Dr. David Haddad, dean of California International University in Los Angeles, is seen here with Son of Northern Dancer, “Sonny” for short. Said Haddad, “Sonny has been training me in dressage arena jumping and cross-country riding for six years. This shot came after an event at Galway Downs in Temecula.” Photo courtesy of David Haddad

As a preadolescent, Michigan native David Haddad experienced what he calls an epistemological crisis. To define this for our readers, epistemology broadly means the nature and extent of human knowledge — how it is we either know or do not know something. For young Haddad, what it meant specifically was angst, discomfort and a feeling of disconnection.

“It was an unwelcome awareness,” said Haddad. “There was nothing to verify what my senses were telling me. How do you know what you know? How can you trust anything? I recognized that I could not verify my existence or my relationship to something, or anything. I did not trust my senses and felt that I had no proof of life.”

These definitional questions occurred amidst a comfortably insulated maturation process in which Haddad played rugby, football, tennis and neighborhood frisbee games on expansive Grosse Point front yards. “I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood with lots of boys around for sports and play,” said Haddad. He also took piano lessons and sang in choirs. Yet there remained these gnawing and probative questions about perception and his relation to the world around him — what was so, what was not and how does one discern the difference?

Not all questions, especially those with complex philosophical underpinnings, are ever fully answered. But for Haddad, answers came early on and through a book — the John Bertram Phillips New Testament Bible translation in modern English. “It spoke to me and answered my questions,” recalled Haddad. He credits his spiritual grounding and what he calls his “enlightenment” to a decision and a date — Jan. 6, 1970, the day on which he made his personal and lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ. There were also mentors who listened carefully and coached him through his adolescence.

“It was an important time of change in society and the Jesus Movement, as it was called, was part of that social and spiritual experience,” said Haddad.

And having found answers in a spiritual commitment that altered and defined his path, Haddad continued to fine-tune his adult life through further questioning. “I’m not embedded in my culture. I criticize it, I always have,” he said. “You have to have your own conclusions. People should be thinking and questioning.”

After a Bachelor’s Degree in communications from Michigan State University, Haddad navigated a career in finance. “I wanted to see how the world was put together,” he recalled. “Any industry [such as finance] that can give you such a research-based protocol is a good motivation to learn.”

For 15 years Haddad pursued employment in various components of the finance industry (investments, mergers and acquisitions, brokerage, as finance director for a community action program), learning the lessons of that professional world. One of the work-world lessons he learned was that many people do not keep their agreements and commitments, instead finding ways to circumvent ethics-based choices.

To realign his career path to tack more closely to education, human development, ethical behavior and contribution to others, Haddad made a midlife decision to return to school — to leave finance and launch into disciplines and paths more in line with the philosophical and perceptual issues that propelled his early years’ intellectual development.

After obtaining degrees from Fielding Graduate University — a master’s in organizational development and a doctorate in human and organizational systems — Haddad served as adjunct faculty at Argosy University in Los Angeles and Orange County. He taught a range of courses in both business and psychology at bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels in subjects including corporate social responsibility, cognitive psychology, critical thinking, and innovation and change.

As part of his current position as dean of the California International University in Los Angeles, a position he has held since 2010, Haddad uses his business coaching expertise to mentor professors’ and instructors’ professional development, and to build a collegial environment of trust based on collaboration and discipline.

Haddad also established the CIU Human Rights Project to raise awareness of world-wide human rights issues for the university’s faculty and student body. He initiated fundraising efforts tied to the project to strengthen CIU as an international institution and as a voice for others.

His administrative duties as dean include recruiting and developing faculty, monitoring instructors’ practices and teaching abilities, and counseling international students on their living and learning needs.

Haddad commutes to Idyllwild for weekends and breaks in his university schedule. He is active in the life of St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church and is finding his way into volunteer activity, including founding the Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that creates a gift and funding channel to assist in rescuing, maintaining and adopting out thoroughbred horses retired from racing.

His interests in horsemanship include dressage, hunting, jumping and backcountry equitation. He also pursues photography and hiking in our local mountains as favorite hobbies.

When asked why he moved to Idyllwild, Haddad emphasized the seclusion, the quiet and the beauty. “It’s easy to plug into Idyllwild,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of it, I can experience it and it’s manageable because it’s small.”

Another factor influencing his move to the Hill was the kindness and openness of residents, as well as activities such as a local riding group, the Red Shank Riders, that appealed to him. RSR is a nonprofit made up of individuals dedicated to conserving backcountry wilderness and protecting historic use by riders of those public lands.

“Idyllwild is also the friendliest place in Southern California,” he said. And for a man for whom searching and questioning have been fundamental driving forces in his development, Haddad said he has found in Idyllwild a place of peace, community and personal fulfillment.