The Voice: Spring 2003

The Voice

2003 Distinguished Alum: Randy Kroll: president and “social worker”

By: Sonya Jongsma Knauss

One of Randy Kroll’s clients describes him as a “displaced social worker.” He’s probably on to something. You wouldn’t find too many of Kroll’s associates who would argue with that assessment. Kroll’s activities over the last couple of decades since graduating from Dordt College speak loudly for his orientation toward service.

“My natural disposition is certainly in the area of human need,” he said.

Kroll’s faith has always shaped the way he does business. After graduating from Dordt in 1980 with a degree in business administration, he began his career as a CPA at Wilkerson, Guthmann, and Johnson, Ltd, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has since become a shareholder in the company and was named president of the firm in 2000. He specializes in working with not-for-profit organizations and believes that God has given him the opportunity to bring hope to individuals and organizations by the way he works with them.

His firm has doubled in size since he became president. He attributes it to service, planning, and opportunity.

“What I am most excited about, though, is the opportunity to lead the firm in thought and values clarification,” he says. He and his partner have worked to build a firm that is not limited to Christian employees, but that is built on what he believes are kingdom principles. Their employees notice the difference.

But much of the work he does takes place outside of the office. He values his position as president, because it offers him the flexibility to fill his calling to serve in a variety of ways.

But it took a change of heart—a transformation of sorts—before Kroll fully understood the role into which he was being called.

“The traditional role that I had played as a deacon at my church was more one of administration, more one of a critic of the poor. I looked at the poor as being responsible for their plight, rather than seeing them as image bearers of God who are in a particular situation that often is over their head to deal with,” said Kroll.

After a CRWRC conference in 1989 he saw things in a different light.

“It wasn’t a comfortable change, because I had to change all paradigms,” he said. “It took a long time.” But it was this transformation of his mind, a topic he spoke on while at Dordt College over homecoming weekend, that led him to establish a mentoring program with the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission.

After helping found the Eastern Minnesota Deacons’ Organization, he realized many deacons in the suburban churches viewed ministry the way he had. “I wanted to kind of push the churches to look at new ways of doing ministry as it related to the poor . . . get them involved in more one-on-one ministry.”

Kroll took leadership in this area as well, since he felt strongly that he needed to “be in relationship with the poor. That was the only way I could walk the talk.”

It was then that he met Will Heard, a train hopper who would stop in cities between Seattle and Chicago just long enough to make money to buy drugs and alcohol, then move on to the next place. Kroll met Heard after Heard reached a low point, stealing from his mother and pawning the goods to feed his addictions. Heard decided to go to the Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul to try to get a new start.

“As much as I helped him work through some issues, he helped me work through some issues in my life by making me recognize the necessity and beauty of an interdependent relationship,” Kroll said. “For one thing, it pointed out to me the difficulties that the poor encounter just to get back on top of things.”

“One other thing that was really revealing to me was how I personally could love somebody who was so ‘unloveable’—someone who had stolen from his own mother to feed his drug habit,” Kroll said.

In addition to his activity with the Gospel Mission, his desire to serve people in need has drawn Kroll into leadership roles within organizations like the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Kroll also helped found a Bethany Christian Services office in Minneapolis; he serves on the alumni board at Dordt College and the board of Calvin Christian School in Edina; and he is currently heading a task force to establish a Christian high school in the Twin Cities.

As you might expect, one of Kroll’s biggest challenges is finding time to do it all, and to stay balanced. He also consciously works to provide leadership that is meaningful.

“Sometimes as a leader, you want to move too far, too fast. . . I need to keep thinking about how I can get others to move forward as well.”

About his time at Dordt College over homecoming, Kroll said he was greatly honored to be named a Distinguished Alumni.

“It was fun to reflect on where I’d been, the changes God brought about in my life, and where I’m going,” he said. “I wanted to challenge students at Dordt to be open to that renewal process (Romans 12:2). The result of that is the transformation of your mind; as Reformed Christians, that’s what we’re about. We need to transform not only ourselves but also our culture.”