A place called Goshen
By President Shirley H. Showalter
“I’m going home the old way with a light hand
on the reins making the long approach.”
— Maxine Kumin in The Long Approach
There are at least nine towns or cities named Goshen in the
United States. Most of them, if not all of them, are smaller
than Goshen, Ind. They were named, in the biblically literate
19th century, for the place of plenty in Egypt where Joseph
the dreamer presided over Pharaoh’s wealth. The settlers who
named these Goshens were hoping to create similar places of
There is only one Goshen College. Formerly the Elkhart
Institute of Science, Industry and the Arts, the college came to
Goshen after school leaders accepted the offer of a $10,000 loan
to secure the site where the Administration, Kulp, Westlawn,
Coffman and Science buildings now stand. The groundbreaking
took place on June 2, 1903. The college had moved from an
entrepreneurial vocational school owned by shareholders in
Elkhart to a church-owned, town-supported, liberal arts college.
One hundred years later, the description still holds, but what
was once a campus of less than 50 acres is now 135 acres with
18 major buildings. In 2003, there are more than 19,500 living
alumni – one-fourth of whom are residing, raising families,
working and worshipping right here in Elkhart County.
The novelist Frederick Buechner, in a book called Longing for
Home, speaks of the meaning of home as two-fold: the one we
remember and the one we dream. Home represents not only our
point of origin but our destination.
Yet our dreams of home are flooded with the challenges of
daily life. There are times when being true to ourselves means
coming into conflict with others who call this place home. Antiwar
protests, vigils, candlelight services, letters to newspaper
editors, poetry readings and hymn sings, in which many
students and faculty have participated, are part of who we are.
Such actions are not always welcome in this place. Wartime
also presents an opportunity, however, to build bridges across
the various theological and political differences on campus and
throughout the community, the country and even the world. If
you watched “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” on April
you saw a segment about how campus members and community
residents have worked to communicate their vastly different
convictions about war and how we have sometimes discovered
common ground. With our neighbors, we acknowledge mutual
understanding of deeply held values: Christian faith, love of
family, willingness to sacrifice and disciplined living. “Here
place, dying and living,” says the first hymn in the Worship
“we are each other’s bread and wine.”
I see a future for Goshen College tied even more intimately
to the people and city of Goshen. We are participating in
an exciting review of our region called The Horizon Project.
Several hundred community leaders have offered their ideas
about the best future of Elkhart County. Both the arts and
entrepreneurship have been cited as strengths to build on, and
social challenges have been described. It seems that “Culture
for Service” is more needed than ever. And GC, as part of
Mennonite Church USA in the great stream of liberal arts
education, will connect to the needs and opportunities right
here in this place, even as we continue to attract students from
and send students to other places all over the world.
Goshen – land of plenty and land of longing, land of
contradictions big enough to challenge us – you are our home.
We are not only Goshen College, we are also Goshen’s college.
You are the anchor that allows us to travel to the far horizon
and to bring students from far and wide as your neighbors.
Your rich, dark soil nurtures us. Your children are our children.
We work alongside one another. We look to you in areas of
governance, security, commerce, the arts, recreation, civic life;
our partnerships are many. We accepted your invitation in the
beginning; now we continue to receive your hospitality even as
we open our arms wider to welcome you.
The venerable wrought iron gate at the end of Eighth Street
will soon be covered with the climbing purple morning glory
vine. A college named Goshen, like a town named Goshen,
needs both the strength of the iron and the beauty of the
morning glory. We also need each other as we move forward
together in another century.