Inaugural Address Page Six: Personally Transforming
Nyack is a Christian college. At Nyack, this is more than simply a label; it is more than a classification. For us it is our identity and our mission. We seek to be academically excellent, we seek to be globally engaged, we seek to be intentionally diverse, and we seek to be socially relevant -- so that we can exalt and honor Jesus Christ. We cannot honor Jesus without obeying his words.
And let us not forget, Jesus said, “Follow me.”
For us, the transformation that really matters is the transformation that occurs when our students encounter Jesus in a personal and meaningful way.
I am often asked, “What does this mean in every day terms?” “How can we know if and when our students encounter God in a personal and meaningful way?” My answer to this is simple: “We know because when a person encounters God in a meaningful way, everything is different.”
One of the most moving stories I have heard in all of my time at Nyack happened over one hundred years ago. In 1893, a young lady from Sun Prairie, WI by the name of Estella Finch graduated from what was then the Missionary Training Institute. Upon her graduation she traveled to Japan where she began her career at age 24 as a missionary. And even by the remarkable standards of missionary service in her era, her career was a most amazing career.
In 1909, Estella Finch became a Japanese citizen. To the dismay of her American friends, she even changed her name to Mitsuyo Hoshida! This act of so completely embracing the nation to which she felt called to serve enabled her to realize remarkable effectiveness in her ministry. She helped establish ministry outreaches. Her work amongst the Japanese military, which for a woman was remarkable in and of itself, was so highly regarded that she was given the title, The Mother of Yokosuka. A historical society dedicated to commemorating and preserving her memory exists in Japan to this day.
The epitaph on her tomb reads as follows, “Ah, to be like Sensei, someone who abandoned her youth, who abandoned her nationality, and who in the end abandoned even her life. It should be said of her spirit of offering peace: with it, though she is dead, she still speaks.”
Nyack seeks to exalt Jesus Christ by being personally transforming. This transformation is simply what occurs when students encounter Jesus Himself on our campus. When they do, like Hoshida Mitsuyo, they abandon their youth in favor of a maturity that comes from knowing Christ. They abandon their citizenship of a self-centered, materialistic world in favor of becoming citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. They abandon life on their terms and find life on His terms. “…and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.”
Nyack has influenced countless people like Mitsuyo Hoshida. And, as is noted on a gravestone on a hillside in Kugocho, Japan, these are the lives that speak long after their earthly days are over. They speak for healing. They speak for peace. They speak for the good news.
Every college in operation today can say that they change the lives of their students. This is the kind of change—the kind of transformation we seek at Nyack.
Nyack seeks to be Academically Excellent, Globally Engaged, Intentionally Diverse, Socially Relevant, and Personally Transforming. Although we only articulated these core values in recent years, it is clear that these values have accompanied our vision since the beginning. The burning question then, is how do we best live out these values?
In 1904, the founder of this school stood before a great assembly and concluded, “A university alone can fill the demand.” Today, I stand before you and I repeat these words. A university alone can fill the demand.
If Nyack is to be as Academically Excellent, Globally Engaged, Intentionally Diverse, Socially Relevant, and as Personally Transforming as our mission demands that we be in this generation, Nyack must do so as a university.
Many have asked me why a university can do what a college cannot. Please understand, it is not the nomenclature of “university” that will better allow Nyack to fulfill its mission. It is not a label we are seeking. It is a breadth of program that will allow Nyack to serve students like Cheryl Phenicie. Cheryl found her calling at Nyack, but received her degree elsewhere. I am convinced that the university I am describing will help students receive both their calling and their credential here at Nyack.
Our vision is for Nyack to function as a university. If we are to meet the demand of our mission, we must provide the breadth and depth of degree programming of a university. We are blessed with a high quality faculty. To function as a university, we must develop the infrastructure that provides the breadth and depth that we envision. As we function more like a university, this will prompt us to make strides in curricular innovation. These innovations, particularly in the area of experiential learning, are very important for us. And, as we continue to grow in this direction, we must tirelessly build upon one of our current strengths and develop an even more effective and far-reaching academic support system.
The catalyst for all of this, as I see it, is a commitment to function like a university. I therefore propose that Nyack seek to be recognized by New York State as a university by the year 2015. The state of NY has specific criteria to meet. For example, we must offer at least three doctoral programs and all the infrastructure that goes with it. This is, I recognize, an enormous undertaking. But it is one to which I am ready to devote my presidency. Why?
Because a university alone can fill the demand.
Nyack is demonstrating excellence in the most important measure of excellence, that of adding academic quality to the lives of its students. Together, we must bring this excellence into the future as a university.
Nyack is authentically and meaningfully engaged with the needs of people around this globe. Together we must bring this global engagement into the future as a university.
Nyack is the most ethnically diverse Christian College in the history of American higher education. Together we must bring this priceless diversity into the future as a university.
Nyack is socially relevant as its graduates take not only the words, but also the love and the deeds of Christ to broken people. Together we must bring this social relevance into the future as a university.
Nyack is personally transforming because people encounter Jesus Christ here. And I believe Christ Himself will lead our transformation into the future where together, as a university that exalts His name we will endeavor to do His work until the end of the age. Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless Nyack.
Nyack has many opportunities this afternoon and it has its fair share of challenges. As I look at both the opportunities and the challenges that lie before us, I am thankful that it will not be “me” seizing the opportunities or facing these challenges, it will be all of “us,” together, bringing Nyack into the future that God has for us.
All of us are Nyack. If you are one of the representative guests here this afternoon, I hope you can sense our deep desire to partner well with you to accomplish the important work that we have the responsibility to address.
Perhaps you are a more informal friend of Nyack. Never has the support of friends been more important for us. I’m so thankful for the countless individuals who are joining with us and offering support in many different ways, and many other new friends will join us in the near future. Each of you will be important as together we seek to engage the future that lies before us.
Perhaps you are one of our alumni. I hope you are encouraged and even excited to think about Nyack’s glorious heritage. As alumni, you are not simply part of Nyack’s past, you are a vital part of Nyack’s future. Nyack cannot become all that it should without the support of alumni like you.
Perhaps you are a faculty member, a staff member or a student. Your continued excellence is the very fuel that, with God’s help, will launch this university. Your work is crucial and deeply appreciated.
All of us are Nyack… and all of us are needed. I thank God, and I thank you, for the opportunity we now have to work together in this great endeavor. Again, thank you.