The end is the beginning: The Goshen College Difference
By President Shirley H. Showalter
One of the many pleasures of my work is listening to people tell
me how Goshen College makes a difference in the world. One such
story came to me from Elizabeth Walker, a local resident who graduated
from DePauw University. Elizabeths husband Max was a member
of the Goshen College Advisory Board in the 1980s. During Maxs
illness at the end of his life, Elizabeth got to know a lot of medical
staff of Elkhart General Hospital. She especially appreciated the
nurses and noticed that a few of them were particularly friendly,
competent, compassionate and efficient all at once. She began
to play a secret game. As she got to know each one, she tried to
guess where they had gotten their training. The best ones, she said,
had true character, and all of them had graduated from Goshen College.
It makes a big difference, Elizabeth said, to
be truly cared for.
When I talk with principals of both public and church schools in
our region and around the country, they tell me how much they want
to recruit and retain teachers from our education department. They
mention qualities like dedication, commitment, high standards and
deep concern for the individual students mind, heart and spirit.
In January we held a special memorial service for Mary Royer, one
of the stalwarts of the education department, who died on Nov. 28,
2001. Gathered in the Koinonia Room of the Church-Chapel were many
colleagues and several generations of former students all giving
testimony to a pioneering woman professor who made a mark on the
college, her professional peers outside the college, the church,
and, through her students, the whole world. When a program is shaped
by people of character, perception and depth, it retains that shape
and draws others into it. Faculty teaching today are keeping the
tradition and the faith. They seek and find excellence. The legacy
of difference is strong.
I hear the same about social work and business, our other professional
programs. Beyond those alumni, there are hundreds of doctors, scores
of lawyers, social activists, accountants, homemakers, volunteers,
ministers and missionaries. There are professors, almost 600 of
these since 1925! That number places Goshen College at number 75
among the 250 best liberal arts colleges in the country right
after Sarah Lawrence College. I believe Goshen graduates excel in
graduate school because they have witnessed in their own professors
the highest levels of what historian Jean LeClerq has called the
love of learning and the desire for God.
When we try to describe in our publications the Goshen College points
of difference from other liberal arts colleges and other Christian
colleges, we use words like social justice or reconciliation,
international education and service. We
include all of these in our understanding of excellence.
From where does the Goshen College difference come? It comes from
an education centered on the best of the liberal arts and on Jesus
Christ, the one in whom all things hold together. Most particularly,
the difference is the fruit of the Spirit as evidenced in our best
selves awakened by a transformation of our minds and hearts. This
kind of education cannot be injected. It happens gradually rather
than suddenly. It grows out of deep encounters with difference on
the Study-Service Term or on campus. It responds to loving challenge.
It deepens rather than hardens with age.
We recently invited retired faculty, current faculty, staff and
students to a two-hour all-campus celebration of mission. Student
Senate President Sasha Dyck later told me, It was great to
look around at all those people with gray hair. All I could think
was the college is in so many good hands. It felt good
to know how many people cared.
A staff member spoke of how moved she was to enter the full fellowship
hall as the community sang songs. How many other colleges
in America gather everyone up? she wondered. And how
many of them come together with song? Interim director of
admissions (and program director of our new music building) Brian
Wiebe, describes this difference from his perspective as a Christian,
a musician and an educator: We want our students to live out
the mission. We want them to be different. We want to put a song
in each ones heart. And then we want other people to experience
joy as our graduates enter the world ever singing.