A Community on the Rise
by David A. King
October 27, 2012, Malone University, Canton, Ohio
Thank you... a community to acknowledge and thank
- Trustees, faculty, staff & administration
- University Collegium colleagues
- Students, alumni, parents and friends of Malone University
- Members of the Evangelical Friends and our brothers and sisters across the ecumenical landscape of our faith community
- Our elected officials,neighbors in the City of Canton and surrounding communities
- Friends and family
It is a deeply humbling privilege to be with you today.
A preponderance of the landscape through which our journey has passed is represented by many of you who are here today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank a number of people for their significant part in formation and journey …knowing that no matter who I name there are many many more who have contributed to the path that now reflects this calling in this place for such a time as this.
There are countless people who have encouraged, who have supported, who have challenged, who have prayed, who have exercised patience.
People who have opened doors of opportunity and people who have taught
People who have trusted, people who have welcomed and extended hospitality, and people who have given me permission to lead:
- Each and every member of the President’s Cabinet and the Provost’s Collegium at Eastern University, so many of you are here today, it is truly a joy to see you.
- The faculty at Eastern University and the larger Eastern University community – you embraced me and you trusted me and how privileged I have been to be welcomed, embraced and trusted by your sister community of faculty, staff, administration and students here at Malone.
- Dr. David Black, Dr. Kim Phipps, and Dr. Bill & Anne Frame - mentors and encouragers all.
- Dr. Corrinne Caldwell – my adviser at Temple University who challenged me and encouraged me in this calling.
- Dr. Ron Johnson - you are one of many new and gratifying relationships forged in these early months of our time here at Malone; thank you for your leadership and your legacy. It should not be lost on any of us – the building we now occupy appropriately bearing your name. Thank you.
- Our families – my mother and father and siblings – it’s good to know that to some in this room I am just a skinny kid brother!
- Winnie’s mother, our children and grandchild …and the three best jobs I have ever had are husband, Dad and Poppie!
- To Winnie …Winnie, thank you for believing in me, for supporting and encouraging me and for your many sacrifices. My life in all measures has been far beyond the reach of my young imagination because of you. It is a love story!
- And thank you Justin and Lindsey for the introduction of a lifetime. You are a blessing beyond measure.
And to the Malone community, thank you for your discernment, your willingness to risk, your welcome, your trust ...and your willingness to share our mutual embrace of the future of this University.
Thank you also to the many colleagues who contributed to the planning of this weekend and to those of you who have participated in the program. Deb Robinson deserves special recognition as Chair of the Inauguration Committee – and, oh by the way, we're going to have the Inauguration on Homecoming weekend. To each of you, we are very grateful.
Rev. Dr. Holmes, thank you for your message at yesterday's Alumni Chapel.
Thank you Dr. Harold Heie and Dr. Betsy Morgan, for your thoughtful facilitation of yesterday's Symposium, Respectful Conversations.
We are grateful to each of you for joining us for this august occasion in the life of the Malone University community.
It is our desire that this occasion honor Malone's history and inspire the community to embrace the future around a clear and shared vision even as together we navigate the challenges of the day.
Chairman Steer, Dr. Johnson, David Murray, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, administration and students of Malone, thank you for inviting me to this partnership and entrusting in me the stewardship of the mission of Malone University.
I accept the charge you have given me to lead our collective embrace of the future. I accept this charge as a high and humble calling ...a calling from the Holy Spirit for such a time and place as this.
Know of my unbridled commitment:
- To exercise courage
- To take calculated risks
- To return our attention frequently to the core of our mission, the focus of our vision, the clarity of our purpose and the foundation of our principles
- To navigate with care and a forward leaning posture, the "narrow ridge" that is Christian higher education ...to partner with the church in their purpose of "proclamation and discipleship" along with the university's purpose of "exploration and discipleship"
- To be empathetic and sensitive even as we find ourselves facing difficult decisions and called to make choices between compelling alternatives.
Know of my commitment to keep our 'student focus' clear, and know of my commitment to cultivate community, to hold us to stewardship and to challenge us to excellence in ways that reflect the heart of Jesus.
