The flags of 55 countries now hang in “The Orie O. Miller Hall of Nations,” dedicated during a chapel service at the University Commons at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) on April 8, 2016.
Among the countries represented are those where EMU has sent cross-cultural groups; where alumni, faculty, and staff live; and where students come from.
The concept of the hall was developed by Lee M. Yoder, chair of The Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society and a former vice president and professor of education at EMU from 1975-1986.
The hall “gives visibility to the global context in which we teach and work,” Yoder said during opening ceremonies. “These national flags serve to welcome those learners who come to this campus to study and to enrich our lives. The national flags serve also to demonstrate the global destinations of EMU students in their pursuits of a distinctive, life-changing cross-cultural program which is central to the core values of this university.”
The hall is named after Orie O. Miller, a Mennonite leader in the United States who led missions to other nations and was instrumental in the formation of many Mennonite institutions, including Mennonite Central Committee, that led Mennonites to serve in a global context.
Miller was also an important influence in Mennonite education. “Programs such as EMU’s cross cultural seminars, services for international students, visiting scholars programs, mission and service trips, as well as many graduate programs, including the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding were directly influenced through the work of Orie Miller through Mennonite Central Committee and Eastern Mennonite Missions,” said Professor Gloria Rhodes, chair of the Department of Applied Social Sciences, who provided the welcome for the service.
After opening words from Yoder, Edgar Stoesz shared memories of working with Miller. A Minnesota native, Stoesz worked more than 30 years with Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pennsylvania, in various leadership capacities.
Several students shared their thoughts on what the hall means for the university.
“I think EMU is very globally minded,” said sophomore Hannah Shultz. “This would be another representation of that, that’s very visible, very clear, right as a prospective student comes in. I think it will also bring life to the place, to have all that color and the flags.”
First-year Sebastian Rivas, a student from Colombia, felt similarly. “Right now this is very important to see, at least to remember, who we are,” explained Rivas. He said, “We as children of God and as Mennonites need to be together despite the borders, despite the conflicts that we’re seeing right now, because right now is the moment that we most need love.”
Faculty, staff, students, and the broader community have been invited to sponsor a flag of their choice for $90. The goal is to reach 100 flags. Those interested in sponsoring a flag can click here for an online form.
The inauguration of the hall was a part of the EMU leadership conference, “Leading into the Common Good: An Anabaptist Perspective,” which brought several hundred particpants to campus over a three-day period to hear speakers such as Brian Welch, founder of Mother Earth News, and organizational leadership innovator Peter Block.
Portions of this article were reprinted from the April 1, 2016, issue of The Weather Vane.