Jim Brenneman reappointed to second term as Goshen College president

President James E. Brenneman
Job: President of Goshen College; educator, biblical theologian and church leader
Childhood: Born in Kalona, Iowa and grew up in Tampa, Fla.
Education: B.A., Goshen College; M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary; M.A., Claremont Graduate University; Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
Ministry: Ordained in 1986 and a credentialed minister of Mennonite Church USA
Pastorate: Founding and lead pastor of Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church for 20 years
Teaching: Served on the faculty at Episcopal Theological School at Claremont (Calif.), the Claremont School of Theology and Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.).
Books: 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).
Family: Married to Dr. Terri J. Plank Brenneman, a clinical psychologist and also a 1977 Goshen College alumnus. The Brennemans are the parents of son Quinn.
Contact information: E-mail, president@goshen.edu; phone, (574) 535-7501

GOSHEN, Ind. – James E. Brenneman has been reappointed to a second term as president of Goshen College by the college’s Board of Directors at its February meeting — a decision recently approved by the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) Board of Directors.

Brenneman’s reappointment to another term, which begins July 1 and continues through June 30, 2014, was recommended by a Presidential Review Committee, which was jointly formed by Goshen College Board of Directors and the MEA Board of Directors. Phil Bontrager, the Goshen board vice chair, led the committee, which also included Duane Stoltzfus (Goshen faculty chair), Janet Elaine Rasmussen (MEA board member) and ex-officio member Carlos Romero (MEA executive director).

Brenneman, who became Goshen’s 16th president in 2006 after living in California for 26 years and serving as a pastor, biblical theologian, educator and Mennonite church leader, said he looks forward to the joys and challenges of serving his alma mater for another four years.

“It’s with gratitude and joy that I look forward to the opportunity to serve Goshen College for a second term. In these challenging times, I recognize the hard work ahead of us but look forward with hope and confidence,” Brenneman said. “I feel called at this time to this place to carry forth the vision of Goshen College becoming even more of an intercultural, international and integrative learning community.”

Bontrager said the review committee found strong support for Brenneman’s leadership from the Board of Directors as well as administrators, faculty and staff members, students and leaders of Mennonite Church USA who provided feedback during a six-month review process.

“President Brenneman is perceived to have a powerful, broad vision that includes making Goshen College innovative, culturally sensitive and welcoming for people of Mennonite and other faiths,” according to a summary of the committee’s report. “He effectively represents the college, ably integrating the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual elements of his vision. He articulates his vision with passion and integrity, weaving stories together into effective communication. He excels at building relationships with multiple constituencies: in one-on-one relationships, in the civic community and in the Mennonite church.

“Dr. Brenneman is perceived to embrace diversity and inclusion. He embodies the core values of Goshen College with a sense of joy and hope. He models hospitality and cultural sensitivity and is expanding the traditional boundaries of the college community. His theological background and his pastoral connections are perceived to be valuable assets as he leads the college. His commitment to Christ and the Mennonite church is evident and deeply appreciated.”

The committee also noted that Brenneman is well equipped to handle the current period of transition and the complex issues facing Goshen College.

“The long-term enrollment trends, today’s economic environment, and a vision that embraces increased diversity across multiple dimensions contribute to an agenda of critical strategic decisions. The respondents clearly affirm Dr. Brenneman’s leadership during this period,” the committee reported. “The committee also recommends that the current strategic plan be updated to refine and further clarify the strategic priorities of the college.”

College and Mennonite church leaders praised Brenneman’s leadership and expressed unwavering support for him.

“Jim has deep resolve, which is expressed in a commitment to advance the work of the college in new ways,” said Rick Stiffney of Goshen, chair of the college’s Board of Directors. “Jim has resilience, an ability to stay grounded and focused while engaging far-ranging differences of perspective. Jim brings into the board room strategic perspective and a light and humble spirit.”

James L. Rosenberger of State College, Pa., the chair of the Mennonite Education Agency Board of Directors, said he is pleased Goshen will continue to benefit from Brenneman’s talents.

“Goshen College is a vital institution for developing future leaders needed for meeting the needs of the church and the world,” Rosenberger said. “We ask the church to support Goshen College through full engagement and recommending students.”

Carlos Romero of MEA echoed Rosenberger’s comments and said the review process made clear that Brenneman enjoys strong support among Goshen’s constituents and the church.

