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Faculty/Staff Kickoff

Fall 2008

Classic Kickoff
Philippians 2:1–18
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, President
August 28

You may have noticed the five-window, '53 Chevy truck outside when you came tonight. There's a great story about it. It used to belong to a good friend who actually flew in from Chicago and is here tonight. That truck was in his barn in Chicago on a farm. We got it, towed it all the way back on Route 66, rebuilt it, and it was the first vehicle of all three kids. Gail and I thought that would be a great idea because it has a very small, six-cylinder engine. It's bright red, and there's only one like it in town. If somebody messes up, you think we're going to hear about it? It was David's first vehicle, Matt's first vehicle, and Katie's first vehicle. So, since Katie's here tonight, I thought I would ask her a few questions about that car.

Jon (to Katie): I was okay with Dave and Matt driving with the bench seat, why was I not okay with you having the bench seat?
Katie: I think you were scared of boys being able to sit as close . . .
Jon (interrupting): I think so, yes, yes, yes.
Katie: . . .as possible.
Jon: Um, lots of gauges on that truck, most of them work. Which one do you need to keep your eye on?
Katie: Well, I found out the hard way that if you don't watch the gas gauge, your car could stop in the middle of the intersection.
Jon: Okay, okay, Best moment. Just try to think; best moment.
Katie: Um, probably sitting in the back of the truck with my brothers watching fireworks on Fourth of Julys.
Jon: Finally, somebody's got to drive that thing down the steps. Would you get it home for me?
Katie: Actually I've gotta be at the theater to practice for Music Man, right Bart?
Jon: All right, get out of here.

Okay, thank you for being here. Wow, what a year! That could be a classic title for the Faculty Staff Kickoff. A group of us this summer were trying to think about how best to name it, because this really has become a classic event. It kind of launches us, and we come out of reflection on the year and then start ramping up to the summer. I have been doing a lot of thinking about that, and this is the year that we're going to actually look at an internal audit. We're going to audit a lot of these initiatives, actually all the initiatives are on the table, and were going to audit our own university values.

The symbolism of the '53 Chevy pick up is that it has some fairly important gauges. You have to watch the gauges on the truck as you go down the road. My friend, Bob, has a company that places concrete in some of the largest construction projects in the world like Three Gorges Dam, some major projects in India, and other countries. He builds the largest construction cranes in the world – 500 feet. He built the largest cement truck in the world. I got to drive it one night in Chicago at midnight. You should have been there when the policeman stopped us. He pays attention to his equipment. So tonight, we were sitting at the table and I said, "Robert, what are the most important gauges on that truck?" And he said, "Well, oil and temperature." But see, the question was, "What was the most important gauge?" and he cheated, as he usually does, and he gave two answers. And then, he thought about it and he whispered in my ear, "Temperature, because if you are low on oil, the temperature is going to go up."

Tonight we're going to talk about some important gauges, and I want us to think about how that might affect us individually and as a university. But first, I want to go over some "Yeah God!" stuff. What are we celebrating tonight?

Yeah God, for Bryan Clay. I mean, yeah God! Gail and I are privileged to go to the same church that he and Sarah attend. We are really proud of him. I saw Matt Touhey who has been in retirement now about 50 years, I think. Matt reminded me, "Hey, Bryan's major was social work." It's true. I am proud that he is a social work major from APU. I'm more proud even that he is an amazing dad, a remarkable husband, and a phenomenal Christ-follower.

You remember last year at this time, we were looking at that large graduating class and an unexpected dip in enrollment. I had a lot of questions about that going into this year. I said, "You know I think maybe it's going to take us two or three years to recover." Across America today, in the 105 Christian CCCU colleges (I'm on their executive committee) clearly more than half of those colleges have some real concerns about enrollment. Even here on the West Coast, there are a number of Christian colleges that are not going to make their fall enrollments. This year, we experienced the largest number of applications – just under 6,000. We will have our most robust entering class, both freshman and highest number of transfers. We will have made up the ground in 10 months what I was certain was going to take us three years. And we will have our largest new-student class in the university's history here tomorrow. Yeah God. I should add that this class will also be one of our most diverse; the gender balance will be more in-line and I believe, the strongest spiritual fit of any class that I've seen in recent history. It is a remarkable class. Those of you who will be around here tomorrow, I warn you: Stay out of the way of parents moving their freshman in; do not get in the stairwell, it's a bad thing. No seriously, I encourage you to engage these parents and students. This is a remarkable class. That's a huge deal. Let me run through these quickly, and then I am going to jump into tonight's conversation.

