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.
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.
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.
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
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 . . .”
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.”
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
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.
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.
My wife received a text from my daughter Tara: “You would be proud of Dad today. He was adaptable.” Of course, Tara did not send this text to me, and the only reason I saw it was because my wife chose to share it with me. Interesting. My first reaction was to think, “So I am not usually adaptable? What was so unique about this day? Which day is she talking about?!”