EMU President ‘Called’ to Second Term

Beth Aracena and Brian Martin Burkholder respond to the announcement that Loren Swartzendruber has accepted appointment to a second term
Beth Aracena, associate dean for curriculum, and Brian Martin Burkholder (r.) campus pastor, respond to the announcement that Loren Swartzendruber has accepted the appointment to a second four-year presidential term. Photo by Jim Bishop

The president of Eastern Mennonite University was about to give a welcoming address at the opening convocation of second semester Wednesday morning, Jan. 10.

But before that happened, the chair of the EMU board of trustees, Susan E. Godshall, came to the podium and gave Loren Swartzendruber an official “call” to a second four-year term of office. That term will begin July 1, 2007.

“I’m pleased to announce that Loren Swartzendruber has accepted reappointment to a second term as EMU president,” Godshall told the assembly. “We are grateful for his leadership and vision, for his deep commitment to God, the church and Anabaptist understandings, for his effective relationships within the EMU community and with a wide constituency off campus, for his advocacy of EMU and Mennonite education, for his leadership in finance and fundraising, for his collaborative approach to work and for his sense of humor to lighten the load,” she said.

“Loren, may God, who has called you to this task, provide you with joy and strength in it,” Godshall added, as the audience gave an ovation.

Strong Affirmation at Review

The EMU trustees and the board of directors of Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) formed a presidential review committee last spring in the third year of Swartzendruber’s first term. Drawing from some 184 responses from across the church, the committee reported strong affirmation for the president’s leadership.

Swartzendruber became EMU’s eighth president on Jan. 1, 2004 and was inaugurated on Mar. 27 that year. Before that, he served 10 years as president of Hesston College, a two-year Mennonite school in Hesston, Kan.

The Kalona, Iowa, native earned a bachelor of arts degree in liberal arts at EMU in 1976 and served as an associate director of admissions at EMU and par-time associate campus pastor. He received a master of divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1979 and a doctor of ministry degree in church leadership in 2000 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ordained to the Christian ministry in 1975, he was pastor of Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, Pa., 1978-83, then served 10 years as associate executive secretary of the former Mennonite Board of Education, now Mennonite Education Agency.

Swartzendruber focused his convocation remarks on the words of Micah 6:8, which appears in the university’s mission statement.

‘Right Living’ Includes Worship

“Micah’s call to ‘walk humbly with God’ is consistent with other Old Testament texts and with the words of Jesus and others in the New Testament,” he said. “It’s impossible to segregate authentic worship from faithful living. It’s also the reality that ‘right living’ – doing justice, loving mercy – cannot long be sustained without engaging in acts of worship.

“At EMU, we dare to declare that the purpose of this education is to equip every graduate to serve others,” Swartzendruber stated. “The essential question that should dominate our inquiry and our interactions with others is not, ‘who am I”?, important as that is in the maturation process.

“The more transformative questions are, ‘Who is God and what is God calling me – and us – to be?'”

Brian Martin Burkholder, campus pastor, leads a prayer for the EMU cross-cultural groups
Brian Martin Burkholder, campus pastor, leads a prayer for the EMU cross-cultural groups who will spend second semester in study seminars in India and Guatemala and Mexico. Photo by Jim Bishop

The president noted that commencement is less than four months away, and that many in the audience will receive an undergraduate or graduate degree from the university on that special occasion.

“From there, you will scatter across the globe, not as completed, fully formed seekers of God, but to join the nearly 16,000 other alumni as people on a journey – to continue walking humbly with God,” Swartzendruber said.

The convocation ended with a prayer of commissioning for two student groups who will leave campus later this week for semester-long cross-cultural study programs. Kim G. Brenneman, associate professor of psychology, and husband Bob Brenneman are leading 24 students to India. Don Clymer, assistant professor in the language and literature department, and wife Esther Clymer are leading 20 students to Guatemala and Mexico.