W.E. Stebbins High School
Class Of 1975
The Spotlight this month is on
Dr. Rick Potter (Mann).
It’s been nearly 35 years since we left high school…. Let’s take a brief walk back to your high school years first.
1. When you think of your time at Stebbins, what are your fondest memories? The friendships and my years on the wrestling team.
Rick bottom row, far left with the rest of wrestling team.
2. What are your worst memories? Some serious trouble with the police.
3. Did you have a favorite subject? I was a shop rat involved with industrial arts throughout my years.
4. Did you have a most embarrassing moment in school? Punching some guy because I didn’t like his comments on my baby blue corduroy three-piece suit.
5. Who among all your teachers had the most influence over you or was most instrumental in your life? Probably Mr. Beavers, my industrial arts teacher.
6. I won’t ask who your worst teacher was, but what was your most difficult subject? Chemistry was pretty tough.
7. You had many friends, who among them did you admire the most? And why? Richard Wells always seemed solid in character, relationships, and studies.
Rick, in shop class.
Okay, you’ve graduated. It’s the summer of 75. What did you do that summer? The big hurrah before embarking to college….I thought about going out with every Stebbins girl that I had never dated. I was a little ambitious given the available time, budget, and my limited star status.
Where did you go to college and what was your major? I went to college at Miami to study Industrial Arts Education and roomed with Chris Miller. Lots of fun. I later transferred to Western Michigan which had a great industrial arts program and was where my girlfriend was going.
Was that your original educational goal when you left high school? I wasn’t a great student at Stebbins and even thought of opening a furniture company and not going to college. In the end, I decided to go to Miami.
While in college what jobs did you hold? In college, I did a fair amount of painting. Paid well and wasn’t too hard.
Since then you have expanded your education. You earned a Master of Divinity in cross-cultural ministries from the Canadian Theological Seminary, and your Masters and PhD from OSU in Foreign Language Education. Let’s not forget the MBA at U of Minnesota. I guess you could say that education started working for me.
Okay… Tell us what happened. We all thought you were a great guy in high school, but I don’t remember you being overtly religious. Why did you take this religious path? I did not have any religious background from childhood through Stebbins graduation. You asked me about the summer after graduation and I said I had a plan to date girls from Stebbins. One of those was Linda Russell, class of ’76. I didn’t know her that well, but she was very nice. Anyway, after going out a few times she asked me if I wanted to go to church with her and her family. Seemed pretty harmless and so I went. When I heard about how God would forgive my sins through Jesus, I thought that was amazing. It was good deal for these nice church people, but for me and all that trouble I had been in and caused, this was remarkable. That day, I went forward and asked Jesus into my life. In the following days, I was in a Bible study at Miami U, met a great Christian girl and God has been very faithful to help me become a decent human being.
Much of your career has involved Asia and China in particular. You were the founding director of a Chinese language institute in China and founding editor of an academic journal. Why China? What brought you to a point in your life where working overseas, leaving family back in the states was an important step in your life? After graduating from college, I took an industrial arts job at Mad River Junior High, which is interesting because I went to Spinning Hills. Living in Kettering, we went to a great church called Fairhaven Church in Centerville. There we heard about the opportunity for Christian teachers to teach English in China. Cheri and I felt that God was leading that way and so we followed it up. The leaders suggested that we do some graduate studies in Chinese studies which we did in seminary. I followed that up with MA and PhD studies at Ohio State. In 1986, we were off to China. Our families were not too excited about the idea. However, over the next five years, it was a great experience for our whole family. After a number of years, Cheri had some health problems that did not allow us to continue.
You just returned from another trip to China. What did you do? Even though my Chinese is a little rusty, I still enjoy returning to China. It changes so much so fast. In recent years, I have been working on some educational partnerships between our college and students in China.
Today you are the President of Crown College, a Christian college located in the tropical/sunny state of Minnesota. Crown is an educational ministry of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches. In addition to their focus on Jesus Christ as Savior, they have a focus on Missions and Missionaries. I am assuming that based on your mission in China and now your involvement in the College you believe missionary work is an important career. What are the expectations of a modern day missionary? Fifty years ago, a typical missionary would go to a foreign country to preach and feed a tribe of hungry children. How has that goal changed in fifty years? What is different about C&MA missions and other Christian missions? Good question. We really didn’t go to China as missionaries. I went as a qualified faculty member to teach in various Chinese universities. Similarly, while Crown College does have ministry majors, it has about 40 majors overall at both the undergraduate level and the graduate level. Our goal is to help Christian students understand their faith and then to equip them to serve across a wide variety of vocations. In other words, our desire is to serve God through all that we do and every student gets to do that through the major he or she chooses.
Has this been a fulfilling career for you? It has been a blast! I have had the privilege to serve great people in great places.
