In October 2022, the RTS Charlotte community gathered on its beautiful grounds to celebrate 30 years of God’s faithfulness to the Charlotte campus. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, board members, and friends shared an evening of joyful reflection and expectant hope for the decades to come.
As Charlotte campus President Dr. Mike Kruger has often shared, the story of RTS Charlotte is one marked by “God both using and impacting his people through RTS Charlotte—all for his glory.” And many of the stories told about RTS Charlotte reflect the same theme: God bringing people to Charlotte—students, faculty, staff, and donors alike.
One of the greatest blessings that God granted to the campus from the start has been its faculty. RTS Charlotte, like all of the seminary’s campuses, is committed to teaching biblical fidelity and winsomely Reformed theology. That commitment has required sound teaching from faculty who have been devoted to the Word of God since the beginning: Dr. Douglas Kelly, then a professor at the Jackson campus, began traveling to Charlotte to teach weekend classes in 1990, two years before the campus officially opened. In 1992, Dr. Gordon Reed made a slightly more permanent move to Charlotte, coordinating evening and weekend courses from a rented building on Monroe Road. The next year, RTS President Dr. Luder Whitlock asked Dr. Ric Cannada if he would lead the new campus in Charlotte. Dr. Cannada had been a high schooler in the 1960s when his father, Bob Cannada, began praying with other men about founding Reformed Theological Seminary. After college, Dr. Cannada attended RTS before pastoring various churches for 20 years.
When Dr. Witlock asked Dr. Cannada to become a seminary leader, his initial reaction was “no.” But after connecting with other pastors and churches in the Carolinas, he decided to come on board. During his time as a pastor, Dr. Cannada had planted a church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he refers to the early days at RTS Charlotte as “seminary planting.” He wore many hats as the vice president of the Charlotte campus, from fundraising to mopping the floors and learning how to turn the computers on and off. In the early days, he would call the Jackson or Orlando campuses each morning and ask them, “Right, what do I do next?”
RTS Chancellor and CEO Dr. Ligon Duncan shared how God blessed Dr. Cannada’s servant leadership. Asked to fill in for Dr. Kelly one weekend, Dr. Duncan, a young professor at the time, saw Dr. Cannada going around the offices emptying the trash. Dr. Duncan recalls thinking, “There is a humble, godly man that the Lord has put over this work in Charlotte.”
One of Dr. Cannada’s first tasks as vice president was to gather faculty, and one of his first hires was Dr. Bob Cara. Dr. Cannada’s leadership also made an impression in their first meeting. Dr. Cara, now the seminary’s provost and chief academic officer, recalled, “Meeting [Ric], I realized, ‘This [is] a firstclass guy. I’m willing to throw my chips in with this start-up campus.’” Dr. Cara himself filled many roles in his early years at the seminary, teaching New Testament and working in the campus library.
As the campus grew, the original faculty and staff could pass on some of their hats to new hires. Polly Stone joined the campus as a registrar, and Dr. Rod Culbertson started with the campus in admissions before becoming associate professor and dean of student development. Like many of RTS Charlotte’s faculty, Dr. Cara and Dr. Culbertson have been with the Charlotte campus for decades. Two of the seminary’s other long-term professors, Drs. Richard Belcher and Don Fortson, recently marked 25 years of teaching in Charlotte.
When Dr. Cannada became chancellor of the RTS system in the early 2000s, he asked Frank Reich to become president of the Charlotte campus. Frank was playing professional football for the Carolina Panthers when he began taking courses at RTS. The two men had become friends when Reich was a student, and Dr. Cannada had recognized Reich’s leadership, vision, and heart. After a few years as seminary president, Reich became a pastor before returning to the NFL as a coach. Most recently, Reich has been hired as the head coach of the Panthers, the very team he was playing for when he first attended RTS Charlotte.
“We often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but underestimate what we can accomplish over years.”
Dr. Michael KrugerThe current president of RTS Charlotte, Dr. Kruger has served at RTS for over 20 years. A native of North Carolina, he first came to Charlotte as a visiting professor in 2001, filling in while Dr. Cara was on sabbatical. He calls it a “year-long job interview.” However, in the spring of 2002, the administration was unsure if the budget would support Dr. Kruger for a longer-term position, and Dr. Kruger started looking for other jobs. Dr. Cannada called when the money became available and said, “Mike, don’t take another job!”
Ten years later, when Dr. Kruger was asked to become president of the Charlotte campus, he “actually laughed out loud.” Although he’d served as academic dean, Dr. Kruger had never desired a larger leadership role and told the administration no several times before realizing that God was leading him to accept.
Since then, he’s been encouraged by how far the Charlotte campus has come: “I’ve heard people say that we often overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but underestimate what we can accomplish over years. And I have found that to be true, having been [president] for more than a decade.”
“I’ve really enjoyed Mike Kruger’s leadership,” shared Dr. Culbertson. “I think he brings a great combination of the pastoral side, the scholarship side, and leadership. It’s not that type of leadership where he’s in your face or pressuring you. He believes in working as a team and he cares for people pastorally, including me!”
Dr. Culbertson also talked about Dr. Kruger’s vision, particularly citing his vision for the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling program. Dr. Kruger recalled the challenges of raising financial resources, hiring new faculty and staff, and meeting accreditation standards. Now on the other side of those challenges, he shared, “It’s clear that the counseling degree has been a great blessing to our campus.”
As RTS Charlotte looks ahead to the next several years of ministry, they continue to see the faculty as an investment in the future of the church. Alongside many of the faculty members who have been serving since the 1990s, the Charlotte campus has hired a new generation of pastorscholars, including Drs. Kevin DeYoung, Will Ross, Blair Smith, and others. Of course, all of these wonderful faculty members need students—and the Lord has consistently brought students to Charlotte who seek a strong foundation of biblical training before going out to pastor, counsel, and evangelize.
As Dr. Culbertson puts it, “Learn in Charlotte; bless the world!”
Kelly Berkompas is the Assistant Director of Marketing for Reformed University Fellowship.