the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Photo of Shirley H. ShowalterThe joy of journey

by President Shirley H. Showalter
Editor’s note: Since 1997, we have enjoyed the stories, creativity, questions, reflections, wisdom and call to action in the columns written by President Shirley H. Showalter for the Bulletin. This is the final column that President Showalter will pen, and while we look forward to the energy to come with words from an interim president and, ultimately, a new leader for Goshen College, we retire “The End is the Beginning” with thankfulness for a gifted writer in our former English professor-turned-president. Farewell, President Showalter, with warmest wishes and hopes for future opportunities to hear from you.

This summer brought with it a new form of adventure. Our household expanded to include not just one college student, our daughter Kate, but also Ashley, Sara and Katie –? three other Goshen College seniors – and more who just “hung out.” Going home in the evenings was fun. We never knew who might be mowing the grass or who might be cooking. We could count on laughter and intense conversation in the kitchen. We also enjoyed spontaneous events like trips to the Warren Dunes and to The Chief for ice cream.

Nothing in education is more exciting than experiencing firsthand the love that students have for each other, for learning, for faculty and for the values of the college. (One of our “summer daughters” looked at the Nalgene water bottle with the Goshen logo and core values printed on it and said, “I am glad Goshen did not sell out.” I’m still thinking about her comment.)

These students have one more year on campus before they launch the next stage on their journeys. They have some anxiety about leaving college, partly because they have experienced so much joy here and partly because the journey ahead is not clear yet. They must risk the unknown. They are like Ulysses’ son Telemachus in The Odyssey – long on potential and short on experience. Soon they will begin the hero’s journey into the “wine-dark sea.” Like nearly 20,000 other GC graduates, they will find their way, and we will love them all through life.

Years from now when they are alumni, they will become “seniors” in a new sense of that word. We hope they will be just as excited about the campus then as current senior alumni are. (One 80-something graduate recently looked at the plans for new apartments on campus and asked, “When can I move in?”) Goshen College is fortunate to have hundreds of these seniors living close by. Some have returned after a long career in other places, often other lands. This spring we had a two-week visit from 13 Japanese retirees who came with an enthusiastic love of culture, peace, service – and of their Goshen host families. The program was initiated by Joe Richards and led by retired faculty member Wilbur Birky. The Greencroft retirement community with its geographical proximity to the college has attracted many retirees back to Goshen.

These seniors are also full of life. They populate our Ambassadors program of volunteers. They pray, plant, weed, mow, drive, greet, mail and mentor. They share their wisdom, and they share their resources. They give regularly to the Goshen College Fund, often attaching notes saying they wish they could give more but they are paying more for medications or some other expense. With their help and thousands of other donors, the Goshen College Fund this year was the highest it has ever been without the aid of a special bequest or matching funds!

These seniors are more like Ulysses than Telemachus. They are the ones Alfred Lord Tenneyson envisioned in his famous poem “Ulysses.” They do not cease from travel. They “drink life to the lees.” They reflect and find that,
. . . all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
They refuse to “pause, to make an end,/ To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!”

During Homecoming Weekend we will honor three of our finest alumni examples of Culture for Service (read their stories in the feature pages of the Bulletin), but there are thousands more. As their physical abilities diminish, their spiritual eyes and ears grow sharper. One of them, Laurence Horst, sent not one but two cards with his annual gift this year. He signed one of them, “On my joyful journey home.”

That signature tells the whole story. It is the story of those who are ending the journey and the story of those just beginning. We journey together, and the joy is as much in the journey as it is in the destination – home