Sometimes we get surprised by joy–by the growth of seeds we planted but did not cultivate.
On August 18, 2010, I was asked to attend a tea commemorating the beginning of the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society at Eastern Mennonite University, my alma mater. Apparently, in 1994, when I gave a speech at EMU (“Renewal from Within: Transformation in Higher Education”), I recommended that senior professors enter a new role in the academy–“senior fellows” at newly-established academic centers designed for this purpose. I delivered the speech just two weeks after publishing an article advocating the idea in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I remember writing the article, but I did not remember including the recommendation in my speech. That was the seed I dropped while engaging with the audience.
In the intervening sixteen years, EMU designed just such a center which is now flourishing. I encourage you to check the link above which outlines many roles the ACRS “senior fellows” play.
One important role of ACRS is mentoring. On August 18 I was moved to be in the presence of many of my own mentors–Catherine Mumaw taught the fine arts class which started me and many other students on a life-long path of art appreciation. Jay Landis taught me public speaking, a skill I used when I returned home to speak at EMU. Myron Augsburger was the college president who imprinted upon me the importance of spiritual and intellectual leadership in an academic community, an image that unconsciously formed my own presidential years at Goshen College, 1996-2004. And the current EMU president, my friend and colleague, Loren Swartzendruber took time from his busy schedule to attend the tea.
All I could do was say “thank you” to them and to the other faculty members who comprise the ACRS. A more dedicated group of people I have not met in all my travels in this country and abroad. Special thanks to Ray Gingerich, Cal Redekop, Vernon Jantzi, and Roman Miller, who planned the event. Robert and Nancy Lee edited the books I was given. Here’s a slide show of some photos taken by Ray Gingerich.
A second, but equally thrilling delight, was that the ACRS chose memoir as one of their most important methods of creating identity for the Center. The two volumes of memoir published by Cascadia Press carry the logo not only of the university but also of the Center.
So, as I was developing my own interest in memoir as represented in this blog, the ACRS was stimulating the writing of 32 short memoirs collected in two volumes. I will review these volumes in a future post.
As the country begins a new school year, the eyes of students and teachers shine with hope. For a few days or weeks, at least, the love of learning seems to be reignited in everyone. If you have a chance, hug some of those students and teachers. And give them some sharp pencils and smooth-flowing pens. You will never know where your influence stops. And they will never know where theirs stops either.