Dr. Nicholson: What I Really Care About
What I Really Care About
[Editor's Note: Excerpts from Robert Nicholson’s final presidential report to the Board of Trustees, May 4, 1990. Included in Faith Learning & Life: Views from the President’s Office of Anderson University. Callen, Dr. Barry L. Anderson, Indiana: Warner Press, 1991.]
Let me lift up a sentence from the late Samuel Shoemaker, marvelous Christian brother. "It has been a great run!" That imagery pictures well my forty-five years on the faculty and administrative staff of Anderson University. I have been able to enjoy all aspects of campus life. For thirteen years I was with students primarily and, through being a music faculty member, was very close to many of them. Then for twenty-five years as college dean I worked closely with faculty and curriculum, probably my most important achievement. Finally, for the last seven years I have been privileged to relate as president with the many partnerships that make this a vital institution, including the church, the City of Anderson, the world of higher education, alumni, and friends. We should stand in awe at what God has wrought through these partnerships. So I have been privileged to travel full circle—and it’s been a great run! I have a very real sense of my service having been complete.
What have I really cared most about over these years, particularly my presidential years? Number one is mission. This university has never been without a sense of mission, but my task was to put it into concise words and live out these words. That has been an anchor. I have cared a great deal about mission.
The second is servanthood, a particular style of mission at the very heart of the university. I mean "Christian servanthood" expressed toward students, the church, and the community. While it has not always been readily definable, we have begun to find better ways to understand it in the process of seeking to live it out.
The third thing I have really cared about is the delicate relationship between governance and accountability. The university is accountable to the church that established and nurtured it. But the Board of Trustees is the one and only governing body of the university, not the church’s General Assembly or any other entity. Therein lies the delicate balance between accountability and governance. There has been progress in better understanding and living out this balance. For this I am grateful.
Finally, I have cared deeply about moving us closer to a God-directed, great future. President Emeritus Robert H. Reardon used to say in speeches to various groups that "some day on this spot there will be a great university." He was proclaimer of that vision. In my presidential years I think that together we have made some real progress in shaping and resourcing that vision. We have attempted to strategize on a multi-year basis so that we could see the necessary path and evaluate our progress. From the beginning I have cared about being systematic and serious in approaching a great future for this university. We are now very good—but not yet great. Although the precise shape and characteristics of that greatness are not yet evident, we now know that a great, small, Christian university is possible in this place.
At the base of the John Morrison statue is a quote of his about which I have cared very much. I trust it describes what I have sought to accomplish in my years. "Life is saved only by dedication to something larger than itself," said Morrison. "The purpose of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."