Transformed and Surrendered to Live a God First Life
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, president
August 31, 2006
This summer I met with David Peck, executive director of university relations, and we talked about the sense of urgency around our call. After we viewed a video clip showing the world’s definition of excellence, we realized how desperately people need to see and hear what our students, alumni, faculty, and staff can deliver from a Christian worldview. When we spoke with a film company that’s working on alternatives to what society at large has to offer, we found that some of their comments reflected what we already do in our film programs and the Department of Communication Studies.
The question then arises, why does Azusa Pacific exist in light of how the world paints what MTV and others put on the television? Does our mission statement draw a circle around that? Just think about those 47 words that define our purpose: “Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical Christian community of disciples and scholars who seek to advance the work of God in the world through academic excellence in the liberal arts and professional programs of higher education”— I love this part— “that encourage students to develop a Christian perspective of truth and life.”
Advance God’s purposes in the world. Ultimately, when students walk across that platform and accept their diploma, whether from an undergraduate, APS, graduate, or doctoral program, we want them to look at the world in light of a Christian worldview. It’s a compelling and centered mission. That’s why I’m thrilled that we chose to drill into Romans 12 this year. Exploring Romans, trying to bring a sense of urgency, and coming through my own journey in the last six months, I just need to tell you that I believe God revealed and delivered something. That’s really what I want to talk about tonight.
From 1899 when the Training School was founded, the Board of Trustees and the community of churches who support the institution decided that only those who confess Jesus is Lord would be hired for employment. The purpose and mission of the university would be in the hands of disciples and scholars. Last week, I was on a remarkable leadership retreat in Big Bear with a few of those disciples and scholars: the academic and president’s cabinets. Boy, was that an incredible experience! Imagine 20 people fighting over available beds and cooking meals together; but seriously, it was pretty amazing.
We started our time together by recognizing what has happened in the last couple months, and I want to share with you a few of the things we celebrated. Maybe the most significant has been our new hires and appointments, starting with Helen Easterling Williams, dean of the School of Education. Bring a seatbelt when you have a conversation with her! Then, of course, Mark Stanton as dean of the School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences; Paul Gray as vice provost for academic affairs; and Gary Lemaster as associate provost. During the summer, Michael Whyte, John Reynolds, and Ray Rood, a board member and adjunct faculty, traveled to Ethiopia to celebrate alongside the first graduating class of OI students in that nation. We have 400 Ethiopian students (47 graduated), including the justice of the Supreme Court for that country. There is an impact on the ground in Ethiopia because of the God First perspective that drives the curriculum there. If you get the chance, corner Michael (even if he has not had his morning cup of coffee), and ask him about the experience. He simply can’t contain his excitement about the people or the program.
Back on campus, U.S.NNews & World Reporti recognized the APU Center for Academic Service Learning and Research for the best academic programs in service learning, 1 of only 5 in California and 42 nationally. It’s a very big deal. And congratulations to Judy Hutchinson and her staff. APU made U.S.News & World Report’s list of best colleges and universities for the sixth year in a row going from 22 to 15. I think the trajectory of academic excellence and the nature of learning within this Christ-centered community reaches a lot of folks out there. The Princeton Review, just a few weeks ago, designated APU as 1 of 123 colleges in the 2007 Best in the West category, our third year in a row for Princeton Review. APU was also recognized for the third year by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as one of the nation’s top schools in awarding degrees to minority students. APU ranked among the top 100 in 13 categories. The amazing part is that there are 3,500 colleges and universities in these categories; we are in the top 100 in 13 of them, including ranking 10th in the nation, by number not percent, for awarding Hispanic degrees in education. Now, we have a long way to go in God-honoring diversity in a lot of areas, but I want to celebrate. That is an amazing accomplishment, and I commend the School of Education faculty on that.
Dr. Michael Whyte was named as a WASC commissioner, the first ever for this university and only the third evangelical in recent memory to be named to that WASC panel. Also, the new program proposals in RSN to BSN and BSN to Organizational Leadership were submitted to WASC. Of all of the WASC institutions, we were one of those six programs singled out for special recognition and now used as a model for other schools applying for special new programs.