Fall 2006 State of the University Address
Transformed and Surrendered to Live a God First Life continued
On the construction front, we have had three iterations of the science building, and each time we say, “It has to be big enough to handle what’s coming.” As a student body president here in 1975, I stood with Malcolm Robertson for the dedication of the 27,000-square-foot Wynn Science Building. Soon, we’ll move into 66,000 square feet of much-needed space. But the fact is, we are building in an earthquake zone, and the price of construction has gone up 1 percent per month since we started the project; that’s 24 percent increase since we broke ground. We are not backing away from building this science building, but we recognize that it is going to be a significant challenge. This will be the most expensive building we have ever built—times three. The building we stand in tonight, the Felix Event Center, was our most expensive. The standard of excellence in this building reflects the standard of God-honoring excellence we want to achieve, and the science building will do that as well.
God has not forgotten us. In the last two years, we have received as many seven-figure gifts as we have in the entire history of the university, including for science. Topping the list are the largest estate gift (about $8 million) and the largest cash pledge (about $5 million). This is the first time we have announced either of those publicly, and again we say, “Thank you, God!” So, we stand at about $15 million. If you want to help through prayer, please pray for Cliff Hamlow as he works to bring this number down and we all work together for the honor and glory of God. When it is finished, the side of the building will read: “In the beginning, God created . . . ” Whatever small issues exist beyond that, we’ll let the School of Theology settle.
Another construction project also gained some momentum this year. We received a $750,000 gift from dear friends of the university for an external, outdoor place of prayer. In the spring, we talked to the community and some student groups, received some really valuable input on the design, and came up with something we think will be pleasing to all. The site will be a 30-foot wall replicating the wailing wall of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, where pilgrims write their prayers on scraps of paper and fold them and put them in the cracks of the blocks. We want this to be a place that calls this community to prayer, both public and private; a place where people can come and recognize that God’s fingerprints are evident on both the archeological site of Old Testament in old Jerusalem and the work of God in the world today in places like Azusa Pacific as a call for all of us to the priesthood. I think you will be excited. We hope to have that done sometime by the spring 2009.
As you pray for this project, I would also like to ask you to pray for those who make it possible. The couple that gave the gift for the prayer wall has been very generous to the university. They are now quite elderly, and our prayer is to complete the wall while they are still in relatively good health, and to have them here to see the sunset, pray together, and recognize their generosity in providing for us a reflective, meditative, contemplative prayerful place.
Just a little to the west of the place of prayer will be the Noel Leadership Academy, a two-floor building utilizing the open space beside the theater which should be completed sometime in November. It should take about 30 days to bring in IT and the furnishings, so by January, we will occupy that space and its 13 or 14 classrooms, 17 offices, and lecture hall. Please pray with us for the funding of this project. Dave Bixby and I have one more significant seven-figure request on the table. If and when it comes, that building will be another built nearly completely debt free, fully funded, which is another praise to God. We are not spending money on mortgages.
At the retreat, after we talked about the great things that have happened, we came together in the big living room, and we spent most of that first day asking this question: What is the promise? What is the implied promise in our mission statement, our cornerstones, and your role as faculty, staff, board members, and administrators, that we make to students and parents that we cannot break? What’s the promise? I guess the hit on faith communities for a long time has been that they are low on the bar of excellence. They are all show and no go. You would come for spiritual reasons but you wouldn’t come necessarily for a great academic experience. I believe that the history of this university, more than 107 years with leadership from people like Cliff Hamlow, Hank Bode, and Malcolm Robertson, have put us on a trajectory of God-honoring excellence. Think about it. What would you say that promise is? We filled up about six flip charts around that room writing down in our small groups what we thought those promises were. Tonight, I hope to answer that question for you.
Today for Dr. Helen Williams’ devotional, the faculty met in Upper Turner Campus Center and drilled down on the theme “transformational scholarship.” Helen, who, by the way, is an AME pastor; just hit the ball out of the park on Romans 12:1-2. I had already drafted most of this, and I was thinking, “Oh great, I’ve got to follow Helen.”
I would like to encourage you, as you participate in devotionals with your staff colleagues and begin conversations on faith integration in the classroom, to lean into this Scripture and see if we can find a web of community. How do we make this big place small? Maybe by sharing a common theme in Scripture like Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you may discern what is the will of God, what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”