“His leadership has been characterized by listening, strategic thinking, exploration of new possibilities, and a commitment to share the gift of Mennonite education with the church and beyond,” Romero said. “Goshen College, as well as the other Mennonite higher education institutions, continue to help build and strengthen the church, their communities and beyond. Dr. Brenneman has played and will continue to play an important leadership role in this endeavor.”

Brenneman graduated in 1977 from Goshen College, where he pursued an interdisciplinary degree, combining Bible, biology and natural science and spent a semester in Honduras through the college’s Study-Service Term international education program. He completed a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1982. At Claremont Graduate University, he earned a master of arts degree in religious studies in 1991 and a doctorate, with a focus in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament studies, in 1994.

Ordained in 1986 as a credentialed minister of Mennonite Church USA, Brenneman was the founding lead pastor of Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church, and spent 20 years there. An Old Testament scholar, he also served on the faculty of Episcopal Theological School at Claremont (Calif.), the Claremont School of Theology and Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.).He was named Goshen’s president-elect on Nov. 18, 2005 and joined the college full time on July 1, 2006.

Under Brenneman’s leadership, 997 students have graduated from Goshen College and begun careers and vocations throughout the world. In the past two years, the college has conferred its first-ever graduate degrees — a Master’s of Environmental Education and a Master’s of Science in Nursing.

Goshen College continues to be ranked in the top tier of the nation’ s liberal arts colleges. In August, Goshen was ranked in the top 4.5 percent of all U.S. colleges and universities by Forbes magazine and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). Forbes and CCAP also ranked Goshen as the seventh best Indiana college and the 113th best liberal arts college in the United States.

As president of Goshen College, Brenneman has strongly emphasized the college’s Christ-centered core values of passionate learning, servant leadership, global citizenship and compassionate peacemaking. His vision for Goshen includes it becoming more diverse, more sustainable and more known for the ways it is “healing the world, peace by peace.”

Brenneman said he hopes to work with faculty to better serve students through a stronger emphasis on integrative learning and a deep commitment to peacemaking. “We’ve begun to more clearly articulate the essence of what we are at Goshen College – healing the world, peace by peace. I can’t think of anything that more succinctly describes who we are. And I believe we can truly help heal a broken world through acts of peacemaking in all its forms.”

He helped launch the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning (CITL) in 2006 upon receiving a $12.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. CITL aims to show how small liberal arts colleges can best serve the rapidly growing Latino population in the United States.

 The center focuses on research, educational access and transforming the learning community at Goshen College.

Brenneman has built on the success of the college’s signature Study-Service Term program, which has sent more than 7,000 students and 230 faculty leaders to 22 countries since 1968. Earlier this month, the college began a domestic program to give students the opportunity to study about, serve in and be immersed in the local Latino culture for a semester in Northern Indiana. And in the fall, students will study and serve in Egypt for a semester, providing opportunities for dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Brenneman also has strengthened the college’s commitment to creation care and environmental sustainability. In 2007, Brenneman became the second Indiana college president – and the first president of a Mennonite college or university – to sign the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to reduce and eventually eliminate the college’s global warming emissions. A year later, Rieth Village, an ecological field station for undergraduate environmental study at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen College, was awarded the prestigious Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.

At the same time, Goshen College has kept tuition, room and board below levels of similar-ranked colleges. Forbes magazine and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity ranked Goshen fourth in affordability among 16 top Indiana colleges and universities and 138th on the national list of the 200 Best Value Colleges. Among similar liberal arts colleges, U.S. News & World Report ranked Goshen as 93rd for being a “least debt college,” with an average total indebtedness for the 2008 graduating class of $20,857.

Last fall, the college reported a freshmen class of 238 students, the largest for the college in 27 years. The registrar also reported a total headcount of 1,017 students, including graduate programs – the largest total headcount since 2000. Retention, which is a key measure of student satisfaction, also was high. Last fall, 85 percent of the 2008-2009 first-year students were enrolled, which marked the seventh year in a row of retention rates at or above 80 percent.

Giving to the college also continues to be strong. During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the unrestricted Goshen College Fund reached a total of $1,900,211, which is higher than the college’s three-year average. In 2007-08, this same fund reached a 15-year high of $2,119,388. Gifts to the Goshen College Fund directly support the college’s operating budget, which provides more student financial aid than the entire amount of the fund.

—Written by Richard R. Aguirre

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.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a 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.