President’s speech: “Wake-Up, Goshen”

By President James E. Brenneman at the Goshen Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Feb. 7, 2007


Good morning. This event must be called “Wake-Up Goshen” for a reason. I really appreciate that you got up so early on a cold winter day like today to be here. It’s been about seven months since we moved here from living in California for 26 years, so my body clock still feels like it’s 4:30 in the morning – especially when it’s still dark and below freezing outside. Nothing a little coffee can’t help to remedy, though. Since I’m generally out of bed first in the morning, if we have coffee, I would be the one to brew it before my wife gets up. Then it’s nice and hot and ready for her. After all, the Bible does say that the man should make the coffee. All you have to do is flip open to the New Testament and you will find a whole book entitled, “He brews.”

I’m glad to be with a bunch of Indiana Hoosiers this morning, though, especially since Sunday’s Super Bowl game ended so well. What a great win for the Colts. My mom lives in Tampa where Tony Dungy used to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I sent her an e-mail telling her how Tony helped the Colts win the Super Bowl. Of course, she was impressed. But not that impressed. She sent a note back that said, “My idea of a Super Bowl is one that cleans itself!” Mom never did like to clean toilet bowls. All I can say is thank God there’s nothing in the Bible about the man having to clean those. Though, when I do get around to doing it, I don’t mind really.

As you heard, I’m the new President of Goshen College. At Goshen College, one of our core values is that of Servant-Leadership. One characteristic of a Servant-leader is having an attitude of humility no matter who you are or what you achieve. I thought I knew what that meant, but had to learn it again since becoming President of GC. Being named President has been the opportunity of a lifetime and can be a bit ‘heady’ sometimes also. Soon after arriving in Goshen, the phone rang. It was someone from the Chicago Tribune. Wow! I was feeling pretty good, “The Chicago Tribune calling to interview me. Already! Wow! I could almost imagine front-page coverage at least in the B-section of the paper. “Hello.” The person on the other end said, “Hello, are you Mr. Brenneman?” “Yes.” She said, “Hi, I was just calling to ask if you would like a subscription to the Chicago Tribune?” That day I had a big piece of humble pie. And it was good for me.

Reminds me, though, of another new CEO of a large company. He was hired to “rid the company of slackers.” On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he thought he’d send a message, loud and clear. So, he walks up to the guy and asks, “And how much money do you make a week?” “Oh about $300; why?” The CEO hands the guy $300 in cash and hollers, “Here’s a week’s pay, now GET OUT and don’t come back!” By now, the CEO is feeling pretty good about his first firing. He looks around the room and asks “Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-off did here?” With a sheepish grin, one of the other workers mutters, “Pizza delivery guy from Domino’s.” Humble pie. Servant-leadership. Easier said than done; but so necessary.


Really, the speech I would have wanted to give this morning was already given a couple of years ago by Bill Johnson (former CEO of Goshen Rubber; owner of Flying J), when he introduced the Horizon Project to the Goshen/Elkhart civic and business community. He laid out a vision for Elkhart County that was audacious and inspiring. In it, he prophesied, “Elkhart County will be a globally recognized center for creativity … built by residents who have the courage to take risks and help each other succeed in an environment of tolerance and respect that provides opportunities for all.” He went on, “Outstanding businesses and talented professionals will locate in our county because of the excellent schools, rich cultural life, clean and healthy environment, safe attractive neighborhoods and vibrant down towns. The entrepreneurial culture of the county will be supported by a highly skilled workforce, a diverse economy, opportunities for life-long learning and effective governmental collaboration and community planning.” What a truly remarkable vision!

What I would like to do in the few minutes we have together is to pick up on a summary comment Bill made in which he said, “We must recognize that education is more than a benign necessity, and is more than an obligation for young people; it is an absolute economic necessity” for the future of Indiana, especially for Elkhart County.

Recently, the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a broad coalition of education secretaries, business leaders and others) defined those skills that are absolutely necessary to succeed in the 21st Century. The Commission and many other CEOs of major industries (UPS, Lockheed, Dell, Martin Marietta, Microsoft, etc.) insist that – at a bare minimum – their 21st century employees must be global in their outlook (able to easily cross cultural and language boundaries) and be creatively entrepreneurial (trained with advanced knowledge to sustain the new economy and be highly adaptable).