We have Diana Glyer's book, The Company They Keep, receiving more recognition and more awards. That book has brought huge recognition to our faculty and this university.

State Superintendent of Education of the State of California Jack O'Connell had his annual meeting with deans and superintendents here on this campus this summer.

The School of Nursing received full CCNE Accreditation with no findings.

Our first cohort of 11 nurses went to South Africa. Typically biology and nursing students can't study abroad because their coursework locks them into a specific progression, but flexibility has been created. We now have a relationship with University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the largest universities on the continent of Africa, just about 15–20 minutes from our site in Pietermaritzburg. They are the leading university in the nation for the treatment of AIDS, not research, but the treatment of AIDS. We have 11 nursing students headed there as a part of the South Africa students this fall. They will be the first nursing students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It's a big deal. And they are going to come back with expertise that other nursing students in North America can't even touch.

This summer the Bel Canto Women's Choir sang two nights at the Franklin Graham Crusade in Romania.

A couple weeks ago, Duane Funderburk, dean of the School of Music, and Alex Russell, one of our faculty members, performed at a home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Among the guests that night were former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush. Next time you see Duane, ask him to show you the place on his cheek that Barbara Bush touched. She may have followed that up with her lips, I can't remember exactly. Then he got a phone call, and she asked him if she could get a whole bunch of CDs to play. It's just amazing!

The Institutional Research Board, the group that screens the research on campus, received 72 applications last year for research at this university. That's a huge statement about the caliber of scholarship taking place on this campus.

This year, three more students received Fulbright Scholarships. That's 13 in six years. That's a significant accomplishment! Thank you, Dr. Diane Guido, for guiding our efforts in this area.

I know that many in this room on the staff side and some faculty are involved in the Eiro project. This is a $10 million initiative. It will launch us into the next level of infrastructure we need. We will be one of the few colleges in this area that even have capability such as this. March 2009 is when we hope to complete the project, but these are people who spend 40-, 50-, 60-hour weeks in a trailer, located right over here by the new science building. They are working on significant modules simultaneously, from finance and student to customer relationship management, a portal, and HR, and we already have some of the first modules online. Together, let's thank those who are moving the Eiro project forward.

A year ago, 54 percent of our undergraduate students were able to live in residence on campus. Dr. Terry Franson had been praying for the last two or three years that God would somehow make a way for us to get that to 70 percent mark, and we really thought it was going to happen over a 10-year period. But two years ago, the phone call came that the Crestview Apartment complex, located at the corner of Citrus and Alosta avenues, was up for sale. We didn't have the money. A year ago, we closed on a $70 million acquisition. Then, six months later, we went cash positive. Today, 70 percent of our undergrads live in community, in residence on this campus.

I want to thank the PATCH team and anybody else that had anything to do with accomplishing that task. A few of those people come to mind when I think about the difficult and skillful negotiations when we bought the property. Dave Reid did an assessment with some others, including one of our board members Michael Lizarraga who chairs the finance committee. They identified some damages, and when it was all done, we received a check for about $1 million to do repairs. This summer, those repairs on Crestview, now University Village, were all paid for before we started. So our student center is moving into a brand new living area–yeah God. Have you seen Cornerstone Café? You know they're going to serve gelato in Cornerstone? I'm not really sure why, but I think it's going to sell. New coffee blend, new furniture in the dining hall, upgrade for Cougar Walk – all that and more.

I think maybe the biggest win was that we had a group of students that went to the Ukraine this summer. I truly believe that what is happening with our summer mission team is amazing. I see Malcolm Robertson here tonight. This is the stuff that you started, sir, 55 or 60 years ago, and I want to thank you for that legacy. We had a group in the Ukraine, just one of many that went out. I got a letter about three weeks ago from the director of the missions group where our students went. She has been receiving summer missions teams for 16 or 17 years. You know, I sometimes shudder to get those letters because the first paragraph tells you all the reasons why they are qualified to make an observation. And then they say, ". . . and I want to tell you about your team . . ." And I thought, "Oh man." Then she said, "We have never had a group of young adults like yours. Inevitably the students who join us find their own relationships with other North American students." She said, "Every day, the Azusa Pacific students sought out other students from the Ukraine and they looked for people in need. Your group has set a new bar, and can you send us more next summer?" Yeah God for what went on this summer! Yeah God for what went on in our students' lives!

So that's the rearview mirror.

Now, I want to talk about the windshield.

