State of the University Address
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, president
March 13, 2003
I believe that because Azusa Pacific University is a growing and dynamic member of this East San Gabriel Valley community, we have both an opportunity and responsibility to engage in discussion and dialog about issues that affect our community. While this morning’s talk will focus on APU, we know that there are many issues that affect our community. It is the desire of this university to use forum and our facilities to have regular conversations about the critical issues that affect us.
Today, I want to talk a little bit about Azusa Pacific University within the context of our mission, our contribution, and our dreams. Our presence here in the San Gabriel Valley is a strong thread that runs through the tapestry of our schools, businesses, hospitals, churches, neighborhoods, and families. A college degree today remains one of the cornerstones of the American Dream. Most of us in this room believe that our sons and daughters face a brighter future if their life journey includes college. Far more than the economic muscle this degree brings to a life, is the development of values that support our society. Some of our students study the great philosophers to answer the question, “What is truth?” Others study great art to answer the question, “What is beauty?” And others study history to answer the question, “What is our story?” A large number of students study business, nursing, education, and other professional programs to find a match with their skills, passions, and vocation. This is a classic model of education with roots in Plato and Socrates that imparts the virtues of valor, self-control, wisdom, and justice. The 103-year-old mission of Azusa Pacific University places that model within the context of a faith community informed by a biblical understanding of the character of God. Through faith in Christ, scholarship, community, and service, this mission-directed university graduates the kind of men and women who make great neighbors and wonderful citizens.
As the president of this growing and vibrant university, I face many of the same issues with which many in this room are dealing. As a nation, we are in the third year of economic downturn. With rising unemployment and a sluggish business sector, families wonder about their financial futures. The state of California faces the largest budget deficit in history and the pain resulting from budget cutbacks is felt in schools districts and city councils across the Valley. APU is in the middle of the most difficult budget process in the last 15 years. The clouds of war gather in the deserts of Kuwait as more than 250,000 American soldiers stand in harm’s way in the name of freedom and for the purpose of liberating Iraq. There is a palatable question looming on the horizon for each of us and it goes something like this: "Have we found the bottom yet, and if not, how long before we will and things begin to get better?"
I want to share with you an experience I have been living out right here in the San Gabriel Mountains, just north of town. For many years I have been a frequent visitor to the trails and back roads of these foothills. Walking this ridgeline just after the Williams fire, I was struck by the incredible devastation left behind. It truly resembled a moonscape; the color green had been erased from the mountains. Several months later, while hiking with friends, I noticed something truly remarkable on the hundreds of California Oaks that had been burned to black cinders by the fire. Nearly every oak tree of size and substance had small one- to two-inch new green growth covering the trunk and branches of the tree. These trees that had, for all visible evidence, been burned to death were in fact full of life! As a matter of fact, if you were to hike the hills today you would see that the growth has now spread to the leaves, and the green stems on the trunks and branches are now more than two-feet long.