At Goshen College we are dedicated to seeing that all of our students are prepared in just these two ways: to be global citizens with a creative entrepreneurial spirit.


Goshen College is preparing our students to be global citizens. In fact, Goshen College has been almost 40 years ahead of the educational curve on this front. GC was one of the first colleges in the nation to require its students to study and serve abroad for one semester as a requirement for graduation (its program was borrowed by University of California system and others). This semester we have students in Cambodia and the Dominican Republic. We also send students to China, Germany, Ethiopia, Senegal, Peru and many other countries over the years.

And now the world has come to our doorsteps here in the city of Goshen. And that’s a good thing. If we are able to navigate together the increasingly global and intercultural character of our city, we might just propel Goshen into the 21st century while more and more small towns across America dwindle away to nothing.

You may have heard the expression, “Change or die.” What if you were actually given that choice to make, for real? Alan Deutschman asks that question in a 2005 article by the same title. (see: “Change or Die – What if you were given that choice?” by Alan Deutschman; Fast Company; May 2005 issue) Change or die. Given the choice, for real? Not in just a cliché sort of way by a “self-dramatizing CEO or a slick motivational speaker,” but for real. Say, you have a heart attack and need to change your lifestyle completely or die. Studies show that only 1 in 9 people actually do so, even in such life and death situations like that. Let’s hope that we, here in Goshen, are able to beat those odds. We may be overwhelmed by the changes happening to our city, but consider the alternative. Change or die.

At Goshen College, our new Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (Lilly grant), will do everything possible to help us survive these changes and thrive. We are committed to helping give our diverse community a fighting chance to live into the 21st century dream.

The Goshen City Web site rightly says of our schools and the college, confirmed by the world-wide business community, “… exposure to [such] rich diversity helps prepare students to successfully deal with the global marketplace of the 21st Century.” I couldn’t agree more. Goshen College is committed to creating just such global citizens.


Goshen College is also helping to prepare students to be creatively entrepreneurial, another of those expectations required by the new economy and fortune five hundred business leaders. Our Center for Business and Entrepreneurial Education teaches our students to integrate ethical behavior, servant leadership, and solid business practice with a smidgen of creative chutzpah.

Since Gerry Hertzler (Goshen News editor) just mentioned James Strouse as one of the city’s children who has gone on to do so well in the film industry, let me just lay claim to him as a Goshen College graduate who exemplifies creative chutzpah. James’ first movie, “Lonesome Jim” was set in Goshen and filmed here as well. His just presented his second film titled “Grace is Gone” to the Sundance Film Festival. The film was picked up for distribution by Harvey Weinstein for about $4.2 million.

In the spring of 2005, another one of our senior students, business major Tom Stahly (son of Bruce and Barb Stahly), won a Goshen College entrepreneurship grant of $5,000 to help him start a new start-up business, a search engine optimization company. He later sold it to Solution Source here in Goshen for a profit and in the summer of 2006, along with his cousin Justin Yoder (GC alum) started an online bicycle accessory shop in Indianapolis called IndiBike. Tom lives in Portland and does all the Web work and marketing from there. Tom and Justin exemplify the kinds of entrepreneurial business-minded people needed in this new global economy. At GC we want to be training all of our students to be entrepreneurial, creative thought-leaders prepared to create 21st century jobs not yet even imagined.

Of course, many other alumni of GC have stayed in town to help create the vibrant civic life and business life we all desire and that will continue to attract others to come and live here in this corner of the universe. In his 2006 State of the City address, Mayor Allan Kauffman emphatically stated, “Good schools are part of Goshen’s strong community fabric …” Then he went on, “Goshen College is not to be overlooked. It is another attraction to our community. In addition to its educational contributions, it adds to cultural choices, as well. Many of its graduates are found in our schools, businesses, and industry.” I thank the mayor for those kind words.

What the mayor alludes to but doesn’t say, especially in light of Governor Mitch Daniel’s recent expressed concern about the brain drain in Indiana, is that Goshen College is one of a very short list of colleges and universities in Indiana – more of whose graduates stay in Indiana than leave – this even though we attract many students from all over the country and the world.


Let me end today by committing Goshen College to doing everything we can to help make our city and the surrounding region a truly global marketplace of goods, services, ideas and people. The motto of Goshen’s Chamber of Commerce declares beautifully our intent as a college for this city, “Together, Growing Goshen.” Indeed, together, we will grow Goshen.