My first few months as Whitworth's new president have been nothing short of amazing -- amazingly exciting, amazingly busy, amazingly humbling. I have tried to use my first days of service to this great university to reach out to all of Whitworth's diverse constituencies, including students, staff and faculty, alumni, trustees, donors, parents, community members and friends. My travels have taken me across The Loop, across Spokane and the Inland Northwest, across the great state of Washington, and to groups of Whitworth supporters in Colorado, Oregon, Texas, California and Idaho. These opportunities to meet with the "heart and soul" of Whitworth have only confirmed my initial impressions that this is a very special place.
The more I learn of Whitworth's strengths and opportunities, as well as its challenges, the more excited I become. A careful reading of Whitworth's history (both the official one published recently by Dale Soden and the one reflected so clearly in the lives of our students, staff and faculty) yields the conclusion that God has continuously blessed this community and honored its enduring mission of providing the best mind-and-heart education to its students. Even in times of great need, God's graciousness has been evident in the life of the institution. And in times of prosperity, like those Whitworth is experiencing now, God's provision is profoundly evident. As we remain faithful to God and to our mission, I believe we can proceed with great confidence in doing our collective best to write Whitworth's next exciting chapter.
I advise us also to proceed with great humility -- not with a meekness that diminishes our aspirations and determination, but with a posture that understands and embraces our role in serving God and our students. We who serve Whitworth at this time have been entrusted with so much that we've had no hand in creating. Servant leaders throughout Whitworth's history have faithfully nurtured Whitworth's mission to pursue both rigorous, open intellectual inquiry and the integration of Christian faith and learning. This distinctive and paradoxical mission has been strengthened by generous donors who have given steadfastly and, many times, sacrificially to support our students. And we pursue our calling to advance Whitworth's mission as a response to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not to be served.
It is with this clear sense of confidence and humility that we are drafting a bold vision for Whitworth in 2020 and a strategic plan that will focus our efforts and resources toward achieving that vision. I was attracted to Whitworth because it is in a very strong position and it has a clear and broadly embraced understanding of its mission. That sturdy foundation is a luxury that allows us to think creatively and courageously about how Whitworth will meet the challenges and opportunities ahead and serve future generations of students.
If I need any additional inspiration to get excited about that important work, our students provide it. I am the beneficiary of many legacies of Whitworth's past leaders. My favorite gift walking in the door was the one Bill Robinson gave me -- the special relationship I have with our students. Connections with students began during our first days at Whitworth, as I met the bright and capable students working on campus for the summer. I joined the 100-plus student leaders who welcomed new Whitworth students and their families to campus during move-in weekend. Since then, I've dined with students in the HUB, cheered them on at athletics events, theatre shows and concerts, worked with them to address difficult campus issues, visited with them way past my bedtime in the residence halls, and hosted them for receptions at Hawthorne House.
I have been blown away by our students' capacity to lead with grace and truth. They wear the mantle of responsibility so well because Whitworth gives students so many opportunities to make decisions and exercise judgment -- while surrounding them with peer leaders and faculty/staff mentors who are flat-out committed to their success. This affirms our conviction that the best learning happens in the context of relationship. That is, always has been, and ever shall be the heart and soul of this place. As always, please keep Whitworth in your prayers.