Quick Exit, Quick Hire at American Bible

January 21, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

American Bible Society (ABS) announced its second president and CEO in the past year, just two years before it celebrates its bicentennial.

Roy Peterson will be president and CEO, succeeding S. Douglas Birdsall, who left the organization last fall after just seven months on the job. Birdsall was appointed in fall 2012 and started as CEO in March 2013 before being dismissed a month before his scheduled inauguration in November 2013. In a statement at the time, Birdsall said “there are times when the vision and style of a new leader does not mesh with the culture of an established organization or with expectations of the board.” A group of ministers released a letter in November criticizing Birdsall’s dismissal.

The Board of Directors unanimously voted to appoint Peterson during its quarterly meeting on Jan. 9. He will begin his tenure on Feb. 1. Chief Operating Officer Steve King has been serving as interim CEO, responsible for day-to-day operations.

ABS declined to reveal details of compensation for its new CEO, only to say that Peterson will be “compensated at a level appropriate for his role and for the city in which he will be working.” He will be based out of the Manhattan headquarters of the organization, which last year reported revenue of more than $62 million, including $39 million in contributions and grants. Birdsall’s predecessor, R. Lamar Vest, earned total compensation of almost $452,000, including base compensation of almost $270,000 for the year ending June 2012, according to the organization’s tax forms.

The board “considered quite a few people for the role” of president/CEO, according to ABS Chief Communications Officer Geof Morin, who responded to questions through its public relations agency. “ABS reopened a search beginning in October that included exploration of dozens of candidates. Roy quickly rose to the top, based on his critical skill set and experience for this historic moment in ABS Bible mission.”

Peterson has been president and CEO of The Seed Company in Arlington, Texas, for the last decade and previously led Wycliffe USA for five years. He spent eight years in Ecuador and Guatemala during his time at Wycliffe and previously held management positions with U.S. Shoe Corporations, Florsheim Corporation, and American Greetings Corporation.

“Roy’s decades-long leadership in Bible translation and depth of experience will serve him well as he helps lead American Bible Society into our third century of ministry,” board Chairman Peiter Dearolf said in a statement announcing the appointment.

Peterson holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration form Roger Williams College and a master’s in social science/leadership studies form Azusa Pacific University. He recently completed the executive program for nonprofit leaders at Stanford University. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from Taylor University in recognition of his work in bible translation.

Peterson was a founding board member for the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas, Texas, and also serves on the CEO Council of the International Forum of Bible Agencies. He and his wife, Rita, have three children and three grandchildren.

ABS was founded in 1816.