Inauguration of Jon R. Wallace, DBA

Jon R. Wallace, DBA
Sixteenth President
Azusa Pacific University
Inaugural Address
Delivered April 4, 2001

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

One hundred and one years ago this university was planted with trust in God and with hope and confidence that the Training School for Christian Workers would produce Kingdom fruit. The next 100 years brought unprecedented seasons of faithfulness and fruitfulness to the students, faculty, and staff that would reside under the spread of its growing branches. Like the old sycamore that sits adjacent to the Warren Music Building, APU has grown into a healthy and vital Christian university. However, unlike that great old tree, we have, by God’s grace, our best and most significant growth and development yet ahead of us.

Sitting on the platform with me today are seven friends who represent presidential leadership at Azusa Pacific University since 1939. Ruth Privett you represent the 36 years of your father, Dr. Cornelius Haggard’s leadership: 36 years that saw a small seedling move from a training school through four name changes and two mergers to an accredited, liberal arts college. Dr. Robertson and Dr. Adams, together you led Azusa Pacific College through one of our most important and tenuous transitions. Your many years on the administration clearly prepared you for that pivotal year you both served on the Presidential Team. Dr. Brad Sago you represent the 13 years of your father, Dr. Paul Sago’s leadership. Dr. Sago led us through some essential structural pruning, brought financial stability, and successfully led us into a university model. Dr. Engstrom, the year you served as interim president was your fifth career change and third presidency. Today, with the title board chair emeritus, you are the only person in our history to hold that lifetime appointment, and you continue as a valuable member of our trustee leadership team. And Dr. Richard Felix, what can we say except that you led us through what many consider to be the most significant decade in the history of the university. Your decade of excellence embraced physical and programmatic growth. You instituted new models of leadership and lived out your personal spiritual journey with transparency and honesty. I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to stand with these today on this occasion marking my inauguration as this institution’s 16th president.

As I was preparing for this address, I received an insightful phone call from a close friend. He suggested that there is strong underlying truth between a powerful story in II Kings chapter two and this time of leadership transition at APU. In this passage, Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, is moments away from being taken into heaven. He is in the midst of passing the mantel of leadership to Elisha, a young man he has mentored for more than six years, and asks this question, “What can I do for you before I am taken from you?” Think of it, Elisha is about to be handed the most significant leadership position of his life, and the greatest prophet alive--a person who speaks for almighty God, asks him to name his request. This is what my friend asked me on the phone, long distance, late at night. “Jon, if God asked you a similar question, ‘What do you want for Azusa Pacific University?’, what would you say?”

What would I say? Would I ask to double the enrollments, or another 50 or 100 acres of room to grow, or 10 or 15 new buildings? How about a 10-fold increase in the endowment? The fact is I am facing that question on behalf of APU. By God’s grace and through His provision, what is the first and best request I would make? What vision of success do I bring to this office? Let me tell you what Elisha said. He answered the question by requesting to “inherit a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.” He was not asking for twice the success or double the ministry, he was specifically using a term from inheritance law to show that his primary desire was to carry on as heir to Elijah’s leadership that had preceded him. My answer is the same. I ask of God a double portion of His Spirit on APU. I ask that His hand of blessing would remain on our commitment to excellence in Christian higher education. I ask that my leadership and our efforts together build on the inheritance founded more than 100 years ago and supported by those behind me on this platform. This inheritance has moved forward with us into a new century so that today Azusa Pacific University’s vision of success still begins with our unyielding commitment to God First. Today, just above me on the east wall of the Darling Arena we have placed the university motto God First as a reminder to all of our devotion and commitment to Him. Our inheritance is a definition of success that places the truth of God’s word, the Logos, at the center of our worldview. We inherit a definition of success that challenges each of us to strive for God-honoring excellence in each of our university cornerstones: Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service.

Today, sustained growth over the last decade has left the APU community with some questions about our future. We have as a part of our institutional DNA the tendency of risk-taking, success in new program development, innovation, and an appetite for opportunity. Our history shows that we have never built a building we did not outgrow nor embrace a vision that did not significantly advance our mission. APU is one of those rare institutions positioned with a future more promising than the accumulated accomplishments of our past. We look ahead to the demographic projection that in 2010 the largest and most diverse teenage population in U.S. history will be upon us. In addition to the traditional college student, the rumblings from society speak of the tidal wave of nontraditional students in need of lifelong learning due to their journeys through multiple careers and the demands of a knowledge-based society. Our world is changing at the speed of light. The need for Christian higher education in traditional, nontraditional, graduate, and doctoral programs has never been greater.

In light of all of this, and in light of significant growth that we are still assimilating, how should we proceed? What should be the next steps as we look to God’s preferred future? Where is Azusa Pacific going?

I believe that our mission statement exactly positions us for our future direction in this dynamic and changing world. “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 liberal arts and professional programs of higher education that encourage students to develop a Christian perspective of truth and life.”

