Changing of the Guard: Student Body President Recap

The end of the semester brings the passing of the Student Body President title from one soldier to another. Next fall, Walter Prescher, with leadership experience derived from three tours in Iraq, takes the torch from current Student Body President and Army Colonel Sheila Sidberry. We spoke with Sidberry and Prescher, who gave us insight into the experiences and expectations of the role. 

THE REED: Sheila, what was the experience of being Student Body President like?

Sheila Sidberry: It was one of excitement and challenges. I was excited to be the first African Methodist Episcopal elected as Student Body President in a Presbyterian institution. I was delighted to be thought of as someone the students felt confident enough to lead them and take seriously their ideas and concerns. It was challenging trying to meet the demands of this position and accomplish some of the progressive ideas the student body elected me for.

TR: What qualities do you think Walter brings as the new President?

SS: For the short time that I have known Walter, my observation is that he is young, energetic, and technically knowledgeable; therefore, he will be able to communicate with and effortlessly interact with the student body. Based on our conversations, I do believe he possesses the qualities of being a great leader.

TR: Walter, why did you choose Austin Seminary? 

Walter Prescher: Austin Seminary was home from the first time I visited the campus back in 2010, right after I medically retired from the Army. I spent ten years serving my country as an officer and did three tours in Iraq. This experience finally solidified my calling to serve others in ministry, as I saw first-hand how vile humanity could be to each other, and how serving others in love could make a major difference. 

TR: Why did you want to be Student Body President?

WP: To me to lead is to serve. This has been my philosophy about leadership both while serving in the Army and while serving as the pastor at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Watson, Texas. I wanted to be Student Body President to serve this amazing community that is diverse and passionate. This community has shared a variety of its gifts with me, and this was a chance to give back in love.

TR: What are your goals as the Student Body President?

WP: My goals as Student Body President are to strive for a stronger unity within the student body and to make sure that every voice is heard. This community is diverse and passionate, and as such some of the students don’t feel that they have a voice or fit into parts of the community. My goal is to work with the student government to make sure that everyone feels welcome and appreciated here.

TR: What was your reaction to being selected as the President?

WP: My reaction was a combination of joy and shock. To be honest I was excited about being selected. It’s a huge honor to be chosen by your peers to serve them in this capacity. 

TR: Tell us three facts about you people may not know. 

WP: I played clarinet in the Fighting Texas Aggie Band, I love to be outdoors and am an avid fisherman, and I have been to the ruins of Babylon.

Do you have a favorite activity or set of activities to take part in at the Seminary?

WP: My favorite activities have to do with worship. Whether it is daily chapel services, the centering prayer group, or spiritual direction, there is a powerful presence of God on this campus, and it sets my day and week in order to experience that with my Seminary family.

Above: Walter Prescher, 2014-2015 Student Body President, and Sheila Sidberry, 2013-2014 Student Body President
Walter Prescher celebrates the 2013 Polity Bowl victory. Prescher played wide receiver for Austin Seminary in the game.