Philip Eaton, 68, will step down next July after 16 years as president of Seattle Pacific University to pursue writing and community service, the university announced Tuesday.

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Philip Eaton, president of Seattle Pacific University for 16 years, is stepping down at the end of the school year next July to pursue writing and community service, the university announced Tuesday.

Eaton, 68, said he doesn’t want to describe it as retirement because he plans to stay active. He is the author of “Engaging the Culture, Changing the World: The Christian University in a Post-Christian World,” published this year.

“We’re just flourishing,” he said of SPU, which has a projected enrollment of 4,191 students this year, the largest in its 120-year history. Eaton said the number of students applying to SPU has “just exploded,” from 2,200 applicants three years ago to 5,000 this year.

Eaton said he thinks students are drawn to SPU because it has crafted a clear vision of its purpose. “We’re here to serve the world in some kind of way,” he said. “And there is a generation of students that very much responds to that.”

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The Christian university’s stated mission is to engage the culture and change the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Founded by Free Methodist pioneers, it is located on the north side of Queen Anne Hill.

A former professor of literature, Eaton worked for a while in his family’s real-estate-development company in Phoenix before he was offered the job at SPU.

He said he has enjoyed working at an urban campus because the school can send students into the city for internships and other community work. He’s also proud of helping to recruit young, new faculty members to the school.

In a prepared statement, SPU board of trustees chair Dennis Weibling said Eaton provided “the kind of elevating vision that causes students to think expansively about their education and their lives.”

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or

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