What’s the hardest part of your job? My present job? Colleges serve many groups: Faculty, staff, students, donors, board members, parents, churches, communities, educational partners, employers, etc. It is challenging to effectively serve every group.
What’s the easiest part of your job? Hanging out with students. Their passion and energy is very contagious.
What do you view as your greatest accomplishment? Two stories come to mind. First, a friend of mine was in Beijing talking to a Chinese Department of Education communist official. The official said to my friend, “We would only hire Christian teaches (from the US) instead of non-Christian teachers if we could find enough.” It is exciting to see how well American Christians have served under difficult circumstances in China. Second, one of my Chinese students said that I was the greatest communist she had ever met. What a strange thing to say. Democrat, republican, independent, communist? She said that the communist leaders said that good communist served the people, but in fact they only served themselves, but the Christian teachers sacrificially served the students.
What is your biggest regret? I wasted some many years in junior high and high school living for drinking and women. I didn’t have very good life skills after high school.
You have a beautiful wife named Cheri, how did you meet? At Miami, a friend of mine was talking to two girls. I said, “Who are you talking to?” He said, “Two Christian girls from Emerson Hall”. Christian girls are not something I was remotely familiar with. One of the girls was Cheri.
How has she coped with your world travels? Cheri is very adventurous and has been very excited about our world travels. Her only hope is that someday we might live in a warm place. Not much luck so far.
When you think of Cheri, what is the best trait about her? She has been very patient with my immaturity coming out of high school. It has been a journey to learn some life skills that I missed in my younger years.
What did you and Cheri do on your first date? We went to Playhouse in the Park in Cincy where my sister worked to see Death of a Salesman. Pretty adventurous date for all that went wrong.
What do you love most about your relationship with Cheri? She loves God and loves people. As a nursing faculty member, she has a heart for healing in the lives of people.
Tell us about your kids and what they are doing now? Cheri and I have been blessed with three great sons. Being a parent has been very rewarding. Many thought that our sons would be greatly disadvantaged living in China. The opposite has been true. Jason went to Harvard, did his MD/PhD at Vanderbilt and is now a physician involved in biotech consulting. Josh graduated from Crown and is a pastor in Oregon. Jeremy is a teacher with Teach for America serving in the inner city of LA. They are great guys each married to great women. Very encouraging.
What challenges did raising a family have? Is being a father what you expected? Being a father has been difficult because I grew up in a broken home. My theme song in high school was “Cat in the Cradle” since my father was not involved in my life. I had to learn all this as an adult. Cheri is a great mom and has taught me a lot.
Jason and Natalie, Josh and Bex, Erin and Jeremy, Rick and Cheri
The Mann Family
Do you still have family back in Dayton? I do not. My parents are retired in North Carolina and my only sister lives in the DC area.
What are your favorite hobbies or pastimes? I enjoy sports and as an Ohio State alum, I follow the Buckeyes. I also enjoy following technology and cycling.
What makes you laugh? It is hilarious some of the things that college students do. Put a thousand 20-year-olds on a campus and it is going to be exciting!
What are your favorite books, movies, plays, poems, etc? I like reading about world affairs, technology, and social change. I like dramatic and heroic movies like The Guardian.
What is your favorite funny story about yourself? I travel a lot and one day I got up in the middle of the night for a flight and when I went through security, they said that my shoes did not match.
What is the one thing about yourself that few people know? I went by the last name of Potter all through school because my mom remarried. When I graduated from Stebbins and went to Miami, I switched back to my original last name of Mann which I have used all through my adult life.
What are misconceptions you think people have about you that you can set straight? On a funny side, my red hair has become lighter as I have gotten older. Somebody called me a blonde the other day. Should I be offended?
Are there any political or social issues you feel passionately about? I am generally conservative, but generally not very politically active.
Do you think you have met the goals you set for yourself? I feel good about the things I have been involved in. I did not have many goals during my teen years and so it is rewarding to see all that I have been able to be involved in.
What else do you want to accomplish? I would like to have some grandchildren and strengthen the college in the coming years.
The Class of 75 has gone in many different directions, scattered across the country. Some are millionaires, some make it paycheck to paycheck, some are millionaires and still make it paycheck to paycheck. People would look at you and say there is a successful man. What defines a “successful” person to you? I think people are successful when people can live for greater things than themselves. I am thankful that I have first and foremost I have been able to connect with God through Jesus Christ. Additionally, I have enjoyed investing in people from my own family to those in the far reaches of China. I believe that this investment will far outlive my days on this earth.
How would you like to be remembered by the rest of the class of 75? A guy who experienced significant brokenness as a teen and significant healing and wholeness as an adult and in turn blessed others through his message of life and service.