Fall 2009

Classic Kickoff
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, President
September 3

Introduction of President Wallace by Amy Snyder

Well good evening. Amy was 1 of 11 students on this year’s Walkabout team that I was privileged to be a part of. Shino Simons, an RD, Matt Brown, and I got to spend ten days with 11 remarkable students. And I’m always coming up with nicknames for people, so we had “Mountain Mama” on our team, because she didn’t really like the mountains so we needed to help her with that. One of the highlights was Solo, which is two days in the middle of Walkabout where students fast in solitude with a journal and a Bible, and then they come back after those two days, and we sit around after having breakfast and we talk about what God said to them. When Amy unpacked her learning, it was some of the most profound insight I have ever heard in Walkabout. Amy came back with this concept that when we are busy and full and back here in the city, and we’re comparing ourselves to others—in that comparison, we tend to buy into the lies of the society. It makes us feel small. It makes God feel small. She said, “But out here, I compare God to His creation.” The day after we got back from Solo, we grabbed a peek at a magnificent part of that creation—10,500 feet high—Mount Sing. Amy was in a place where she could look up at a 10,500-foot mountain, and she said, “Out here I compare God to His creation. He is so big.”

So here I am—president of a university that has the motto, “God First” for 110 years, and a student on Walkabout says these words that are so true. So Amy’s nickname that the group agreed on is “Word,” because words matter to her. And you ought to hear the way she talks about you guys—her faculty and staff. So Amy, thank you. Well done. Thank you very much.

And Richard and Susan, (to Richard Felix, past APU president) I am so honored that you are here tonight. I wouldn’t embarrass you for the world, Richard, but most of us voted six or seven years ago that Susan was the one and I am glad you finally caught up with this. It’s good to have you here, and I understand a wedding is not far off and just know we love you both deeply. Susan, welcome to the APU family and good luck with this guy.

You know I am so full of joy and optimism—I think I’m the most grateful person you know. It just comes with the journey, I think. And I was working on the outline for this conversation and I was thinking, “Man, how am I even going to get this done in 20 minutes? I mean there is so much to be thankful for.” I was wrestling with this for most of the last couple of weeks. I’ve been on a lot of airplanes—typically God meets me back in about row 23, as long as it’s an aisle seat and the person next to me isn’t yakking, God can talk to me. And I had three flights that were exactly that. I was in a quiet part of the plane back in the back. I had an aisle seat. I had some great quiet time and it didn’t come. Then I was sitting at my desk just a couple of days ago and I thought, let’s just do this like we did it in English Comp: tell them what you want them to know, tell them what you know, and then repeat it one final time. So, here’s the outline: Where are we? How did we get here? What did we accomplish, and where are we going?

So when I think back on where we have been this last year, I think it’s important to recognize these things. So, where are we?

We are beginning our 110th year; our 110th year. I watched Hank Bode, Cliff Hamlow, and Marv McKissick do that stare down when we got to 40 years, and you know who’s going to win. I mean, Hamlow is as old as dirt. And so I’m glad that they didn’t go.

But here are some other numbers:

  • I’m astounded. This year’s budget—Richard, this year’s budget is 209 million dollars. You remember when we were dealing with 35 and 40 million? We thought, “Wow, this is amazing! “ It’s up 18 million from last year.
  • Total students served last year—10,500.
  • Total degrees granted last year—2,500.
  • Almost 400 full-time faculty and more than 600 full-time staff. Even during the pause (by the way, you guys were fantastic in that pause) even during the pause, 136 new full-time employees were added.

Where are we? We are located in Azusa. Where are we? We have seven regional campuses. Where are we? South Africa, Heidelberg, Oxford, L.A., High Sierra, Colorado Springs, China, Ukraine, Singapore, Ensenada, Haiti, Ghana. All of those places last year—Thank you Mike Whyte, the Deans—Vic Bezjian, Matt Browning, Carrie Domen, Rob Simpson, and Reg Codrington. It’s a remarkable statement of where we were in the last 12 months. We had just over 400 undergraduate students study abroad last year—thank you, Jim Adams. Nearly 900 undergraduates were involved in missions and service programs to other countries, most of them developing countries, in the last 12 months. We now have 15 recent graduates serving in that two-year Christian peace corps that we call H.I.S.Years. This responsible revolution is growing and making a difference for Christ—thank you Matt Browning.

