"God Tricked Me"

Posted by Gretchen Whittington on 5/2/24 9:58 AM

Dr. Haynes teaching his Presidency class

“Why now?”

As an entrepreneur, Michael Haynes knew how to prepare for change. You make a flexible five-year plan, and when something comes up, you can change track without changing focus. Reassess along the way, and you’ll be fine.

But a master's degree?

That wasn’t in the plans.

Haynes had a stable business and life. He was a West Virginia local—born and raised in Charleston, where he now provided for a wife and three children. He was an elder in his church. He tried politics: he was a chairman of the local Republican party, a city councilman, and was en route to run for the state senate.

But to go back to school for anything more than a bachelor’s? Now?

It didn’t make sense.

But God’s call was unmistakable. For three years, casual conversations, jokes, and a constant thought in the back of his mind nudged him towards dropping his life as he knew it—all to go back to school.

Dr. Haynes at PHC

At the end of the 2024 spring semester, Dr. Michael Haynes will retire from his position as the head of PHC’s Government department. He has served as a professor at PHC for nearly 16 years, and during his tenure revived one of the largest and most famous programs that PHC has to offer: the Government major’s American Politics & Policy track (APP).

Baccalaureate_whittington_courtesyofCM (alumna Christene McDonald)-2Knowing that side of the story, it’s not that surprising to hear that he got his master’s in Political Science. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that he had planned for it, nor to think that he had planned on going into politics from the beginning.

But if you had asked Haynes twenty years ago where he thought he would be, it certainly wouldn’t have been becoming a professor at a private Christian college in Virginia—or a professor anywhere, for that matter.

His plan was to get a Master of Business Administration. It was the logical next step with his experience in business.

“But you know,” Haynes said, “God tricked me.”

While planning his degree, door after door kept closing. Scheduling and technical conflicts kept him from advancing in his degree at Marshall University, and he turned to a political science professor for advice.

Haynes realized from that conversation that he needed to get a degree in political science, and decided to focus on American and Public Administration—which lined up perfectly with his future position at PHC.

But from there, two of his professors approached him with a proposition: with his passion and success in politics, they suggested that Haynes should consider a doctorate in political science. “No,” Haynes said in disbelief, “wife, kids, business—I can’t just go get a Ph.D.” But the professors—and what Haynes believed was God's gentle voice—insisted.

So he listened.

Creating a culture of light and life

Haynes laughed as he retold the story, remembering how stubborn he had been about taking yet another step towards academics. It wasn’t that he didn’t like school. But for him to drop everything, Haynes said that he laid out five things God had to do to tell him he was going in the right direction—a kind of fleece, if you will. They were things like needing a full ride, a convenient living location; crazy things that would clearly fling the door open for him to pursue his doctorate.

“And out of His great kindness, He did one of those things,” Haynes said.

Class1_whittington_courtesyofPHCcommsHaynes heard the call and trusted God’s trick. After months of the next college search, applications, and tours, the Haynes couple got in a moving truck and headed to the next step on their journey toward PHC: a full ride at the University of Tennessee.


Trusting God's call 

Perhaps that was the start of one of Haynes’ first goals that he now teaches to his current students: to trust God’s call for their lives and support them every step of the way there, no matter how different that call might have been from the path they had been walking before.

Senior Meg Roberts is now finishing off her last few assignments before starting training to become a missionary in Romania. She feels the call to this mission strongly, and she had no inkling of it before coming to PHC.

The irony of her American Politics & Policy major training at PHC against this new goal of international ministry is not lost on her. She recalled going to his office one day after returning from her missions trip and asking for a “shot in the dark” internship that would apply both to her APP track and her plan for ministry.

Marvin Olasky interviews Dr. Veith about choosing a Christian college

But Haynes assured her that he would fight for her—if God told her to go to Romania for ministry, Haynes was going to support her even with what seemed like the wrong major for where she was going.

“My job as your advisor is to help you get there—not to tell you what I think you should do with your life,” Roberts recalled Haynes saying. “Because what I think you should do with your life is follow where God’s calling you.”

Coming to PHC

After a couple of years at the University of Tennessee, Haynes graduated with a doctorate in political science and began searching for a professorship. He knew from the time that he earned his doctorate that he was supposed to teach and stay active in politics.

When Haynes found out about PHC, he initially brushed it off as a tiny school he had never heard of. But when he learned about the school’s internships and the opportunity to share his faith openly, Haynes took the job interview much more seriously.

The timing was perfect. Several faculty had recently moved on from PHC, leaving an open spot for Haynes to join and begin revamping the struggling Government department.

Dr. Les Sillars, PHC’s Professor of Journalism and then Chair of the Government Department, said that when Haynes took over running the Government major in 2019, he revived the APP track with his experience and enthusiasm for the material.

