Surrounded by faculty, staff and presidents emerita, Eastern Mennonite University President Susan Schultz Huxman speaks during today's convocation in Lehman Auditorium. (Photos by Jon Styer)

EMU ushers in centennial year with fall convocation

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) celebrated its centennial year convocation Wednesday at Lehman Auditorium on Wednesday. President Susan Schultz Huxman offered the keynote address, with three presidents emeriti seated with faculty and staff on the stage.

Representing more than 50 years of leadership were Myron Augsburger and wife Esther, Joe Lapp and wife Hannah, Loren Swartzendruber and wife Pat, and former interim president and provost Beryl Brubaker and husband Mark.

Presidents emerita (from left) Joe Lapp, Loren Swartzendruber and Myron Augsburger celebrate with President Susan Schultz Huxman following Eastern Mennonite University’s centennial year convocation.

Louise Hostetter, chair of the Centennial Committee, offered a prayer for the coming year, in part recalling the founders of the university and the many generations of educational leaders who have contributed to EMU’s legacy: “We are thankful for all who have gone before us, and have for the past 100 years, helped build the foundations of academic excellence, made holy by years of faithful discipleship. We are grateful for those who have made it possible for us to be here today, through prayer, encouragement, and mentoring. May we also embody the values of the servants and leaders who have walked this campus before us and with us. May we never forget them.”

Centennial history may have been foremost in many minds, but student body co-presidents Caleb Schrock-Hurst and Adam Harnish gave a special nod to their fellow students.

“For 100 years, students have been coming here, but you are the first ones to arrive at this time in this place,” Schrock-Hurst said. “Before we’re swamped by homework, before practices become games, before we don’t have the time to think about why we’re here, let’s take a moment to reflect. We are here to embody Jesus’ spirit in the world, and that is a task that should not be forgotten no matter how fun any weekend may be. We have a difficult task, but it is one we can take on with joy, and we are excited to do that with you all.”

In his welcome, Provost Fred Kniss acknowledged the recent events in Charlottesville and asserted the university’s imperative role as a place where even in debate and conflict, “every person is treated with dignity and respect.”

“EMU is a place where each of us brings our own personal history and perspective to bear on the most confounding questions of the day,” he said. “But as a university, we offer an alternative to the anger and violence that seem to mar so much of our society’s public conversation these days.”

As she’s been in office since January and was inaugurated in April, this was Huxman’s first opportunity to welcome a new class of first-year students to EMU — the first group of students who will spend all four of their years on campus in EMU’s second century.

She offered two parallel narratives, the first based on the popular children’s book The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, about a little boy with great faith that his carrot seed would sprout.

A second narrative highlighted the “radical roots” of EMU’s founders, who believed in the institution and persevered, despite great odds, in its founding and eventual flourishing. From seven students, five faculty, and three subjects of study in 1917, the university has expanded to nearly 1,800 students in undergraduate and graduate programs,148 faculty, 40 majors, and two additional instructional sites in Lancaster and Washington D.C.

After the final hymn, students traveling on cross-cultural during the semester were invited to the front for a prayer and blessing, as happens during each fall and spring convocation. This time, it was the Middle East cross-cultural group, led by Bill Goldberg and Lisa Schirch, which leaves tomorrow — the 25th semester program to the region since 1982.

Interim cross-cultural program director Ann Hershberger said that these students were about “to go on a physical journey, a spiritual journey, an intellectual journey, and an emotional journey. They go representing us.”