How did we get here? By God’s grace and in His power—that’s how we got here. How did we get here? Because of dedicated faculty, staff, administrators, and board. I want to read you a quote. It came in an email to me in June. We haven’t seen these kinds of economic times in more than 60 years. And this entire campus pulled together to increase retention and deliver what I think will be even a record enrollment this year. Kim Wiedefeld sent me this. She is the Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions. Listen to this email:

This most recent student retention registration . . .
Remember the big one, the last one we had in June? She wrote this right after that.
. . . was one of the best ever. We had about 200 students and their families here on campus for what is usually one of the most difficult events of the year because it’s the last registration event. But this year was different. It was like we, as a university, were all working together toward the same goal. You should have seen the spread that Hospitality Services put out for these families. You know, we have had continental breakfast for them before, but the way they laid this one out—you would have thought we were entertaining our best donors. It was beautiful. And lunch was the same. I mentioned how great it looked to one of the staff, and she said, “We want them here as much as you do. We’re all on the same team.” How fun. And the rest of the day continued to move the same way. Every door was opened ahead of time for the rooms we were using. Advisors were ready to go on time. The Registrar’s office was ready with solutions. Every office that carried a piece of the puzzle was ready with their “A” game. And families left happy and excited about this coming fall. I can’t wait, Kim says, to have this new class of students here and their families involved in our APU family.

You know, honestly, it was an amazing thing to see how we responded to families and students in uncertain times—many of whom are working hard to patch things together, and they were all on our campus and, trust me, they will be here in big numbers this weekend. I am so proud of you. I am so proud of the way we have come together. I am so proud of the way that we have maintained God-honoring excellence and I want to say thanks. I echo Kim’s comments.

How did we get here? By wisely charting a path through this uncertain economic season. The community absolutely embraced the pause. We are stronger financially and much more nimble. That total savings of nearly a million dollars is now being used for student scholarships to help students stay and to help needy students get here. In the last Christianity Today, there was an article about the challenges students and families are facing in Christian colleges and universities. And they quote a student that was given some of that relief scholarship money in the spring making it possible to stay at Azusa Pacific University. It was the lead example of what schools were doing. That money came from the pause. And the money we will use this year will be money that we have stacked, put away, from the pause.

And, what did we accomplish? Well, we’ve finished the values audit. You can’t believe the numbers. I mean, thousands of people involved in that values audit asking the question, “Are we maintaining the values that we say we want to maintain?” What do you think the primary values are? We’ll be rolling out the results of that later this year and after the board meetings in September. I’m really excited to see where we are and how we can kind of dial in that compass bearing to our God-First and Christ-centered values—thank you Gary Lemaster, Deana Porterfield, Mark Dickerson, Anita Henck, and Kim Denu. And, we also finished the strategic audit. There’s a draft binder on my desk that the deans and administrators have filled out—it’s organized around six strategic initiatives, and it’s really good—thank you John Reynolds, Bob Johansen, and Mark Stanton.

What did we accomplish? We have fully occupied University Village—one of the most strategic acquisitions of this university in the last several years. To have 1,000 beds right across the street move from being a place where anybody lives, to being fully occupied by APU students under the direction of Student Life. That former Crestview property has made an amazing difference in our community—thank you Terry Franson, student life, and facilities. What did we accomplish this year? We think that next week, after all the students move in, we will have 3,000 residential students living on our campus. An unheard-of number before, but it gets us to that place where students living in residence bring this rich and robust experience to their transformational journey. Three thousand on campus—thank you residence life and housing services.

What did we accomplish? Major construction projects—the Segerstrom Science Center, tennis courts, Sam’s Sub Shop—Sam’s Sub Shop. So, let me digress for a minute—Sam Samaan—I love that guy—don’t you love that guy? What an amazing deal that we now have Sam’s Sub Shop. And, so I think maybe Sam should do some signature sandwiches. You know, put the names of some of the people who make a difference here on a sandwich. I know, the president probably shouldn’t be jumping in here. But, I want to encourage you—that’s Sam Samaan—I want to encourage you to go to his APU email account and make suggestions for the names of sandwiches.

In partnership with the city and Citrus College, we completed the Foothill/Citrus intersection upgrade and the widening of sidewalks on Foothill—it’s huge. On a crowded day, it no longer takes 20 minutes to make a left-hand turn—thank you Cliff Hamlow, Roger Hodsdon, Jim Christl, Mark Dickerson, Don Davis, and John Reynolds.

