New Goshen College president opens school year with words of welcome and grace

GOSHEN, Ind. – After receiving a standing ovation from a sanctuary filled with Goshen College students, faculty and staff, the incoming president, James E. Brenneman, opened the first convocation of the year by noting how the abundant grace of God has sustained and strengthened the college since its beginnings.

“Goshen College is a grace-filled place,” he said at the campus convocation on Aug. 30. “It is a grace that cares deeply enough to guide us, forgive us and lead us to that place where God’s best intentions for us and our desires intersect.”

Referencing the Reformation and the beginnings of Anabaptists, Brenneman, a former Mennonite pastor in Pasadena, Calif., said, “Goshen College is here because of the amazing grace that extends back some 500 years ago to a radical group of Christ-followers whose own core values have shaped the heritage bequeathed to this college and to us. We did nothing to deserve this heritage; it is ours as a gift, a grace.”

As a 1977 graduate of Goshen College, Brenneman spoke about the grace that he has seen present in the college over the years. “I think back to the unbroken line of grace given to us through our faculty and staff, right up to today: these wonderful people who have served Goshen tirelessly and unselfishly and help to make this the top-tiered Christian academy that it is,” he said. “I can honestly say that I am a different person today because of the influence of several faculty members on me when I was here 30 years ago. Amazing grace was poured out upon me by them. I know the same will be true for you as well.”

Just as Brenneman was so warmly greeted at the beginning of the convocation with the standing ovation, he offered and led a similar welcome in return to all new and returning students, to new and returning faculty and staff, and to the President’s Council, which he leads. Brenneman then closed by asking the audience to “reflect on God’s amazing grace” while listening to a performance of “How sweet the song” by two transfer students, Amy Zehr and Peter Koontz, and viewing a slide show of historic and recent college photos.

The convocation concluded with a performance of a new rendition of the college’s “alma mater” and what has become an annual tradition – the Goshen College “applause avenue,” begun in 2000. It created a joyful noise and energy of new beginnings with hand clapping and welcoming each other to campus. Faculty, staff and students paraded past their peers, then joined and extended the lines for seniors, juniors, sophomores and first-year students to pass by. The applause of welcome continued until the sanctuary was empty and the lines stretched far into the heart of campus by its conclusion.

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


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