Goshen College’s 16th president celebrates first week in office with a party

GOSHEN, Ind. – After shelving his books in his office and with a full week of work completed as the new president of Goshen College, Dr. James E. Brenneman decided it was time to throw a party. On July 13, he held an “office warming” for all campus faculty, staff and students by inviting them to celebrate this new beginning for him and the college. And while most Old Testament biblical scholars and pastors may be thought of as serious and studious, President Brenneman clearly knows how to appreciate a joyous time.

Taking office during the middle of summer break and at the end of the college’s fiscal year, President Brenneman is able to make an unhurried transition into this new position. He had time to fill his bookshelves with his beloved mountain of books he has collected throughout a career as a pastor, biblical scholar and educator, as well as meeting with his President’s Council and becoming more fully acquainted with campus.

Brenneman moved with his family – wife Terri J. Plank Brenneman, a clinical psychologist, and their soon-to-be 10-year-old son Quinn – to Goshen in late June from their residence in South Pasadena, Calif., via a family road trip with stops to visit relatives and friends along the way.

Media coverage of new president taking office:

New Goshen College president plans outreach, Goshen News, 7.15.06.

New Goshen College president hopes to build many bridges; 51-year-old hopes to enroll more, reflect community, The Truth, 7.13.06. (Free registration required)

Though President Brenneman will not be able to take as many frequent walks on the beach in Northern Indiana – which he loved to do in California during his 26 years there – he is truly looking forward to living and leading in the Maple City.

As a leader with a pastor’s heart and a scholar’s mind, Brenneman has a vision for making Goshen College a more hospitable place and more truly reflective of the diverse community it resides in. “I hope that the local area will come to see Goshen College as their community’s college, and that we are not just a school for students from a particular denomination,” he said. “I also want Goshen College to be on the map nationally and internationally as a place to look to for answers to global problems. We have a lot to offer.”

Brenneman’s passion for building multicultural communities developed out of his experience growing up in the Cuban quarter of Tampa, Fla., out of his study abroad experience at Goshen in Honduras and out of his 25-plus years spent in the urban context of Los Angeles as a pastor. “I enjoy welcoming others into my home and to help others consider what it means to be a Christ-centered person,” he said.

Named to the post in November 2005 by the Goshen College Board of Directors, Brenneman has been engaged in college issues and events during a five-month preparation period, which began in February, before moving full time into the president’s office. During this preparation period, Brenneman has regularly worked with Interim President John D. Yordy, who has served in that role since October 2004 upon the resignation and departure of former Goshen College President Shirley H. Showalter, and has been engaged in college faculty search processes. Brenneman has also met Goshen College alumni at various gatherings across the country, and joined the campus for the 2006 commencement ceremony on April 23. And during this time, he also spent time weekly in Spanish tutoring lessons – which he hopes to keep up while in office – to brush up on his conversational skills in the language.

On Aug. 30, Brenneman will launch the 2006-07 school year by speaking in the campus’s opening convocation. Then the inauguration festivities for Dr. Brenneman will occur during the first full week of September, highlighted by the installation ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 10. In addition to the formal installation service, inauguration-related events are planned beginning Thursday, Sept. 7, and include a campus chapel, gatherings of area business and community representatives during which he will speak on leadership issues, a tree planting ceremony, a campus celebration and other activities.

While Brenneman will have occupied the president’s office in the college’s Administration Building for two months prior to the inauguration – a normal timeline for the beginning work of college presidents – the events will serve as an opportunity for the campus, community, colleagues from other academic institutions, church leaders and others to formally acknowledge his leadership and welcome him. He, in turn, will have had the opportunity to welcome new and returning students to campus and to be involved in beginning-of-the-year faculty and administrative organizational activities.

A 1977 Goshen College graduate, Brenneman was the founding and lead pastor of Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church, where he was ordained in 1986. He attended Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and finished his master of divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. He also holds a master of arts degree, in religious studies, and a doctorate in Hebrew Bible and Old Testament studies from Claremont Graduate University. Brenneman’s teaching and scholarship has led him to posts on the faculty in Old Testament studies at Episcopal Theological School and as an adjunct professor at both Fuller Theological Seminary and Claremont School of Theology.

The author of “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy” (Herald Press, 2004) and “Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophesy” (Oxford University Press, 1997), Brenneman has written book chapters and published numerous articles on theological and church-related themes. He is a frequent lecturer and presenter at scholarly and church life events, often speaking on leadership.

In becoming the 16th president of Goshen College in its 112-year-old history, Brenneman joins a list of recent leaders that includes: John D. Yordy (interim president), 2004-2006; Shirley H. Showalter, 1997-2004; Henry D. Weaver (interim president), July-December, 1996; Victor E. Stoltzfus, 1984-1995; J. Lawrence Burkholder, 1971-1984; and Paul E. Mininger, 1954-1970.

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.

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Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.

Categories: Faculty & Staff, GC Community, GC News, President