The Wynn Academic Center and Outdoor Amphitheatre, the former Science building, is currently being renovated and should be completed by the start of the spring semester—thank you, Rodger Hodsdon, Don Davis, and Bob Johansen. What did we accomplish? The amazing job of our facilities, grounds, custodial, food service, IMT, missions, student accounts, faculty advisors, marketing, residence life, and every faculty and staff member who helped prepare for this year.

Tomorrow night, the Felix Event Center is going to look completely different. There will be about 3,500 new students and parents sitting in here. It’s one of my favorite nights. We are actually kicking off a new tradition. At 9:30, we are going to do a candle lighting outside. When that idea was first birthed, the fires weren’t going, but I think this will be pretty cool, and we have big trashcans full of water in case things get out of hand. Tomorrow night at 9:30, if you have spare time, will you pray for safety—no, I’m kidding. But what an amazing job to get ready for this remarkable group of students and families from all of you—thank you Reynolds, David Dufault-Hunter, Heather Petridis, David Peck, and others.

What did we accomplish last year? The university expended more than $2 million dollars for faculty research, scholarships, and projects—thank you, Michael Whyte and the deans.

What did we accomplish last year? APU was recognized by Diverse Magazine as the 18th school in the nation out of 3,500—out of 3,500 colleges and universities in the nation, we were recognized as 18th in graduating Latinos in various master’s programs. Think about where God has planted us. Gail teaches in the APS program. Some of her classes are more than 50 percent from that ethnic minority group; ethnic majority group, really. When you think about the call of the Church and the makeup of the Christian community here in Southern California, I just think that’s great.

What did we accomplish? Our Service Learning program was named to the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The only other private university in the state of California to be so named was Stanford—thank you, Judy Hutchinson and the Service Learning Team. In the last two years, more than 600 APU student leaders have participated in diversity training—thank you, Dr. Pam and Kneeland.

What did we accomplish? Sixteen student Fulbright grants have been awarded in the last seven years—thank you, Diane Guido.

What have we accomplished? This August, our fifth consecutive Director’s Cup— congratulations, Bill Odell, athletes, coaches, trainers, and athletic administrators. Can we just recognize that? (Applause)

What did we accomplish? This summer, APU established the Center for Youth and Family under the direction of Dr. Jim Burns—thank you David Peck, Mark Stanton, and Dr. Russell Duke. Now think about this—one of the most significant centers at places like Fuller and Pepperdine is that Center for Youth and Family, and we’ve created that here. Now think of the alumni, and the parents, and the churches that are going to benefit from this God-centered place drilling down on the needs of our families in this challenging time in our culture.

What did we accomplish? This last year was the single best year in fund-raising in the university history. Under the leadership of Dave Bixby and Louise Furrow, $12.5 million was raised in those 12 months. It’s a huge “yay God.”

What was accomplished? This one is pretty amazing to be honest with you. Dr. David Le Shana, chair of our board, really believes that every good thing should come to APU, so he’s out there doing it all the time. I get excited whenever Jan says, “David is on the phone, and he’s got an idea.” Which usually means, “Buckle up. You got some work to do!” What was accomplished? Dr. Le Shana connected us to a foundation, Legacy Ministries International, just outside of Phoenix, who, through these difficult economic times, was looking for a place to send a significant seven-figure gift of their assets—190 acres of land, five first-edition King James Bibles, a whole bunch of other Biblical antiquities, and in that process, that transfer made it possible for Azusa Pacific University to acquire five Dead Sea Scroll fragments. Let me read to you a press release that will be coming out tomorrow:

In its most significant holdings to date and possibly ever, Azusa Pacific University acquires five Dead Sea Scroll fragments and a collection of rare Biblical antiquities. Joining Princeton University and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, APU becomes only the third institute of higher education to own original Dead Sea Scroll fragments. And by the way, five is a significantly greater number than any of those other institutions. These earliest known texts of the Hebrew Bible dating back roughly to 150 BC were discovered in the caves of Qumran east of Jerusalem between 1947 and 1956.

I can’t tell you how significant this is. What we have agreed to with Legacy is to take their assets and establish at Azusa Pacific University exhibits that will tell the miraculous and remarkable story of how God performed those miracles to give us the Bible we have today.

So let me just go down this list. The five fragments have been assigned to a faculty member for research in scholarship. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written on goat skins. What you’re seeing up there is the writing from a Hebrew scribe in 150 BC. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when a faculty person teaching Old Testament shows our students that?

Exodus 18:6-8 - Bob Mullens.
Leviticus 10:4-7 - John Hartley.
Deuteronomy 8:2-5 - Tim Finley.
Deuteronomy 27:4-6 - Bill Yarkin.
Daniel 5:13-16 - Bobby Duke.