Our history, our mission and above all - our students - deserve nothing less.
A Community on the Rise
I have found at Malone in these few short months:
- A deep and storied history of 120 years;
- I have found the compelling vision of our co-founders, Walter and Emma Malone who were well out of the box of their time, and, as we know, a compelling vision is not much of anything if it is not well populated. Malone University - I have found - is well populated:
- Four Fulbright Scholarship recipients in eight years! …
- Academically one of the highest ranking group of athletes in NCAA Div II!
- Faculty, staff and students nurturing a transformative experience
- Alumni making a difference in the business, civic, cultural, faith, education and helping professions communities
- I have found at Malone a deeply committed and gifted faculty and staff in a complex comprehensive university striving to nourish and deepen the liberal arts while embracing the growing needs of our community for graduate and adult education in business, education, health care and ministry.
Today – I have found at Malone a “community on the rise.”
First, and perhaps to state the obvious, this phrase – a community on the rise – is descriptive. After all, our campus here in the City of Canton occupies former farmland on a gentle rise that is one of the highest points in the City and the surrounding area.
When attending our first home football game at Fawcett Stadium this fall, it did strike me that the view from the Press Box appears to be at about eye level with the top of the steeple of this building and the Brehme Centennial Center up the hill. I’ve realized this is probably more of an observation of the position football holds in northeastern Ohio than a topographic observation.
Our location – our location on this gentle rise and in this City - brings with it both opportunity and responsibility.
We should not see the relationship of our university and the City and surrounding communities as defined by Market and Cleveland Avenues, 25th Street and Route 62. These lines on our GPS simply define a place and ownership of land.
It is within our relationships - with one another and with the surrounding community – that our University is both defined and experienced by others. Our relationships are descriptive.
Relationships bear out in innumerable ways. To name but a few, first, within our University community:
- The relationship of the liberal arts – the core of our transformative student experience – and the professions,
- The relationship between teaching and scholarship
- The relationship between our history, the present day and our future
- The relationship between our resources and our objectives
- The relationship between our faith, our learning and our application.
External relationships also define and are descriptive of our University. These include:
- Our relationship with the business community
- The civic community
- The faith community
- Our relationship with the P-16 education, health care, and helping professions communities
- The arts community
- The cross-cultural and global communities.
Fundamentally our University community is described, defined and experienced by our relationships with one another.
And why, as a Christian university are our relationships so important?
David Kinneman in his book based on Barna research, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters, states:
“[A] way of moving from unChristian to Christian is to take a sober assessment of how Jesus influenced his disciples. It was primarily through relationships and friendships.” Kinneman continues, “One of the clear implications of our research is that the negative image of Christians can be overcome, and this almost always happens in the context of meaningful, trusting relationships.” (p.208-209)
Our relationships are indeed important – they define and describe the substance and the lived experience of our University.
Beyond descriptive, our theme is – aspirational! Our theme describes the ‘state of our University’. Much like we challenge our students to approach their Malone experience with openness to the probability of transformation, we must also, as a University community challenge ourselves to exhibit an invitational and aspirational posture …a posture of readiness, a posture of expectancy that we too - as a community - are poised for transformation.
As we consider Malone as an aspirational community, what does such a community look like? In what ways does such a community aspire?
To address these questions – to introduce you to the state of the Malone University community - I will take our attention for just a moment to our Foundational Principals. As much as anything, as David Murray mentioned, it was these Foundational Principals – articulated with broad input under Dr. Johnson nearly a decade ago - that quickly stood out to me and was – and remains a significant attraction in this calling.
There are five, with the fifth focusing explicitly on defining the form of community to which we aspire as well as the context and the evidence. As stated in part in the preamble to the Foundational Principals:
These foundational principles help guide our work over time in the face of changing external exigencies and are the means by which we articulate what is and has been intrinsically important to the institution.
And we know that today we are operating “…in the face of changing external exigencies.”
In short, our five Foundational Principals are:
- We cultivate the life of the mind by pursuing and witnessing to the truth.
- We are called to know Christ and make Him known through the integration of learning and faith.
