Inaugural Address of President Emeritus Dr. James L. Edwards Delivered on October 13, 1990
You have come here today to join in our celebrations at this time of new beginnings when we seek to honor the Lord of the Church, the faithfulness of the past, the promise of this present hour, and the hope bursting within us for the future.
You honor this University by your presence, and you bring the warmth of fellowship to this new president as we look upon the immense challenges and opportunities which lie before those of us fortunate enough to have been given this mission in higher education. You have worshiped with us because we share in this University, are pursuing a higher education that is Christian, and because the language of our celebrations, in their highest order, are always addressed to Almighty God.
I want to begin my remarks by expressing my deepest feelings of appreciation to so many of you who have encouraged me across the years toward this moment of service. Some of you have been my teachers and professors. (You must feel some amazement at these developments.)
Some of you have been friends of the knowing and sharing variety. Some of you have opened doors of opportunity. Some of you have been partners in ministry.
I am especially thankful for my parentage, my mother and father who are here today; and to my family, my brothers and sister; and to my partner in all things for life, Deanna, and my children, my best teachers. You are the ones who have been there in all the critical moments and in all the challenging decision making times. I am so happy we can share this time of new beginnings together.
I am grateful to the church, to my mothers and fathers in the faith, who established this great young university, who opened and kept open her doors for me and for thousands like me who needed this place to find myself, my gifts, my opportunities for growth and for service.
TODAY WE SHARE IN THESE CELEBRATIONS because we need to affirm once again that what we are about in this mission of Christian Higher Education, is more critical, more desperately needed, and more eternally significant than at any time in our history. These are our moments to serve the young, to search for our community’s new generation of leaders, to confirm and support the preparation of the newly called servants of the church, to walk with those new and courageous persons who will mark the paths in still unknown frontiers of discovery.
We are honored today by the presence of many presidents, academic leaders and delegates of so many of the great institutions of higher education, representing, in its diverse private and public sectors, the greatest system of higher education in the world. The colleges and universities of this nation are the jewels of this nation. I join you in accepting my stewardship over one part of this priceless and precious national resource.
You understand that I pay your great institutions no dishonor to say a word or two about this University whose life we celebrate today.
ANDERSON UNIVERSITY is an impressive story of the struggles of a church to prepare her leaders, and of some gifted and determined women and men who, over these brief seventy-three years of history, have set their sights on the goal of serving with excellence. It is an amazing story of uniquely gifted and unselfish leadership.
If you are to know Anderson University, you must meet JOHN A. MORRISON, her first president, who at the time of his retirement in 1958, had served 39 years, longer than any sitting president in this country. John Morrison carried a tenacious love for the Church, and a passion for higher education. When one sees his accomplishments, reads his writings, notes his drive to establish a strong academic institution with a fully qualified faculty and an accredited program of study, one is often surprised to learn that this man himself only graduated from but one school: a one-room country school which went only to the 8th grade.
Morrison pressed the Church to prize education, while crusading with a practical and balanced sense of what it meant to be an educated person. Without the benefit of today’s more gender-sensitive language, Morrison asked:
Is an educated man a man who is highly intellectualized?
I think not. Is an educated man one whose will is pre-
eminently developed? Not at all. An educated man is a
man who has a highly developed personality. This means
that he can think rightly, the he can feel deeply, that
he can hate evil vigorously, that he can imagine vividly,
that he can sympathize warmly, that he can enjoy greatly,
that he can serve unstintingly. Such a man knows the
truth and loves the truth and does the truth. He is an
alumnus in who any alma mater may justly take pride.
(The Kingdom of Self, 1928)
If one is to know this University, one must know something about Robert H. Reardon, whose public gifts of speech and writing, and of leadership became tools for building this beautiful campus, and telling the story. He made believers of students over his 25 years of presidential service. He talked about giving oneself to something which will outlive us. He challenged young people never to enjoy “the bread of mediocrity.” He helped to construct a strong self-image within this institution which gave added value to every ANDERSON COLLEGE DEGREE.
If you are to understand this strong University, you must come to know something of the graceful character of servant hood personified by my immediate predecessor, the third president, Robert A. Nicholson. His greatest achievement over 45 years service to the University was perhaps the 25 in which he built such an outstanding academic program and faculty, capped by these last seven years of a presidency in which he brought these resources to this community. He shaped our sense of mission around the theme of servant hood, and gave formalized expectation to the inclination of the Anderson University student to become motivated for a lifetime of service.
I share these brief pictures of these three remarkable personalities today because these are my mentors and because in these persons I see represented the kind of past which show the way to such a promising future for Anderson University.
As I return to the campus after 15 years of service elsewhere in the life of the Church and in education, I come with a freshness of awareness of the great strengths of this University. We have a faculty of truly impressive credentials and teaching gifts, one strong in scholarship, passionate about teaching and about the mission of the Christian university.
We have a faculty with a heart for students and for the miraculous wonder of learning and growth.
We have in this University a winsome, idealistic, achievement oriented and service motivated student body.
We are blessed with a supportive community and a proud, encouraging sponsoring Church.
We sense that in every way this University has become a launching pad sending all of us out into a wider world. No fortress mentality shrinks around us in this place. We are the school of an impressive international service and studies program for hundreds of our students, and have cared about the role of diversity as we build in students the character and vision to become effective world citizens.
The mace and presidential medallion introduced in today’s ceremonies lift up symbols of a community of a special character. They bear symbols of a community which includes and nurtures, one which reaches beyond discomforts to new relationships, outside cultures and classes to creative inclusiveness made possible by a common life in Christ.
For most of the years of this University’s life, the seal of the institution has lifted up three Latin words:
VERITAS, FIDELITAS, AND UTILITAS. . .
TRUTH, FAITH, AND SERVICE.
We continue an ethos in this community which is shaped by this search for truth, which encourages and sponsors faithfulness to that truth, and which expects and facilitates service because of that truth.
Beyond these lovely symbols, there is truly but one sign which is an appropriate witness to the presence of a Christian university. That is the sign of the CROSS.
THE CROSS, an ancient instrument of death, has become a sign of new life.
In the cross, we see the measure of the length of love and the true meaning of grace. In the cross, we see truth of love, and the ultimate reach of service.
The cross reminds the Christian University of the supreme value to be placed on every human being. It reduces our many goals to one goal: to know the Creator of all of life, the author of all truth, and the one who reaches beyond ignorance and bigotry to bring us into a community of grace.
And so today, in honor of the Lord of the Church, and by the encouragement of a rich history of the faithful, with such challenges and hopes for the future, we move forward in the service of this University, not for its sake, but for His sake. We accept the challenge of our mission not by our strength and wisdom, but in the confidence that we have been given all the rich gifts necessary for this challenge. You bring what you have. I will bring what is mine to give. The sum of all we bring will be made more than adequate by the Grace of God.