SIDNEY — Richard “Dick” Dray knows the roads between Ohio and upstate New York very well.
The new head of Christian Academy Schools has traveled them often. A Bluffton native, he went to Schroon Lake, New York, for two years of college at the Word of Life Bible Institute, and then returned to the Buckeye State to finish his undergraduate degree at Cedarville University. He went back to Schroon Lake as an adjunct professor and administrator until a Christian school system in Columbus enticed him west again. He was there for 12 years before travelling that well-known road back to the Bible institute to serve as executive dean and professor of Biblical studies.
Now, 13 years later, he’s in Ohio again, this time to take the reins of Sidney’s Christian Academy in its 40th anniversary year.
Along the way, Dray worked on the family farm and in construction; married — his wife, Kendi, will teach kindergarten at the school; raised a son, Joshua, 23, of Saratoga, New York, and Danae, 21, a senior at Cedarville University; studied at Jerusalem University College in Israel and completed a Master of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is currently enrolled in the same school, working on his doctorate.
That’s a far cry from a career in the Coast Guard or the merchant marine. But when he was in high school, that’s exactly what Dray planned to have.
“A month before I got out of high school, a friend invited me to a youth conference in Indiana. The chaplain for the Boston Red Sox spoke. That night, I became a Christian,” Dray said. At home, he told his mother that perhaps his career plans had changed.
“What do you think?” he asked her. Then, they prayed.
Dray began to volunteer for the church and a Christian radio station in Lima even as he labored on the farm and in construction work. Then a church camp director asked him to work full time through a summer of camp at a pay rate way below what he’d been making.
“That summer, I knew the Lord has more for me. I knew it was time to make a huge change of direction in my life,” he said. That’s when the religious studies began. But Dray doesn’t regret the time he spent working before college.
“The Lord never wastes anything,” he noted.
He and Kendi are pleased to be close to their families in Ohio again and are now looking forward to being in the same school system, something they enjoyed when he was an administrator of the Worthington Christian Schools, a then 1,200-student system in Columbus. He doesn’t see being at the 141-student Sidney school as a step down.
“It’s still an opportunity where you get to work with students, staff, families. Academic excellence is important. Religious faith is important,” he said. The biggest challenge facing the school, he thinks, is one facing all schools and colleges: online courses.
“The challenge is for folks to understand the value of a getting a great education on campus with students getting to interact with faculty, students and staff. The Internet is wonderful and the school can go hand in hand (with it) to enhance programs. (But) you look at the importance of interaction on a daily basis. When you look at the importance of each of us, every day, and the interaction we have, we’re wired that way,” he said.
Dray knows that any education students receive may not show up in what they do immediately. He quoted a favorite author and speaker, Dr. David Jeremiah, that the importance of much of what an individual has done is not apparent in his lifetime, that sometimes the reality of what’s been accomplished isn’t realized right away.
“Who am I impacting?” he asked rhetorically. “We can impact positively or negatively. How am I impacting? Lord, help me impact in a positive way.”
He is proud to be associated with an institution that celebrates 40 years of success and will ask lots of questions of everyone at the school during his first year.
“I want to know not only what’s being done but why it’s being done,” he said.
Ever the farm boy, when Dray isn’t at school, he enjoys yard work. And ever the sailor, he still likes boats and being on the water.
He also plans to be involved in the local community. The Drays are supposed to be closing on the purchase of a house in Sidney this week. David has already met with Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst and intends to visit each of the 30 area churches represented in the Christian Academy student body.
“We want to be plugged in,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.