Thank you, Dr. Le Shana, Mark Dickerson, Bob Johansen, David Bixby, Paul Gray, Tom Andrews, Ken Otto, Andy Stimer, and the Legacy Board for entrusting those assets worth millions of dollars to this university. And, yay God. What an amazing thing. (Applause)

Here’s the amazing thing—that wasn’t even on our radar screen a year ago. Isn’t God a God of surprises? And isn’t Dr. Le Shana wonderful?

And, where are we going? Well, here are our six key areas of focus. We’re headed toward excellence in stewardship. Our program and department budget offers will continue to scrutinize incoming expenses to maximize our stewardship potential. We must find a way to reign in expenses of Christian higher education. Thank you, Bob Johansen for the leadership you brought.

Where are we going after stewardship? Diversity. There are some people inside and outside this community who think that diversity is a code word for some other kinds of things. Let me tell you what diversity is at Azusa Pacific University. It’s a commitment that this place will look like heaven’s going to look when we get there. (Applause) And between now and heaven, it’s going to look a lot more like the churches of southern California. Diversity at APU means that other Christ-followers who hold Jesus as Lord and the Bible as true, can come and sit at our table—they’re welcome, and we want them, and we want their churches to benefit from this remarkable Christian education.

And where are we going? We are going into internationalization folks, we are not going to graduate North American Christians—we just won’t do that. This place wasn’t founded 110 years ago to do that, and we’re not going to do that now. We’re going to expose our students to a small flat world—to the remarkable work of God in the world. I love Matt Browning. I mean, seriously, I will call Matt in the middle of the day and say, “Tell me something exciting.” And five minutes later, I hang up on him because I can’t get a word in edgewise. We are so blessed that he’s here leading us that way as well as others. Thank you, by the way, Reg Codrington, the director of our South Africa campus who’s here tonight.

And, where are we going? We’re going online. You know that last year, we had 5,300 distinct and unique registrations in our online program that generated $7.3 million of income to this university. The distributed learning model begins to address the question that parents and students have about accessibility and affordability. Where are we going? John Reynolds and his team are committed to a 10 percent annual increase every year moving forward—thank you, deans, John Reynolds and Bruce Simmerok.

Where are we going? We’re going into excellence in scholarship. The provost and deans are committed to continue building an academic community that reflects the highest standards of excellence. Get ready—WASC is coming in 2011, and by the way, we’ve got some great stuff to tell them.

Where are we going? Stewardship, diversity, internationalization, online, and scholarship. That’s where we are going to focus our time and attention, in addition to our other missions. But those are our primary goals.

What are our challenges? Look, Deana Porterfield, who is newly appointed as the VP for People and Organization at APU, walked into my office today and said, “When are you going to say that people are our number one priority? Because all the time in the President’s Council and in the Office of the President, we say we couldn’t do this without you.” So one of our biggest challenges—I have to be honest with you—one of our biggest challenges in today’s climate is to continue to remember that people are the most important thing here. I watch how you treat each other, and it inspires me. I watch how you treat students and parents. I watch how you respond to crisis. It inspires me. Challenges—keeping people are highest priority. Challenges—you know there are some in this room with the new software program who have to do four or five steps on the keyboard that used to take one. When we went into this transition, because we knew that our old supplier was going out of business, John Reynolds said, by the way, “Just remember, the best software program you ever had is the last one before you had the new one came in.” I know that there are a lot of you that are working hard on that. I am so impressed with what IMT is doing. One of our challenges is to get up to speed with that. And I just want to tell you, I really value those of you who are working extra hard to figure out how to get that done. We’ll get there. And thank you God that we were able to do that and pay for it without going into debt. But now I know that there’s some hard work to do.

What are our challenges? The economy. We have students coming back this fall whose parents used to have two incomes and now it’s one, or, their house is in jeopardy because they’ve fallen in arrears on their payments. This is a challenging economy. I am so glad that Bob is here. I am so glad that our board has such a strong finance committee. But let me just tell you, I believe strongly that the reason we are having a robust semester in comparison to many others is because of what we’ve done with responsible stewardship. Let’s continue to pray for God’s provision as we move forward.

What are some challenges? We made a two percent retention gain—two percent. That’s huge! One of our challenges is to keep that retention going—paying attention to undergraduate, APS, graduate, and doctoral students and the needs they have. And I have seen you respond, and that’s the reason we had the retention gain.

