Loren and Pat Swartzendruber talk to Daily News-Record
reporter following the presidential announcement.
Celebrating the appointment (l. to r.): Rosalind E. Andreas,
MEA board chair; Loren and Pat Swartzendruber; Carlos Romero, MEA executive
secretary; Sheryl K. Wyse, EMU trustee chair.
Beryl H. Brubaker, EMU academic provost, will be acting
president for a six-month interim (July-December 2003) until Loren Swartzendruber
takes office in January, 2004.
Swartzendruber Sees Presidency as
Opportunity to Serve
from Loren Swartzendrubers acceptance
EMU chapel, February 12, 2003
Chairman Andreas of the Mennonite Education Agency and
Chairman Wyse of the EMU Board of Trustees, I am both honored and humbled
to accept this responsibility as president of EMU.
It has been my privilege to have known each of the past
four presidents John R. Mumaw, Myron Augsburger, Richard Detweiler
and Joseph Lapp. President Mumaw was retired from the presidency when
first met him as a homiletics professor in the seminary. I shall never
forget a pointed debate in one of those preaching classes. Professor Mumaw
believed that the preacher should always deliver a homily from a complete,
written text. And he taught us to prepare a text he was not keen
on preaching from notes only. One o f my fellow students, coming from
a charismatic tradition, challenged Brother Mumaw on this particular day.
"After all," he said, "I just depend on the Holy Spirit
to tell me what to say when I am in the pulpit." And Prof. Mumaws
kind but firm response was, "Herb, the Holy Spirit is just as present
in the study as in the pulpit!" Herb had no immediate response!
Dr. Augsburger was president when I first entered college
her in the fall of 68. His hair was thicker and blacker in those
days, and we always enjoyed coming to chapel to hear him speak. Later,
I had the wonderful privilege of traveling with him for week long
preaching missions all over the country, and I count him a personal friend
and mentor. Myron modeled for me that it is possible to articulate the
Gospel from the foundation of a particular theological tradition , in
our case Anabaptist, while being respectful of those whose roots go deep
in other traditions. Like Myron, I enjoy pancakes and ice cream; unlike
him I dont enjoy them together for breakfast!
Richard Detweiler came to EMS as a visiting professor
in the mid 70s and I took systematic theology from him. Later, as
a young pastor in his home area of eastern Pennsylvania, I needed to take
three courses to finish my M.Div. work. Two were at Eastern Baptist Theological
Seminary, missiology with Tony Campolo and Liberation Theology with Ron
Sider. The third was an independent study with Richard. We met several
times a month over lunch to discuss readings and issues of pastoral theology.
His wise and calm demeanor was a healthy antidote to my inexperience and
impatience. He even had the nerve to ask me if he should accept
the call to serve as president of EMU!
During those same years I met Joe Lapp as an attorney.
He offered wise counsel on several occasions for legal issues I was facing
as a pastor. For the past 16 years we have participated in the meetings
of Mennonite college/university presidents, and Joes experience,
love of this institution, and commitment to the church has always been
evident. I want to say publicly that Joe and Hannah have extended their
friendship to Pat and me for many years, and during these transition discussions
they have been warm, gracious and superb models of professionalism.
As I prepare for this new role I do so with a keen awareness
that I stand on the shoulders of these predecessors. They and their spouses
have given so much of themselves to make this the strong and vibrant institution
that it is today. Only another college president can fully appreciate
the personal and family sacrifices that they have made over the years.
Pat and I are grateful that Myron and Esther, and Joe and Hannah will
continue to reside in this community and that we have a relationship with
them which will allow us the benefit of their wisdom and friendship.
EMU is a dynamic institution. As parents of soon-to-be
three university graduates, we are indebted to the faculty and staff of
EMU for your academic excellence, your skills as professors, and for your
personal interest in all students. We parents are sometimes entirely too
invested in the lives of our children, even into their young adult years.
I know it takes considerable wisdom and patience to find your way between
the need to challenge our students and not to set up unnecessary barriers
between parents and students. I applaud you for your finesse in that regard,
at least in our familys experience.
To the current and future students of EMU you should
know that I am most interested in you as unique individuals, each endowed
with special gifts and abilities. It is our privilege to be engaged in
assisting you to uncover those talents, to fan the fires of your intellectual
and spiritual capacities, to walk with you in dreaming big. I think Sir
William Haley was right, "Education would be so much more effective
if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school, every
student would know how much they dont know, and be imbued with a
lifelong desire to know it."
But education is about much more than gaining a certain
level of knowledge. In the somewhat humorous words of Lord Shaftesbury,
"When you educate people without giving them moral principles, all
you produce is clever devils."
To the EMU board of trustees and the Mennonite Education
Agency, I accept this leadership responsibility only with the awareness
that we share a common commitment to make this the strongest institution
it can be in service to the church and the world. As I said in response
to a question during our campus visit several weeks ago, I have not felt
called to serve as a college president, so much as I have sensed a call
to offer my gifts in service to the church. For many years, it has been
evident to me that our church schools, from kindergarten through seminary/graduate
programs, are critical for the future health of the church. We who are
called to offer our gifts in education participate in a holy enterprise.
Today we live in a very tense time. Someone recently
wrote, "We are living in a world in which if we are not confused
we probably arent thinking clearly." Our country is poised
for a war a war that that would devastate an entire nation and,
no doubt, bring unimaginable misery and grief to people on all sides of
the conflict. A war that would almost certainly not reduce the level of
hatred that is already focused on us in the U.S. We should not underestimate
what a university like EMU can offer during these days. I invite us all
to be a people of prayer and of action. EMU can, indeed, be a beacon of
light even in a very dark world.
Finally, I make very few promises for the future, and
I make only those over which I have reason to believe I control. One promise
I do make is to act with utmost integrity to the best of my ability.
A second promise to not take myself too seriously,
while taking my responsibilities very seriously. Pat and I invite your
prayers on behalf of all of us as we begin a new journey together.
A third promise to do my best to cultivate a community
that knows great joy and hears much laughter. Because if we cant
laugh together, we wont be able to cry together. And without both,
we really arent a community.
Posted: February 13, 2003