Resigning accounting professor recalls journey to BJU

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Resigning accounting professor recalls journey to BJU

Submitted: Chris Rawlings

After 14 years of teaching, accounting professor Chris Rawlings will resign from Bob Jones University in May 2022 to continue his accounting career.

Despite several different directions in life, Rawlings ended up exactly where God wanted him. “God had a much better plan than we did,” he said.  

Rawlings said he did not know what to study in college. However, he had an older friend, Gary Thomson, who studied accounting at BJU. “[Thomson] ended up doing really well in large accounting firms, and his excitement was contagious, so I went ahead and chose accounting,” Rawlings said. 

After spending his first year of school at Pensacola Christian College, Rawlings returned home to Virginia, intending to transfer to a local school. But during the summer he started dating his childhood friend, Cheryl Coles, whom he had known since second grade. When summer ended, Rawlings followed Coles to BJU to finish his accounting degree. 

After graduating from BJU in 1991, Rawlings went to work for the state of South Carolina in Columbia. He spent a total of six years doing various jobs before transitioning into finance at Fleet Finance in the mortgage division. 

Rawlings, his wife, whom he married in 1989, and their two kids eventually moved back to Virginia to get involved in Cheryl’s parents’ ministry. Once back in Virginia, Rawlings took a position at a media company called Landmark Communications, Inc. 

“I started in the publishing division as a financial analyst, and then, over the next 10 years, I just kind of rose through the ranks,” Rawlings said. “In 2007 I was treasurer of the corporation and director of corporate accounting for the parent company.” 

Rawlings began his journey back to BJU in March 2008. Landmark Communications decided to start selling off their companies in 2008, a move that required Rawlings to work nonstop. 

When it came time for his daughter Carly’s first American Association of Christian Schools competition in band, Rawlings could not attend because he was busy with a 5-billion-dollar deal. But, hours after Carly left for BJU, Rawlings said he felt convicted and called his wife to pack up. 

As Rawlings and his wife headed out the door, he got a message requesting a report he needed to send before he left. He went back inside his house, logged on to his computer and noticed a message from Aaron Goldsmith, the dean of BJU’s School of Business at the time. The email updated Rawlings on the accounting department at the school, and he responded by asking to connect with Goldsmith. 

Rawlings and his wife surprised Carly, who won nationals with her band at BJU, and Rawlings met with Goldsmith and unexpectedly filled out an application for a teaching position at BJU during their meeting.  

Despite never thinking about teaching before, Rawlings took the position when offered and moved to South Carolina to teach in 2008. Rawlings spoke about what helped him make the decision to teach. “The biggest thrill [in business] was the mentoring and coaching and helping other people achieve, and Cheryl and I realized that’s what [the teaching job] is,” he said. 

Over his time at BJU, Rawlings taught more than 1,000 students, invited hundreds of them to his home and started his own company, Spara, LLC. “I do consulting, and … [our company does] accounting and bookkeeping and payroll and all that stuff,” Rawlings said. 

After resigning, Rawlings will continue his work at Spara with his son Christopher and focus on taking care of his family. However, Rawlings will still have the opportunity to mentor students through BJU Scope, where he will teach an introductory investing class.   

 Rawlings said he will miss his coworkers after resigning. “The faculty I work with here are the best people I’ve ever worked with and the best people on the planet,” he said. Rawlings will also miss his students, whom he considers the best part of the job.