the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Strength in transition for our future:
Goshen's challenge and opportunity

Virgil Miller, chair
Goshen College Board of Directors

Greetings from the Goshen College Board of Directors. As many of you know – from visiting the Goshen College Web site, reading Goshen-area newspapers or national Mennonite publications or hearing the news by word of mouth – I announced on Aug. 2 that Shirley Showalter has resigned as president of Goshen College. She has accepted a position with Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Mich.

I have had numerous occasions in the past number of weeks to say that this transition presents us with both challenge and opportunity. This is a time in the history of the college to reflect on the institution’s past that has brought us 110 years into a vision for Mennonite higher education. We will fully embrace the core values that have always been with the college, now newly articulated, and use these defining beliefs – Christ-centered passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – to plan for the future and seek out a new leader who may even now be sensing God’s call to a new journey with Goshen College.

Upon receiving President Showalter’s letter of resignation, the Goshen College Board of Directors met by conference call and charged its Executive Committee – which includes Board Vice-Chair Rick Stiffney, Board Secretary Elvin Kraybill and myself – to begin working with Carlos Romero, executive director of Mennonite Education Agency, at initiating several immediate aspects of a transition plan.

The Executive Committee met with the college’s President’s Council to define issues that will affect short- and long-term planning. One measure of a good leader is to consider the strength of people they have appointed to their team, and I am very confident in the abilities of GC’s vice presidents to continue their excellent work serving the college – from day-to-day budgeting to academic affairs, overseeing residence hall construction to leading the next step in the Advancing Goshen College strategic planning process.

In the past number of weeks, I have talked with many people who love Goshen College. Many people expressed the feeling that they have come to know President Showalter well in the past nearly eight years. She feels this is the right time for her to be challenged by new opportunities, and she wishes the same for Goshen College. I hope you will find appropriate moments to express your good wishes to Shirley.

There will be time to formally honor her – to recognize the accomplishments of her administration, to recognize her as an articulate spokesperson for Mennonite higher education and to thank her for her sharing her many gifts with Goshen College over the years. One event for the community is a special extended chapel service scheduled for Sept. 20 in the Music Center; President Showalter will give farewell remarks.

With the Board of Directors having authorized the Executive Committee to develop an interim leadership structure and to appoint an interim president, the Board met on Aug. 18 and expressed support for John Yordy as interim president. Many of you know John as provost in the Showalter administration, and others of you remember him as a dedicated professor of chemistry. I have learned to know him as an exceptional administrator who is well respected on campus and in the church for not only his skills but also his strength of character. He is deeply committed to Goshen College and its Christian mission in education. I am very pleased that he has accepted this responsibility.

At our Aug.18 meeting, the Board also spent time thinking strategically about the college’s future, and how that influences the choice of a future president. We will also be working at naming a presidential search committee and defining the process that committee will use for the selection of the new president.

The search committee will solicit input from many sources – including faculty and staff, students, alumni, church and community leaders and others invested in the future of the college in considering the character and qualities for the next president. You will hear more about the work of this committee as these processes are defined and the committee begins its work.

Organizations are essentially shaped by its members, so this is a time of mixed emotions. We wish to express our gratitude to President Showalter for her service to Goshen College, and to wish her well and to say good-bye to her as a leader, colleague, teacher and friend.

We are also thinking forward to possibilities for the future – to building on established foundations and considering new opportunities. Goshen College has been blessed with incredible people, in the past and present, and we will seek future leaders whose gifts and skills will enhance the institution and who feel called to join with the campus community and move it forward.

I am continually appreciative of GC’s faculty and staff, who are faithful to its core values as they work to best serve students and their families, alumni, the community and the church. They know that Goshen College’s distinctiveness lies in its roots, and that strengths there are pointing to a positive future – because we have something special to offer to the world, especially in the internationally connected complex global circumstances of today.

This is a time of challenge, as well as a time of opportunity. We need your prayers and your thoughts, your understanding and your counsel as we move forward together. Let us all seek God’s will for this community of faith and learning.

Virgil Miller has served on the Goshen College Board of Directors since 1998. and became board chair in 2000. A resident of Archbold, Ohio, he is president of Sauder Manufacturing Company and a member of Zion Mennonite Church.