It becomes quickly apparent in talking to Terumi Echols, recently named to the new title of president and publisher for InterVarsity Press, that she is not shy about taking bold steps.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the ministry for which IVP is a subsidiary, added “president” to the publisher title formerly held by Jeff Crosby, “because it speaks boldly to the industry, authors, agents and booksellers. It speaks of investing in growth. It carries more gravitas, signaling your independence and authority,” she told PW after the August 16 announcement of her promotion from director of finance and fulfillment operations.
“My vision is broad. It’s bold. I would love to see us invest more deeply in international opportunities — whether as an imprint or a partnership that would broaden our reach to any English-speaking country, and the Spanish-speaking too,” she said. Whether abroad or within the U.S., Echols said she wants IVP to keep pushing to create new works and channels to reach people in the Spanish-speaking Church. “We have some Hispanic authors, but I would love to see us reach more deeply into those areas. I think we dabble in it, for lack of a better word. I would like to walk more boldly.”
IVP has several noteworthy Black authors and Echols was part of a team that launched "Every Voice Now," an initiative backed with a six-figure fund to support BIPOC authors and their books and strengthen diversity and cultural competency within the company. But “there so much more to do,” said Echols, whose mother is Japanese and father is African-American. “We have to be willing. We have to be bold. You can’t outgive God and you can’t outdo what he wants you to do. If he calls, you had better be ready.”
Looking at 61-year-old Echols’ career, there’s a constant thread: If she wasn’t ready for something she got ready, piling on more education and training — and prayer. In her 20’s she was working in accounting and discovering that evangelical faith spoke to her.
“But as I got older, I thought, ‘You know, Lord, I would love to work in Christian ministry. If you can use an accountant, let me know.’ And a few days later, there was a position open on the business side at Christianity Today,” she told PW. “After a few years, I thought, ‘Lord, I have a creative side, too. I’d love to do marketing.’ An HR person said I wasn’t qualified. But then a v-p stepped in and helped draw me that way. Years later, they asked me to be v-p over sales. I said, ‘You know, I don’t have a sales background, right?’ But I learned everything I could, and we met and beat the budget every time. God always prepares you for each step.”
After nearly 20 years at CT, where she had risen to be executive v-p and chief publishing officer, she decided to take a year for herself in 2016. “I felt like I had done what I had been called to do and it was my time to think about what might be next. I had time with my family,” said Echols, who is married to a high school principal and mother of two adult daughters. “I rested. I played at golf—I don’t play golf; I play at it—and worked with my mom helping build her accounting business. Then Jeff (Crosby) called…”
Crosby (who became president and CEO at the ECPA August 1) named her to the finance and fulfillment post in December 2017 and her roles rapidly expanded from there. He calls her “a key contributor” to Every Voice Now, and praised her leadership of half a dozen teams with “vision, change management acumen, keen financial stewardship, and a desire for sustained growth in support of the company’s mission to the university, the church, and the world.”
Echols is not the first woman to lead the house. Linda Doll was the executive director in 1984, the top title at that time. But Echols is the first person of color. Echols was also named a vice president for IVP within InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a ministry to university students, and serves on its national leadership team, said Greg Jao, the fellowship’s chief communications officer.
“We looked at a diverse candidate pool. This is where the church is going to grow and thrive in the global future. Terumi knows our evangelical history and she knows that 50% of students served by the fellowship are people of color and international. We think voices of color are underrepresented and the church benefits from hearing from the whole body of Christ,” Jao said.
As Echols put it, “There is a lot of craziness going on in this world. This is a time for the church to step forward boldly. IVP has this opportunity.”