Time To Travel West

Time To Travel West

Gil and Sylvia Hansen are leaving Fairfax Baptist Temple Academy after 26 years.

Smiling at each other in his office, Gil and Sylvia Hansen are preparing to begin another adventure together.

After 26 years, the administrator of the Fairfax Baptist Temple Academy in Fairfax Station and his wife, an upper-level math teacher, will be turning in their keys and moving to Oregon at the end of this school year.

"There's a generational change taking place here," Gil Hansen said. "I look at it as a duty assignment change."

The Hansens met when Gil Hansen's Navy transport plane made an emergency landing in the Utah hometown of one of his friends. He called the friend's family and asked if they could take him in for a night.

"I had picked his picture out of my brother's crew team photograph and asked him to see if this young man had a special girlfriend and, if not, if he'd be interested in taking me to his graduation," Sylvia Hansen said, blushing like a newlywed.

The Lord, she said, had another idea for them. The two were married after Gil Hansen graduated from the Naval Academy and moved 17 times in the course of 20 years, finally settling in Fairfax in time for two of their three sons to attend Fairfax Baptist Temple Academy in its early years.

Gil Hansen, a Falls Church native, started working at the school after he retired from the Navy in 1981.

"The reason I left the Navy after more than 20 years was because I have a great love of my nation and a concern about the direction our young people are going," he said. "I wanted to instill in future generations some of the basic biblical ideals that I had when I graduated from George Mason High School in 1956."

During their tenure, the Fairfax Baptist Temple Academy has grown from just over 100 students to more than 270 currently enrolled. Leaving will not be an easy thing to do, but it's one for which they are prepared.

"I'll work full-time for my son who started a church in Portland as the director of soul-winning and discipleship," Gil Hansen said. "It looks like the Lord is opening a third phase of our lives, with our sons and their wives and our 11 grandchildren."

Sylvia Hansen said she's looking forward to being a full-time grandmother.

"I'll miss interacting with all the children," she said. "I call them my baby bunnies. I've been their mother bunny for so long."

MANY OF THE students Sylvia Hansen taught in algebra and calculus classes are the children of former students, something that echoes back to meeting up with the same families at different military installations when Gil Hansen was in the Navy.

"The difference is this time, we know we're not coming back," she said of their upcoming move.

The Hansens are in the process of planning their westward journey and selling their Fairfax home before moving in July.

"We praise God for our excellent health because it's good to be close to children," Sylvia Hansen said. "I'd love to be able to spend time with my grandchildren before asking them to push me in my wheelchair."

The students they've come to love have given them a memorable farewell present: the girl's basketball team dedicated its undefeated 18-0 season to the Hansens.

"This is the first time in 30 years the school has had an undefeated team," Gil Hansen said. "We think it's very generous of them to dedicate their season to us."

Mark Mandella, whose daughter, Heather, is the team's captain, said the Hansens have known his daughter since she was two weeks old.

"When they won the game, Heather ran over to Mrs. Hansen and hugged her and told her the game was for them," he said. "They were both crying. Mrs. Hansen has been their number one cheerleader all along."

Gary Kidd, who will take over as the school's administrator, said he's been working with Gil Hansen to make a smooth transition in early July.

"He's someone I've looked up to for wisdom in both the school area and church area with the friendship we have," Kidd said. "I hope to continue to put our school our there as one of the best church schools to attend in this area and in the state. He laid the foundation and I hope the school's going to get better and better based on his example."

Kidd said he'll miss the Hansens, who have become close friends.

"They're wonderful people," he said. "There's many people that have graduated that said he's had a major impact on their lives and not just through the school, but through their friendship."

PART OF THE generational change Gil Hansen referred to took place last year, when Pastor Troy Calvert replaced his father as pastor of the church.

"I have had both of them as teachers when I was in high school," he said. "I grew up with their three sons. Their youngest son and I went to and graduated from the same college together."

Calvert said the Hansens always knew they'd eventually join their sons in Oregon, it was just a matter of finding the right time. He's sad to see them leave but knows it's the right thing for their family.

"We talk about training servants for God here, and Mr. Hansen really has done a masterful job in creating the right spirit amongst the staff," Calvert said. "He'll be able to pass over the reins so the next person will know exactly what he would've done and what his purpose was behind the system he has in place."

The Hansens will be "going into another phase of ministry" in Oregon, said Rusty Fender, principal of the junior and senior high school.

"Our students will miss them greatly, that's the big thing," he said. "It won't be the same because they won't have that personality."

In addition to teaching in the school, the couple is well-known for having people over for dinner and Sylvia Hansen's gift of individualized baked goods for birthdays and anniversaries.

"They're two such giving people, I couldn't keep up with everything they do," Fender said.

Soon, their grandchildren will be benefit from their energy and gentle nature.

"My hope for the Academy is a general one, that it will continue to grow and have an even greater impact through the young people for the cause of Christ in the community and in our country and around the world," Gil Hansen said.

"This has been an incredible joy," Sylvia Hansen said. "We expect to be fully engaged in Oregon, administering to other people's needs there like we have here. That's what has kept us going and healthy and young all these years."