Levi Pennington: Mentor and Follower of Christ

Someone who earns a university degree should have accumulated more knowledge than when they began. Yet, knowledge is only one aspect of the experience. Most of the community at George Fox would regard spiritual formation and character development as essential aspects of a student’s development. Both spiritual and character formation involve knowledge, but they are aspects of human development that are primarily the result of experience and practice. It is one of the reasons that the university maintains a chapel requirement, conducts Serve Day and offers numerous opportunities to engage in dialogue with mentors about important elements of life. When one earns a degree from George Fox (graduate or undergraduate), it is our hope that they are prepared for work, but as importantly, prepared to stand tall in life because of their relationship with Christ.    

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Remembering a Good Friend

It was 2007 and I had just been named as the 12th president of George Fox University. It was a time of great angst for Ruth and me. I had been a university administrator for many years but had never sat in the chief executive chair. More importantly, I had never really been involved in what we now call advancement – raising support for the university’s mission. That part of the job requires that you get to know people who have resources and help them understand why the mission is important and how they can contribute to its success. The prospect of the new work made me very nervous.

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Peace

It was an Easter morning in April, just a few weeks ago, and families were walking down the streets of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to attend Christian worship services celebrating the Resurrection. The children in Zion Church had just completed their Sunday School lessons. One young boy, John Jesuran Jayartnam, told his mother that he was going to get a drink from the fountain. A few minutes later, the first bomb exploded and she never saw him again. 

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Exceptional People

Thirty years ago, I earned my PhD in Civil War history at Texas A&M University. Although I did not attend as an undergraduate, there is something about the institution that just becomes a part of you even as a graduate student. It may be the fact that attending the university immediately qualifies you to be part of the “Aggie jokes” so common in collegiate culture. You get used to conversations that begin with, “Did you hear the one about the Aggie . . .” I think this “abuse” is what draws all Aggies together and creates a common bond.

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Inward Matters

Without the leadership of Levi Pennington and Milo Ross, it is unlikely that George Fox University would exist today. One would certainly want to acknowledge that many contributed to the mission over time, but these two leaders shaped the character and vision of the college. One can say, at the very least, that without their leadership the mission and vision of George Fox would be quite different. 

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Seeing into the Future: Adventures on a Tour of Historical Homes

Individuals who love history are naturally curious about the past. We see the present and can speculate about the future, but our primarily interest is uncovering the layers of experience sometimes covered by years of “dust and grime” that so often hide what may have really happened. The challenge is that when you see “backwards” the path to the present always seems rather clear. The reality is that when you live in the present there are many roads that may be chosen, all with different implications for the future. Living in the moment, the future almost always seems distant, and the many possible paths running in every direction fade into the forest and mist of time. The Apostle Paul was so right when he noted that, now, “We see through a glass darkly . . .”

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Remembering Roger Minthorne

Roger Minthorne was a George Fox University leader.

Except for my title as university president, Roger had just about every other leadership position and title possible at George Fox University. He helped guide and shape his alma mater for nearly three-fourths of a century.

He arrived on the campus of then-named Pacific College in the fall of 1943 and started his leadership while a student. As a junior, he was student body president in the 1945-46 school year and then the next year served as student body treasurer. He also was elected president of his senior class, the Class of 1947. These are just his “major” volunteer roles, in addition to being a religious studies major. He also found time to be advertising manager for The Crescent, the student newspaper; business manager for the L’Ami, the yearbook; and treasurer of the Student Christian Union. For all this, as a senior, he was named to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.”

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Pen Making and Change

Most everyone has heard the story of temperature change and frogs. If you place a frog in tepid water and slowly increase the temperature over time, it will simply be boiled to death without noticing the change. The funny thing is that the “story” in this case is not true scientifically. Apparently, a frog does notice when the temperature of the water changes. Nevertheless, the myth rings true to human experience, so it has been a metaphor that has been repeated thousands of times to illustrate how, in the midst of significant change, humans have a tendency to operate as if the environment remains the same!

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Unity in Death

I suppose this may sound morbid, but when I travel abroad I enjoy visiting cemeteries. It is not because I am fond of death. Rather, I am interested in how cultures honor and think about death. The graveyards of England and Ireland are replete with Christian symbols and ancient Celtic themes. The Christian cross is ever present and communicates to the visitor the importance of the sacrifice of Christ in the redemption story. The places of the dead are almost always attached to a church (until recently), and the stones and monuments are rarely in perfect condition. Weeds, grasses and vines live amongst the tombs. I find them to be uniquely spiritual places.

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Experiencing Beauty

Almost 40 years ago (it’s difficult to think it has been that long), my brother, uncle and a few friends spent the night on the rim of the Grand Canyon, then headed out at 7 a.m. on the Kaibab Trail for Phantom Ranch. We had one goal in mind: get to the bottom of the canyon and back out as fast as we could. It started out as somewhat of a team adventure, but by the time we came out it was clearly a race to the top. The first of us did the hike in under 10 hours, and we ran the last mile. I remember very little about that day except that, at the top, we were exhausted, sweaty and dirty, but there was a feeling of accomplishment. We conquered the canyon trails in under 10 hours! What we did not do is get a sense of the grandeur of the space we had just traversed.

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