What are our challenges? Not losing sight of where we’re going in the future because of the weeds we are pulling today. Sometimes Reynolds walks into my office, and I’ll just say, “Okay, what’s on fire?” And there’s always some kind of urgent thing. One of our challenges is to not lose sight of the future while we effectively deal with the challenges of today.

What are our challenges? Continue growth in our online student enrollment. We’re going to need all the support we can get from our deans, from John Reynolds, and from Bruce Simmerok.

And, what are our challenges? As good a year as David Bixby, Louise Furrow, and their team had last year—I mean, really, $12.5 million is miraculous—the hardest dollar they have to raise is for scholarships that support students who are here. One of the on-going challenges we have is to figure out how to do scholarships. And, by the way, I am so grateful to you. The group in this room makes up the largest number of people who give to this annual fund. At Dinner Rally every year, it just thrills me to announce what you are sacrificing so that students have scholarship dollars. Thank you, but that’s a huge challenge for us.

When I was a student here, Dr. Haggard made the same statement every year when the school year opened. I have it written on the wall above my desk. Dr. Haggard would say, “Welcome to the greatest year in the history of Azusa Pacific. I am convinced that this year will be more exciting, more challenging, more rewarding than we can even imagine at this point, for we who participate in it will be making history.” He was president here for 36 years. I believe that to be true, so let me quote Dr. Haggard:

“Welcome to the greatest year in the history of Azusa Pacific University. I am convinced that this year will be more exciting, more challenging, more rewarding than we can even imagine at this point, for we who participate in it will be making history.”

On your table, in front of each of you tonight is a blue basket. This morning, Dr. Milhon, Dave Peck, and I went for our Thursday morning walk. Dr. Milhon, who is always so gracious and kind to me, said, “Okay what’s the schmaltsky that you are giving away tonight?” I said, “We are giving away a scripture verse—so make fun of that!” Let me just explain why we chose this. Everything we believe to be true starts with this. You see, God is either the creator of everything or He is nothing. Our motto God First could really be interpreted, “First, God created . . .” Take a look around you. Look at this room. Laura Palusso always does an amazing job making the room just right, doesn’t she? (Applause) I walked in here yesterday and had a sense of what she had done with the stars. Everything is about the universe. You either believe, or you don’t. I am the most optimistic, grateful person you know, but there are days when I am full of doubt. There are days when it feels like my prayers are not going any higher than the ceiling. And here’s what it boils down to: There is a God, and He did create. And He created you. And, He put in you gifts and abilities unlike any other person He has ever created. And He put those gifts in me. And, I’m either going to respond as His creation in obedience to my Lord and Savior, or I’m missing the fundamental theological truth of the Christian community—that in the beginning, God created.

On August the 14th, the football team was back, and Coach Vic Santa Cruz felt led by God to give his personal testimony. Sometime we need to have Vic do that here, because it’s amazing. So Vic began the devotions that day, and he started with about 130 guys. Then the fires started, and the August heat came, and a few walked off field (by the way, that attrition is normal when you start a football season). And Vic said, “You know before I lose anybody else off the team, I feel like I need to give my testimony.” So that day in the team devotions, Vic does his deal, and God shows up. And 17 young men accepted Jesus Christ that morning. So I wrote Vic an email, and I said, “In 1998, we won the National Championship. But what happened last Thursday, because you were available the way God created you, is better than a thousand national championships.” We could fill this stage with those. For what? You and I would both give that away for one, right? There are 17 students at Azusa Pacific now involved in discipleship and headed toward Kingdom assignments because one coach was available for the Creator God to work through. I know Vic would be embarrassed that I am even telling this story. But I know you in this audience. The same stuff is in you. I’d like you to put this somewhere on your desk. Every day you come to work, I’d like you to be available for some purpose that God may have, for some divine appointment, some plane crash that you have to clean up for somebody else. All I know is this—we are created in the image of God, by God, equipped by God. I’ve just got to be available to God.

I’m so proud of you. I pray that we can move as far, as effective, as faithful and obedient this year as we did last year. I do believe this is the greatest year in the history of Azusa Pacific University. Let me pray for us, and then Dr. Le Shana is going to commission us. And he sounds like Moses, so that’s a great way to end the night. May I pray for us?

Father in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior, I want to thank you for every person in this room. I want to thank you for Vic and his willingness to be your vessel at that time as you work through him in amazing ways. Father, I can’t imagine a better way to start the academic year. I can’t imagine. Thank you for loving us as you do. We are deeply grateful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you, Shalom.