- We are shaped by and draw upon our Christian and institutional heritage.
- Because we are called to love our students, we intentionally focus our work on promoting their intellectual, spiritual, and social growth.
- We live and learn in a community that manifests and develops concern for others.
As we consider aspiration today, I would like to briefly draw our attention to, and plant our aspirational vision in, two of our five Foundational Principals in particular.
First, “We – the Malone University community - are shaped by and draw upon our Christian and institutional heritage.”
And secondly, “We live and learn in a community that manifests and develops concern for others.”
At a moment such as this it is important that, as we clarify and lift our collective vision to the horizon of the future - even as we clearly understand, address and nurture the circumstances of the day – that as we set our sights to the future it is important that we are both reminded of and embrace the character of our past and recognize the ways our past is relevant to our future.
We are shaped by and draw upon our Christian and institutional heritage.
At the heart of this Foundational Principal is this sentence, “…Shaped by our holiness and Friends heritage, Malone is an institution that values piety, concern for ordinary people, and experiential activism ….”
Like all explicitly Christian colleges and universities, Malone University is about the integration of faith and learning. Malone also actively embraces a third integrative element. At the heart of our Foundational Principals we find this phrase, “…experiential activism.”
In short, this phrase uniquely, succinctly and, I believe profoundly answers the question, and now what? What do I DO with the precious gift of education integrated and woven within our faith and a Christian worldview?
At Malone we strive for application …the living out of “Christ in us.” Dan Jonas, one of the first individuals that I met from the Canton community referred to Malone as a place that does “applied Christianity.”
Time after time, as I have spoken with our faculty, our students and our alumni this emphasis is born out. Recently I met with Janis Bowdler, class of 2000. Janis works in a think tank in Washington DC. When I asked Janis whether these three integrative elements had a transformative impact on her, her immediate response was – Absolutely!
Our history, our striving for piety, our concern for ordinary people, our call to witness “experiential activism” …living out Christ in us …applying our Christianity …this element of our founders’ vision – this Foundational Principal - remains incredibly relevant, inspiring and aspirational today.
Shane Claiborne, co-author with Tony Campolo of the recent book, Red Letter Revolution captures this well. Shane writes,
Over the past few decades, our Christianity has become obsessed with what Christians believe rather than how Christians live. We talk a lot about doctrines but little about practice. But in Jesus we don’t just see a presentation of doctrines but an invitation to join a movement that is about demonstrating God’s goodness to the world. (p. 9)
The second of our Foundational Principals that I would like to emphasize briefly today as we consider this aspirational community is:
“We live and learn in a community that manifests and develops concern for others.”
This Foundational Principal concludes with the following statement, “God's grace is evident in our communal life as we seek to live out this calling in a broken world.”
This statement reminds us of the context in which we strive to live out our mission – a broken world.
It also speaks to evidence! …God’s grace is evident in our communal life. Truly an aspiration every day!
Two of our chief tasks are:
- To be ever cognizant of our context and,
- To be disciplined in our reflection on and responses to the evidence.
Winnie and I have joined a community of great substance:
- a community whose foundation is secure and timeless,
- a community with a collective readiness for the future …
- …we have joined a community on the rise!
Aspire with me as together we strive for community, for stewardship and for excellence that are reflective of our history; relevant in the present; and, positioned for the demands, opportunities and aspirations of the future.
In closing, allow me to share a brief excerpt from a Prayer for Eastern University. The prayer was written in 1950 on the occasion of then president Guffin’s first Chapel address at Eastern.
I share this excerpt as it is timeless and seamless in its application to Malone on this day. And with thanks to my colleagues from Eastern for permitting me to replace the word Eastern with the word Malone for this occasion.
A prayer … “That [Malone’s] future may be unquestionabl[y] worthy of its past: loyal to the traditions and accomplishments of those who have built so well, but unwilling to freeze the past and the present into a static future, which [would] be the greatest disloyalty.” *
I accept your invitation, your charge and this sacred calling. To God be the glory.
* Excerpt from President Guffin’s first chapel address on January 4, 1950, first published in April, 1950, Volume IX, No. 5 of The Easterner.