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Goshen College presidential inauguration highlights ‘growing wisdom and wonder’
September 11, 2006
GOSHEN, Ind. – The inauguration of Goshen College’s 16th president, Dr. James E. Brenneman, filled a weekend with moments of great laughter, joy and celebration, but also of great ritual, worship and tradition.
After being thrown into the college’s fountain by students in the traditional presidential dunking, reconnecting with old college friends, partying and dining with the whole college community at a “Brenneman Bash,” the new president culminated the activities with an inaugural address on Sunday, Sept. 10.
In his remarks, Brenneman quoted Isaiah, Proverbs, Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson and Aristotle, and called wisdom and wonder the hallmarks of great Christian higher education institutions, which need to be continually nourished and developed.
“The spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power and knowledge, spoken of by Isaiah, are the quintessential descriptors of the best educational institutions, secular and religious alike, known to humankind,” he said. “But our educational task is not complete by simply becoming passionate learners of all that there is to know from the vantage point of human capacity. Wisdom and understanding, counsel, power and knowledge, must be embedded in the larger narrative of Scripture.”
Brenneman contrasted the lure to cynicism, with the Christian call to wonder and astonishment. “Let us never lose our capacity for wonder. Though it is awfully tempting to become cynical while learning to be appropriately critical, one cannot be complacent or cynical and wonder at the same time,” he said. “The wisdom of Isaiah invites us to live all our days in complete astonishment under the spirit and wonder of the Lord.”
By continuing to develop more fully wisdom and wonder at Goshen College, Brenneman envisioned the college having an even greater impact on its community and the world. “At Goshen College, like our forebears of faith, let us continue to grow university students and train thought-leaders for the 21st century,” he said. “Such Christ-like wisdom will be transformational to us personally and to the world socially. Such Christ-like wisdom will never be exclusively private or uncritically mainstream. Even as we continue to invest in broadly cross-cultural service around the world, may we also increase our attention locally, working closely with civic leaders in service to the surrounding community. … At Goshen College, we must continue to raise up tomorrow’s thought leaders today who will help reshape the mental framework of the world to more closely align with the peaceable wisdom of God.”
Concluding, Brenneman noted that wisdom and wonder must also include a great deal of joy. “At Goshen College we are known for our very high academic standards. Are we also known for our laughter, our joy, our willingness to take ourselves a bit less seriously at such an august center of learning?” he said. “Perhaps, we are well on our way to an infectious joy that will draw others to this Christ-centered place called Goshen College and ultimately, and more significantly, to Christ, the wisdom of God. That is my prayer.”
Centered on the theme “Growing Wisdom and Wonder” and based on the Isaiah 11:1-2 Scripture, the ceremony was held in the Music Center’s Sauder Concert Hall and attended by nearly 1,000 people. After 33 delegates from other colleges and universities, and the Goshen College current and retired faculty processed into the hall lit with candles and decorated with wreaths of flowers, the worship ceremony included an invocation by Rosalind E. Andreas, chair of the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) Board of Directors and the investiture by Chair of the Goshen College Board of Directors Virgil Miller. It also included a Scripture reading arranged by Jennifer Davis Sensenig, associate pastor at Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church; an anthem composed for the occasion by Assistant Professor of Music Lee Dengler; a release and blessing from Conference Minister for Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference Jeff Wright and Executive Director of Mennonite Mission Network Stanley Green; a litany of welcome; and a response hymn to the inaugural address with piano and solo by Terri J. Plank Brenneman, the president’s wife.
The ceremony was full of music from around the world, with performances by Goshen College’s Gospel choir Voices-n-Harmony, Chamber Choir, Orchestra, Men’s Chorus and Women’s World Music Choir; an instrumental ensemble from Iglesia Menonita El Buen Pastor of Goshen; and Makinto, an international recording artist and pastor in Los Angeles.