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Stories of Jim Brenneman 1973-1977: Life at Goshen College

- President J. Lawrence Burkholder’s birthday and second anniversary of his inauguration -
Late one night, long after everyone else had gone to bed, there was a group of students who managed to find their way and with a key, get into President J. Lawrence Burkholder’s office the night before his birthday and the second anniversary of his inauguration. We ended up inside his office and there we blew up many, many, many balloons. I believe that we also had some that were filled with helium so there were some floating in his office and many others were just layer upon layer upon layer. We got about half of the office filled with balloons so that when he came in the next day, it was a big surprise to him. It was a wonderful event and a great way to initiate Dr. Burkholder into his presidential role.

jim brenneman as a college student - Science major to interdisciplinary major -
In my senior year during the last trimester, I took a class on the book of Jeremiah from Professor of Bible Stanley Shenk. Stanley was one of the most dynamic professors at Goshen College at the time. Studying the book of Jeremiah with him literally transformed my life such that I finished out my work at Goshen College in the area of Bible rather than complete the few courses I needed to finish in biology. This really is a story of how one professor can transform a person’s life. Later I went on the Middle East seminar with Stanley Shenk, after which I spent the rest of my graduate work in the study of the Hebrew Bible. I visited again with Dr. Shenk about three weeks ago and he is still the same energetic, alert, inquisitive person reading commentaries and reading through the Bible many times over in the last year or so.

jim brenneman and his honduras sst group - SST in Honduras -
Study-Service Term (SST) was for me another one of those life-altering experiences. I went to Honduras with a group of students under the leadership of Norm (then dean of students) and Sharon Kauffmann. It was in the fall of 1974 and my father had just passed away in July of that year. My mother insisted that he would want me to have the experience of going to Honduras and continuing my studies, so I did that. While in Honduras, my eyes were opened in new ways to the poverty of the world and the needs of the world, and even though my own family had little money when I was growing up – though much love and support – I was still shocked by the immense poverty in this small country.

I spent the second half of my SST experience out in the campo, the countryside, helping to rebuild a village that had been destroyed by Hurricane Fifi. We lived in a home that if you opened the windows, there were no screens on the windows and there was a pig sty on one side of the house with a big pig in it and chickens running through the house.

I was so impressed by this whole experience of being in Honduras in such a different culture that my world view shifted off its axis – if you will – and I was never to look at the world again in the same way. No matter what I’ve done in life, in the background is always that experience. It reminds me of those in the world less fortunate than myself.

jim brenneman as a college student playing guitar - Faith questions -
While I was at Goshen College, my faith grew by leaps and bounds. I entered college with a fairly naïve view and simple experience of faith. I went through much questioning; I’ve always been a questioning person, and I went through a whole lot of questions while I was at college. I would spend hours talking with Professor of Religion C. Norman Kraus, theologian on campus and a profound thinker, and I would meet him in his office at lunchtime with my questions and he was always there to help me think through responses and to guide me through some rather difficult faith crises that I had experienced. I owe him a great deal for allowing me to question and to think and to broaden my horizons and I came out of Goshen College with a much deeper sense of who I was in terms of what I believed about life and about my Christian identity.

Let me close with just simply saying once again that my experience at Goshen College literally transformed who I would become and who I have become and I owe a life of gratitude to this institution.

Experience the Presidential Inauguration Weekend. View multimedia coverage of the events (including audio of the inaugural address, a weekend highlights video and photos): www.goshen.edu/inauguration.