American Politics and Policy at PHC

“[Haynes] came to us with a lot of life experience,” Sillars said, “and he’s got a great classroom presence. So, we were confident that he would do a great job building up the APP program to where it should be.”

So he did—Haynes turned the crumbling program into one of the largest on campus and gave students the opportunity and passion to pursue great things in politics. With his connections and the school’s focus on internships, PHC’s APP gained a sense of cohesiveness and progress under Haynes’ leadership.

Leading APP

IMG_9128Haynes remained very active politically until recently and still follows local and national issues closely. He served as chairman for the Republican party in Charleston for several years, and upon moving to Loudoun County to work at PHC, became the chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee.

This experience with politics not only allowed Haynes to give insight into the political process in classes but also helped him integrate new ideas for the program into its development. Jenna Lorence (APP, ‘10) remembered first saw Haynes when he came to interview at PHC and worked with him upon his hiring to create the now-defunct APP program retreats.

Learn about Pre-Law at PHC

“That’s [one thing] about Dr. Haynes I always really appreciated: when you came to him with an idea, he was always like, ‘Okay, tell me how you’re going to make it happen—and if it’s a good idea, I’ll be behind you 100%,’” Lorence said.

Under his leadership, APP alumni have made their way to internships and jobs in various government offices across the U.S., including positions in state and national legislatures. Others made their way to Ivy League law and graduate schools.

Many more have gone on to become campaign managers, lobbyists, and political activists in their respective communities—all staying active in politics and standing up for what they believe in as Haynes had taught them.

The George Wythe Review, which is written and edited by Haynes’ students, is one of the few undergraduate public policy journals in the country. After 14 years and 26 editions, it is still one of PHC’s best-known student publications.

Dr. Michael Haynes

One alumnus, Simon Sefzik (APP, ‘21), became the youngest Washington state senator ever at the age of 22. Other students earned clerkships at the U.S. Supreme Court, and some have worked in the White House.

Haynes recalled getting a call from one of his former students one evening, asking if he would be interested in a private evening tour of the White House. Haynes hesitated, but when the student told him that it would just be the student, Dr., and Mrs. Haynes, and that they would be visiting the West Wing, Haynes realized just how far his alumni had come in developing connections with the executive branch. 

Fond memories

Haynes’ charisma has left both legends and fond memories for the PHC community, from his office decorations to his campus presence. Many APP students fondly recall the jelly-bean dispenser in Haynes’ office, which supposedly showed how much Haynes liked a student based on how many jellybeans it dispensed at one time.

For faculty and staff, Haynes made a special campus connection around what Sillars called “the fun table” in the dining hall: a place where faculty, staff, and the occasional student would congregate for their daily share of teasing and conversation with Haynes and other professors.

“I remember that we used to have great conversations at [that] lunch table, and [Haynes] helping me to understand politics,” Dean Sandra Corbitt said.

Retiring from PHC

When he announced his retirement last year, both Dr. and Mrs. Haynes felt that they had accomplished the Lord’s purpose for them at PHC. It was time for someone else to “come in and take the reins” and fill the energy gap that Haynes’ age started to create.

Sillars joked that when Haynes had jumped into his role as the head of the Government department, Haynes “wasn’t exactly a spring chicken at that point.” Haynes himself pointed out that he is getting older, and that after a couple of health scares in recent years, it would be wise for him to take a step back.

What kind of internships do PHC students get?

“Faculty always joke about who’s gonna fall dead in the classroom—and I prefer not to be that guy,” Haynes said.

But even in his retirement, Haynes said that God left him “another trick.”

When he thought that he had everything planned out—with a fully furnished and renovated home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and another five-year plan for retirement—health concerns and opportunities to live closer to his children in Florida seemed like the more logical option.

Follow God's leading

One of Haynes’ traditions, like many of the faculty and staff on campus, is to pray daily for his students by name. Roberts showed me an email from him not so long ago that had one simple sentence: “Meg, I’m praying for you today.”

Herald version Haynes Favorite Headshot

It was a simple way that he could pass on the sentiment that so many of his students, past and present, saw in Haynes: despite the world’s circumstances, the couple steadfastly follows God’s path for them—despite it leading somewhere off the five-year plan they had made beforehand—and trusts that He’s preparing them for that path. Their mission to PHC was simple: to follow God’s leading, and to share their experience and skills with the campus.

“But it's a great ride when you're riding with Him,” Haynes said. “It's a scary ride when you're fighting—you're never, ever satisfied when you're doing that. And you want the peace that passes all understanding—there's nothing better [for that] than a relationship with Christ.”

Reprinted with permission from The Herald

PHC Christian Community


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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