What matters most: The tree of life that is Goshen College


The story that is Goshen College has always contained within it the narrative seeds of the vision described in Scripture: a “tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit … with leaves for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Not one, not two, not six, but 12 kinds of fruit. All on one tree. Truly it is a tree of life!

In our early sapling years, the fruit of our alma mater was largely one or two kinds, predominantly first- or second-generation Mennonite college students with similar gene pools and common cultural experiences. Goshen College was, indeed, an amazing, rich, nourishing tree of life for many students, as it is now, many generations later.

But even then, we were not satisfied or complete because, as the Harlem Renaissance poet Eugenia W. Collier wrote, “there were buds that could not bloom at all/ In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall.” We would wait, knowing it could be better. And each new generation, each new era, every new group of students, faculty and leaders would nurture the vision. And so it would be the spiritual destiny of Goshen College, to bear more and varied kinds of fruit.

It has been a joy seeing the fruition of years of labor, especially in recent years as we have added to our rich tree. Our international and intercultural student population has almost doubled to 28 percent of the student body. Our Latino student population in particular has nearly tripled over the last eight years and is now 15 percent of the student body. If the fastest growing segment of high school graduates in the next 20 years is going to be from the Latino community, the college has positioned itself to be the best college in our region and beyond for these students to call home too. Deep systemic changes have been made in our curriculum, human resource training, in admissions, financial aid, student life, bridge programs, family orientation programs, all to nurture this life giving fruitful tree.

Our tree is only 120 years old, and in God’s time, the best of our fruit-bearing years still lie ahead of us. A Goshen College that bears not just one, not two, not six, but 12 kinds of fruit, stands better prepared to bring “healing to the nations” and to reconcile gaps in our understanding of each other than ever before. In so doing, we embody the tree of life right here, right now, on the banks of the Elkhart River.

– Dr. James E. Brenneman, President of Goshen College