Here are just a few of the steps we are taking in the next 12 months to strengthen the university and position us for the future:

  • The 2001-2002 university budget contains the largest financial increase in the university’s history. This $15 million increase will bring next year’s budget to $106 million, and will be used partly to fund 26 new faculty positions and 43 new staff positions. This is an important first step in strengthening the university infrastructure strained by our recent growth.
  • In this next academic year, the campus master plan process will be completed, and we will have at our fingertips a roadmap for facility development. I believe one of the first priorities of the new master plan will be to prioritize the construction of new residence halls and a new cafeteria.
  • We will push to complete funding and construction for the new academic center that will house the school of theology. As many of you know, this will add to the university facilities an additional 55,000 square feet comprised of 18 classrooms and 40 offices, and equally important, our third university library. We hope to be in this facility by fall 2002.
  • As a university community, we will promote and facilitate a discussion with our faculty, students, and board members around the issue of scholarship. In this next academic year, our goal will be to reach agreement on our university’s definition of Christian scholarship. We will begin a process of identifying specific steps to “raise the bar” of Azusa Pacific University’s commitment to excellence in scholarship and teaching. The faculty symposium this afternoon with Drs. Hestenes, Lindvall, and Winter is an important next step in that journey.
  • We will identify a new cohort of Southern California colleges and universities for faculty and staff salary comparisons so that over time, we will attain new levels of compensation and benefits. This new salary target will help us retain our current faculty and staff as well as help recruit new faculty and staff. The recent decision to double the tuition benefit of faculty and staff dependents is a good first step.
  • A recent financial gift has made it possible for the university to address the ever-growing need of mobility and access to the learning environment facilitated by technology. Azusa Pacific University will in the next six months become a wireless campus. Untethered by buildings and data lines, students, faculty, and staff will be able to use computing technology in a wireless mobile environment. After we have successfully implemented this initiative on the Azusa campuses, we will begin the same transition at our regional sites.
  • As an act of obedience, and to continue to recognize the importance of God’s grace and providence in all we do at APU, I am designating the first day of the fiscal year as a community day of prayer. This year, that day will be Monday, July 2. I invite any who wishes to join our board, faculty, staff, students, and administration on that day, as together we recognize the Lordship of Christ and present before Him our prayers of thanksgiving and needed petitions. These are just a few of the specific and significant steps that we are undertaking in the next 12 months as we move into the immediate future.

Over the last year-and-a-half, Azusa Pacific University has been engaged in a process of self-examination: the completion of the Strategic Plan; the process of leadership transition; and the self-study for several accreditation visits, including last week’s WASC (now WSCUC) visit. Each has given us the opportunity to identify significant university values that shape our goals and objectives. As a new president, I would like to recognize just a few that are particularly important to me:

  • APU is committed to a culture of scholarship. Scholarship that expresses itself in the discovery of research, the integration and interpretation of knowledge across the disciplines, the application of knowledge to real world issues and problems, and the scholarship of transformational teaching.
  • APU is committed to a dynamic and supportive relationship with the Church. We want to be an indispensable partner in the Kingdom mission of the Church. This effort will focus first with the churches of Southern California and extend to churches across the United States and around the world.
  • APU is committed to the primary and secondary schools in the state of California. Through the education of teachers and administrators, the development of curriculum, and a myriad of ongoing research, we will work to partner with both public and private schools in the task of educating our children.
  • APU will continue its commitment to diversity. As disciples and scholars, we begin with the centrality of the Lordship of Christ and then make room in the circle for anyone who would stand with us. I celebrate the significant gains we as a university community have made in diversity over the last 10 years. Our vision requires that we do more to prepare our students to fully engage a multicultural world and meet the needs of our diverse community.
  • APU aspires to effective and mutual partnerships with the cities and municipalities within whose boundaries our campuses and regional campuses reside. We are most encouraged by the emerging partnership with the city of Azusa, and we will give our first and best effort to our home community.
  • APU will continue its commitment to building a strong foundation of financial stewardship. In the next 10 years, we aspire to grow the endowment to exceed $100 million of current and designated funds. We will construct new buildings and acquire new properties largely without encumbering significant debt.
  • APU is committed to the Christian evangelical faith that has shaped us for more than 100 years and has guided us in all we have done and all we aspire to be. We are influenced by the Wesleyan tradition and a call to holy living that asks each of us to be salt, light, and yeast. The integration of our faith with learning will develop APU scholar students with the ability to articulate and interact with a Christian worldview.

In 1911 on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, the 26th president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, planted a Colorado blue spruce tree in front of the administration building. Early photos show that on that great lawn, this was the first and only tree planted in what today is a large grove of trees. In the middle of the last century, the University of Idaho began giving away seedlings of that blue spruce to other colleges and universities to signify the potential of their own academic vision. On the 15th of April 1998, this university accepted one of those seedlings in memory of Alice Munson. That healthy seedling can be found growing between the Ronald building and the Munson Chapel in a space selected by Randy Berk, our head groundskeeper. I tell that story because Azusa Pacific University, this living and learning community of disciples and scholars, represents another great tree. That tree can be found symbolized in the cross that forms the cornerstone logo of the university, and in its origins go back to a grove of three similar trees planted on a hill named Golgotha. Azusa Pacific University, we are from that same tree and God has planted us with hope and confidence for such a time in human history as this. We are here today with the accumulated inheritance of 101 years of God’s provision and blessing. I ask of us the same questions my friend asked me, “If God asked you what do you want for Azusa Pacific University, what would you say?” How would you define God-honoring success? How you and I respond to these questions for ourselves and on behalf of Azusa Pacific University will determine whether this great inheritance, this great opportunity is lost as so many before have been, or whether this inheritance--is saved. We have been given a choice between the world’s vision and His vision, between a popular definition of success and His definition of success. The choice we make will define us as disciples and scholars and determine whether Azusa Pacific University will become a truly great Christian university. I pledge my leadership as your president to faithfully steward this inheritance and to lead us in a vision worthy of our extraordinary calling.

Thank you and May God richly bless you today. Shalom.