It became clear to me last year that we needed to just stop and make sure that our compass bearing was still pointing north; that we needed to look at the dials that are absolutely critical to the university. In the front of one of my Bibles are three questions that I wrote about 20 years ago as part of a student chapel program here. The three questions are: Who am I? What is my purpose? And what difference does it make? I talked to Gary Lemaster who's chairing that group and pulling together the conversation of our internal audit. I asked, what if we were to use those three questions and ask them not just of ourselves but of the university? Who are we? What is our purpose? What difference is it making? If I could encourage you to do anything, I'd say go home tonight, write those on the front of your Bible, and every time you hear a good sermon, see which one of those three questions it answers; for you, for the church you're in, for the mission you have been called to, and for the purpose of your life or your family or your vocation.

So I was pondering this stuff and getting ready to go on Walkabout – number 31. It's pretty amazing. I am probably going to have to put wheels on my hips next year. Before I left, I went to see Steve Wilkens, because he teaches ethics here and he's a pretty smart guy. I made the mistake of telling Steve I was mulling over these three questions and asked what he thought. I was just getting ready to go to the mountains, so he told me to take Aristotle! It was 10 chapters on what it means to have a meaningful or happy life, and he builds it on three pillars. So during solo, which is in the middle of Walkabout when students get two days and two nights of solitude and fasting, I sat in a meadow with my Bible, my journal, and Aristotle. You know what? It's pretty good stuff.

At the end of Walkabout, we got together with 150 students coming out of the wilderness in a big camp. We had a huge bonfire, we did this amazing Agape communion, and I asked them those three questions. And I said I think we can find the answer. So let's start with the first one and we'll work on it together, because I think it's a great question. Aristotle would start there too. It's an identity question. Who am I? Who are we? Scripture is really clear on this. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. My life is not mine. My identity comes in the person and character of God's Son and His Spirit living in me. But you see, there are days when the world wants to give me the definition based on the house I live in, or the car I drive, or the promotion I did or didn't get. They want to measure me on did I get the gold, the bronze, or the silver. The world has an identity they think I need to fit into, and there are competing identities. My identity comes from God, but I need to remember there is another identity out there, and it is the identity of the evil one, because evil has an identity. One of the most challenging things that I have, that any of us face in working with students, is they have multiple identities. Been on Facebook? They are confused. Genuine Christ-followers are confused about this sometimes. How we answer this question absolutely is that gauge or that dial that is so important. Who am I? Everybody in this room who gets a paycheck from Azusa Pacific University had an interview and somebody asked you the identity question. Do you remember? And you answered it this way: I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ, called by Him and through Him to minister and work at Azusa Pacific University. My identity is in Jesus Christ.

This year we're going to ask that question about the university. Who are we? Is our identity still tied to the Christ-centered nature of who we are? Is there any part of what we do where people looking at us would be fuzzy on our identity? And by the way, I think that's a great question for us to ask corporately and certainly for us to ask individually.

Second question: What is my purpose? What is our purpose? You know that is a great question. That's that question that is mission-centered. That's the question of what's in the back of the pickup. What am I hauling? Where am I going? What is my purpose? There are multiple purposes in the world. The Bible says that Satan's purpose is to roam like a roaring lion and to eat anybody he comes across. His purpose is death. God's purpose is life. And what is our purpose? Do you remember Chip Anderson who went to heaven a few years ago? He brought the Strengths Finder to us. His favorite verse was when Jesus was in His prayer to the Father and said, "I have accomplished what you have given me to do here. Therefore be glorified." Scripture is pretty clear on this one too, I think. What it's clear on is that individually, corporately, if you look at the mission statement of Azusa Pacific University, we are disciples and scholars. According to Scripture, our purpose is to declare that the Kingdom of God has come and to live in such a way, loving God and loving our neighbor, that others see Him in us. The late Ernie Boyer was one of the great Christian educators, the Secretary of Education under President Carter, the president of the Carnegie Commission for the Advancement of Teaching, and a good friend of this university. He said that the mark of an educated man or woman is that they would be the neighbor you want to live next to; the neighbor you want to live next to.

So what is my purpose? In the 1904 Olympics, the American who was running won it. It was in St Louis; it was run on a dirt road. They had two water stops. It was more basic than today. The chase cars got out in front of the runners. The runners, for the entire marathon, were breathing in dust. As a matter of fact, the guy who should have won stopped just short of the finish line, where he threw up blood because he had been ingesting this dirt for the whole marathon. The guy who won, the American runner, well his coach came up with a cocktail: cognac, egg whites, and strychnine – that's rat poison. In 1904, it was believed that if you ingested small amounts of strychnine, it would open up your blood vessels and give you energy. It was a lie. We know today that strychnine kills you. The coach mixed up three drinks of cognac, egg whites, and strychnine. And the purpose of this drink was to revive the runner. At mile 18, his runner goes down, absolutely exhausted. He pulls out the cocktail, he gives it to him; the runner revives himself. The coach is thinking, "I'm genius!" At mile 23, I think it was, he goes down a second time. He gets out another cocktail; the athlete pounds it down. The runner doesn't revive as quickly and has a really hard time focusing. There was a study done by a medical school that looked at the ingredients of this cocktail. They determined if the third cocktail had been given, the runner would have died. As it was, the runner manages to cross the finish line helped by two coaches at which point he collapses, and it takes him the better part of the day to revive him even enough so he can get on a train to go to a hospital. You see, purpose is really important because misguided, it can either send you in the right direction or kill you.

