanted to share this with you on this day of the memorial service. 

Dear Members of the Phillips Community:

Dr. Chester Cadieux died about 8:40 p.m. on Monday, March 14. When I consider how long Chester has been ill and out of the public eye and not actively in the seminary’s life, and when I consider how many members of the seminary community have joined since 2009 or 2010, it occurred to me that many of you do not know who Chester was to Phillips. So, I’d like to tell you.

Phillips Theological Seminary might not exist without Chester Cadieux. We certainly would not be as secure as we are. And, if we had a future, it would not have the possibilities that in fact we do have.

In the middle 1990s, the seminary lived in tents in Enid and Tulsa, used rented facilities, owned no more than books and the small endowment comprised of funds formerly held at Phillips University.

The trustees then made the decision to locate the seminary entirely in Tulsa. President Bill Tabbernee was told about Chester Cadieux, the founder, president, and CEO of the QuikTrip Corporation, the finest convenience store chain in the U.S. Chester was a Disciple who loved the church his mother loved.

Bill approached Chester about board membership. Chester declined, several times. He said boards only wanted his money, not his ideas. Bill sought to prove him wrong, and in a careful and wise way cultivated the relationship.

When Chester decided to join the board, he said he was fixing to put down the piano that was QuikTrip (retire) and, in retrospect, that he picked up the piano that was Phillips. “That little preacher factory” he called us. Along with his presence, which was ALWAYS a very large presence wherever he showed up—people respected and admired him a great deal—he opened his wealth to the seminary.

First filling a budget gap at the end of each year. Then a capital campaign gift of $4 million in QT stock, which has since grown to over $17 million in value. The corporation gifted the building which is now our home. Then a trust for operations. Then another trust of stock of which the seminary is the beneficiary to match all new gifts to the permanent endowment.

This last gift has inspired many others to be generous, and many of those “many others” were persons who joined the seminary’s family because of Chester in the first place. Chester opened his wealth, his wisdom, his family, his reputation, and his friends to the seminary. Today, the seminary’s endowment is over $50 million, with a good half of that a direct result of Chester and over $10 million of that in gifts inspired by Chester.

When Chester was the board chair, he called the president weekly both to support him and to hold him accountable. He was a guest lecturer in Dr. Nancy Pittman’s Arts and Practices of Ministry Class. He bought a set of leadership books for every graduate. In multiple ways, he was our chief public cheerleader in the Christian Church and in the Tulsa community.

I am personally grateful, deeply grateful for the support Chester gave to me, whether during my time as dean, as chief development officer, as president—and even personally when my wife Cheri and I were in a prolonged struggle to complete an international adoption some years ago.

If I were to select one figure who was a truly transformative presence for the seminary, it would be Chester Cadieux. In this time of great turbulence for higher education and in churches, Chester did not assure what kind of future the seminary would have, but he most assuredly gave us a future.

Every time I buy gas or food at QT, I am grateful for this extraordinary man who created an excellent business, who enlivened his church, and who gave this seminary a new lease on life.

Thank you, Chester.



Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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