Drake and his wife, Betsy, were high school sweethearts who were married for 27 years. His unconditional love for Betsy was deep and fierce; she was not only his best friend and partner, she was also a champion of his vision and hopes for Linfield. He valued her perspective and believed whole-heartedly in the beauty of her dreams, and his unconditional love for her was a sight to behold.
In 2007, a few years after Drake and Betsy had moved to California from their home state of Washington, Drake accepted a position as Linfield’s Athletic Director. Yet even from the start, his influence was in no way limited to just one arena. He did dramatically transform the culture of Linfield Athletics, emphasizing the importance of character-building, grit, and teamwork, but he also cultivated a greater sense of community in the school as a whole, reminding students from day one that they were all Lions. After a series of deep conversation with faculty and students, it was Drake who led the effort to bring about innovation and restructuring to high school Bible classes and chapels in order to engage students’ hearts in meaningful ways. He also developed Linfield’s SLAMO program (service/leadership/adventure/mission/outreach), providing opportunities for Linfield students to grow in their faith and apply what they were learning in real and tangible ways.
Through SLAMO’s, students took meals to the homeless in San Diego, planted crops on a local farm, visited nursing homes, hiked in the mountains, rafted down the American River, and served on a variety of mission trips.
Drake was instrumental in starting and championing the Mexico house build and Haiti trips, both of which continue to profoundly impact students’ lives today.
After serving for a couple years as vice-president, Drake accepted Linfield’s Head of School position in spring of 2014. With his characteristic wit, he often joked about his unorthodox path to educational leadership, noting that his original degrees were in fine arts and nursing, that he had served as an athletic director, and that he had never really spent time in a classroom, so naturally, he became a head of school.
And yet, he was the perfect fit for Linfield at the perfect time.
Drake’s leadership was inspiring and empowering. He saw extraordinary potential in everyone and encouraged faculty, staff, and students to dream big and believe they could do more than they could have imagined. He often likened his leadership style to the habits of a farmer who prepares the soil, plants seeds, and nurtures growth, and so many of the exciting and innovative developments at Linfield in recent years are a direct result of the way he cultivated a culture of possibility and supported his team in making them a reality.
While he could take credit for a host of accomplishments, Drake’s humility always led him to shift praise to others, but it is no accident that Linfield thrived under his prayerful leadership. Drake was a man who loved the Lord with his heart, mind, and soul, who earnestly sought God’s will, and who had the courage and conviction to boldly step out in faith. He led the school to do likewise, and yet, he acknowledged that he wasn’t truly the head of Linfield. Jesus was (and is) the King.
Drake’s most fervent prayer was that Linfield would submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ for His glory, in His Spirit, and by His Word.
Because of that, Drake’s greatest legacy at Linfield might be his passionate commitment to the school’s mission, particularly the last part which says that the school exists to develop knowledge and character in students in order that they may serve the Lord and the world through their character and leadership.
Through an intensive vision-casting process a few years ago, Drake even led a team of school leaders to wrestle with the question: “Who are we?” As a result, Linfield identified, defined, and committed to our three core values of Christ-Centeredness, Community, and College Prep, and the school’s 2020 Vision was born.
Even when his schedule got busy with administrative meetings and leadership tasks, Drake always prioritized spending time with the students he loved so much. He spoke frequently in chapels at all three campuses and went on the Mexico trip every year. You might find him squeezing his 6’7 frame into a tiny chair in order to get down on the same level as a kindergartener, dancing with elementary students in chapel, leading silly games at LINK, jumping into the mud to referee a game of tug-of-war during the Great Race, cheering on the Lions at athletic events, or praying for hours with high school leaders in his office on Tuesday afternoons. Even as his illness progressed and his mobility decreased, you could find him racing students or doing donuts around campus on the motorized scooter he called Reepicheep.
And it was in the midst of his illness that Drake had the most profound impact on the Linfield community. In fact, he chose to first publicly share his diagnosis with high school students at Winter Mountain 2017, and he and Betsy continued to practice authenticity and vulnerability throughout their two year journey of suffering. It was unimaginably difficult, but one has only to read the beautiful e-mails he wrote to Linfield families or to watch the video he filmed for last spring’s final high school chapel to see the way Jesus was working, to see the hope of glory in the midst of the agony. Drake often stated that he wouldn’t trade for physical healing if it meant giving up his newfound intimacy with Christ, and he was passionate about how he wanted Linfield students to wake up from the stale, lifeless world of cultural Christianity and moralistic deism. His prayer was that they would truly know Christ as the supreme treasure of their lives – not that they would know a lot about Him but that they would actually KNOW HIM and that they would be radically transformed and awakened to the wonder and mystery of being made alive in Christ.
Though illness limited Drake’s tenure as Head of School to just four years, his extraordinary legacy lives on in the community he treasured so much, and Linfield will honor him most by staying focused on its Christ-centered mission. In an e-mail announcing his resignation, he wrote the following:
My suffering this year has only increased my convictions regarding the weight and worth of Linfield’s mission, and though it is and has always been my desire to rise in health and continue the journey with you, the time has come for me to pass the torch. Much earlier than I was expecting.
And yet, right there next to the disappointment, there is also a rising hope, perhaps even a conviction, that my surrender will be a catalyst for glory.
Let me be clear, my hope is not in Linfield but rather in the One I’ve come to know and love more deeply, the One who rules and reigns over Linfield. Since the first day Mabel Culter swung wide the doors of a borrowed living room and proclaimed the grand opening of Culter Academy, this school has always belonged to Jesus Christ. We’ve had seasons of drift, but we’ve never gotten beyond His grip. He’s always delivering, always protecting, always reminding, and always restoring Linfield back to His original purposes… I believe that God is looking for a school that is wholehearted toward Him and where He can show Himself strong… And the pathway into the life of God is Jesus Christ. Not Jesus as a concept or a doctrine or merely a historical figure, but Him. Alive. Now. Leaning forward from the Kingdom of Heaven with a heart of love for this next generation, for us and for our kids…
This is what I pray for Linfield, that the One who so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life will, in some mysterious and yet true way, choose to love this school at this time, and that in response to His presence, grace, and goodness, hope, faith, and love will rise.
My confidence is in Him. My peace is in Him. And because of that, I believe that bright days lie ahead for Linfield. So let us all press on together towards the hope of glory.
– Drake Charles (March 2018)
Sunday, February 10
Celebration of Life
A Celebration of Life service will be held at The Bridge Church in Murrieta at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 10. There will also be an open house and storytelling event on February 8 and 9.More Information
We encourage you to check out the links below to read some of Drake’s letters and listen to his storytelling. Drake’s beloved wife, Betsy, would also love to hear YOUR stories. How did Drake Charles impact your life and what stories will you remember most? We're working on additional ways for you to share those digitally, but Betsy would love handwritten letters as well. Feel free to drop those off in the administration office.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be given in Drake's honor to Linfield Christian School.