There is a competing purpose with ours. It is the evil one, and he is loaded with strychnine. And his intention is death. And the urgency around our purpose and our mission is such that it is life, not death.

Who am I? What is my purpose? What difference does it make? Higher education loves to ask that question, and the faculty worked through it. We assessed, and measured, and really delved into this great question in the academic setting. We ought to ask it more often. For the Christ-follower, what about that final question?

Dave Bixby traveled to Calcutta a year-and-a-half or so ago. He met a missionary couple north of Calcutta who had actually changed their last name to an Islamic name, and they were living in an Islamic community. For all the years they had been there, I think they had seen four families come to Christ. Is that enough of a difference? How do you answer that question? How do you answer the question, "What difference does it make?" What if we were to turn out the lights in this room? (Lights go out.) And what if I told you, according to Scripture, the difference we are called to make is the same difference as a light in a dark room? That there will be times that you will measure your purpose simply by shining, not knowing the outcome until the day we stand before Jesus Christ in heaven. What if I were to tell you that your purpose is to shine like a light in a dark room; that our purpose as a Christ-centered university is to shine?

Who are we as a university? What is our purpose? What difference does it make? (Lights go up.) That question, what difference does it make? Just shine. Just shine. We are going to spend this year asking those three questions because I think we need to. And I'm going to need you to be involved. It's really important.

Dr. Haggard was my president and Malcolm's boss. Malcolm was the Dave Bixby and John Reynolds to Dr. Haggard. Dr. Haggard had the dreams and Malcolm delivered. He was famous, Dr. Haggard, because he really believed that every new year would be the greatest in the history of Azusa Pacific. He would stand on this evening in front of the university community and declare, "This is going to be the best year in the history of Azusa Pacific!" He was president for 36 years, and he was never proven wrong.

The history of this university shows that every year has been better than the year before. Certainly every year has had its own challenges. Absolutely. This year is no exception, but I say with confidence, this will be the finest year in the 109-year history of Azusa Pacific. We're going to look at those three gauges. Are we clear on who we are? Are we focused on our mission? Have we some way to frame the difference it's going to make? And I want you to be a part of that in whatever way you can.

In a minute, we will hear from Dr. Le Shana, the chair of our Board of trustees, former president of Seattle Pacific, George Fox, and Western Seminary. Imagine having a board chair who's a three-time president emeritus. It is not intimidating whatsoever. He is going to come up and commission us. We're going to give you, when you leave, Ken Otto's brand new book. It's terrific. Azusa Pacific University by Ken Otto. There's one of these for every two; if you came as a single, tough luck. No, just kidding. There are extras at the door. I've been around here a long time. Not since dirt, like Cliff Hamlow, but I've been here a long time. Probably 80 percent of the pictures in this book, I've never seen. I mean this is a wonderful visual book. You can buy this at Costco and Barnes & Noble, and tonight we're giving it to you.

In Philippians chapter 2, which is our theme verse, Paul does this amazing job of painting the incarnation of Christ. He says, "This is what you've been called to. Jesus is your model." Then he gets down to about verse 14 and it's the "what difference does it make" verse, and he says, "so that you will shine like stars in the universe. Like a light in a dark room."

Also on your way out, we're going to give you an envelope. In one envelope, there is a $5 Starbucks card because, for some of you, that gauge is really important. In another envelope is a $5 gas card because, for some of you, that's more important. You won't know which one you'll be getting because that's the mystery of life. This is what I want you to do. Even after you have spent it, whether on gas or a frufru drink at Starbucks, keep the card. Please. Put it back in the envelope and leave it on your desk this year as a reminder that it is important to keep an eye on those three gauges. Let me pray for us, and then David Le Shana is going to come up.

Father, thanks for tonight and for these amazing men and women who serve as they do. Thank you for creating us with the ability to answer life's great questions. Give us the courage to go there. We love you. In Jesus' name, Amen.