The end is the beginning: Being born again at Goshen College
By President Shirley H. Showalter
Like many readers of this publication, I fell in love with Goshen
College because I was surrounded by great professors by intellectual
and spiritual giants. When I was a new faculty member, I listened
to J. Lawrence Burkholder in chapel and convocation every chance
I could. I would leave the circular sanctuary of the Church-Chapel
tingling with excitement. The senior professors debated in faculty
meeting or in the snack shop, and we junior instructors would follow
suit. The subject might be lofty or trivial, the voices agreeing
or disagreeing, but no one could say they lacked passion, energy,
intelligence or commitment.
Sometimes alumni today ask, Who are the giants now?
Usually they name their favorite professor who is no longer with
us. They wonder who the new Harold or Elizabeth Bender
or Sara K. Hartzler or Frank Bishop or Walter Yoder or Roy Umble
or John Oyer or Atlee Beechy or J. C. Wenger or Carl Kreider is.
The list is much longer than this one, but the message is the same
regardless of the name.
We have not tried to template or clone these professors. Why? We
dont need to. Who needs imitations or resuscitation when we
have the legacy of a great cloud of witnesses? We need to tell the
stories of our giants gone before, read their books and listen to
their students talk about how one sentence, one gesture, one kind
or challenging word from one of these great teachers changed their
What other ways can we produce more giants? We must hire new professors
with great care, nurture them through mentoring and support for
both teaching and research, encourage their active involvement in
local congregations and in conversations in the church and continue
to live out the legacy bequeathed to us. Such resources require
financial support. We rely on alumni and friends to supply it. When
Carl Kreider read over the list of new faculty and their credentials
several years ago, he sent an approving letter, telling us that
we are keeping the tradition of excellence he strove to foster.
High praise. As you read this issue of the Bulletin
, I hope
you experience that same sense of joyful approval.
However, a legacy of excellence can be experienced as burden rather
than joy. I am often painfully aware of the fact that I sit in an
office where giants once strode. Others stand in the lecture hall
aware of the same high standards set long ago. Such awareness should
not paralyze us; it should electrify us. With Gods help, it
can. Gandhi is often credited with the idea that we must become
the thing we seek to find. Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline
talks about the transformation inside the leader first of all before
transformation is possible in any organization. Jesus, of course,
said it also. His message to Nicodemus, ye must be born again,
is followed in Johns gospel by these beautiful words: the
wind bloweth where it listeth and thou hearest the sound thereof,
but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth: so is
every one that is born of the Spirit.
People sometimes ask me, How can I pray for you and for the
college? My answer is this: Please pray that we may
have intellectual and spiritual life and that we may have it more
abundantly. Please pray that, like those who went before us, we
will be born again.
As I read Jesus admonition to be born again, I do not think
of it as a once and done experience anymore than the wind
listeth once and then stops. Instead, I think of Maya
Angelous answer to the question, Are you born again?
Her answer was an unapologetic yes. She added, however,
Ive been born again and again and again. Her many
autobiographies testify to the way that wisdom develops, sometimes
through moments of epiphany we call conversion, sometimes through
rigorous study, sometimes through worship, sometimes through great
sorrow, sometimes by knowing a great professor and falling in love
with a great college.
How grateful I am to have known all of the above. If you share this
joy, I hope you will encourage, through prayers, words, letters,
and gifts, our current Goshen College professors to continue in
the great tradition.