In the fall of 1971, the Goshen College
campus looked forward to a series of carefully planned inaugural
activities for President J. Lawrence Burkholder. Drama, music, film,
lectures, poetry and art were combined as the community gathered to
witness Burkholder accept the duties of office and to plant trees. But
student postings scribbled on the Union Building’s opinion board clamor
for something more basic. Kurdish senior Joseph Salehi ’72 and
Pennsylvania sophomore Don Metzler ’75, among others, translated
opinion into action. Fetching the new president from his office in the
Administration Building, the two students escorted Burkholder across
campus to Schrock Plaza.
The waters of Goshen College’s fountains had served generations of
students as a spot to mark noteworthy events – especially announcements
of marriage engagements. As early as 1905, Goshen’s first president,
Noah Byers, called a special post-chapel meeting to put a stop to the
new sport of fountain-wrestling.
As a student leader in the 1930s, it was incumbent on Burkholder to
refrain from entering fountain waters. But upon entering those waters
as president, he set in motion what has become a campus tradition.
Though some bewailed the loss of decorum, Burkholder reported that he
found the students cordial and respectful.
In 1984, Victor E. Stoltzfus began inaugural festivities with a “big
splash,” accompanied by an eclectically attired “Captain Maple Leaf”
(Dave Conrad ’86). Shirley H. Showalter, in 1997, and now James E.
Brenneman complete a quartet of presidents willing to embrace moments
of informality in the spectrum of tasks they undertake as academic
– Joe Springer-
Curator, Mennonite Historical Library