At a recent Homecoming event, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Scott McQuilkin, '84, interviewed me during the Q&A portion of the program, which included many Whitworth alums. Scott always does a great job asking questions in these kinds of settings that make me really think – questions that allow me to express those things most important to me about the Whitworth experience and community. After the event, I told a group of students that Scott was better than Donahue. They had no idea who I was talking about, confirming once again that I'm getting older and that my pop-culture references could use some updating.
One question Scott asked that evening struck me then, and has struck me in the days since, as profound. His question was, "As president, you're often described as Whitworth's 'chief optimist.' What makes you so confident in Whitworth's future?" I am confident in Whitworth's future, and I always have been, but I had to think quickly on my feet. Here's what I said:
First, I'm confident in Whitworth because of its distinctive mission. Whitworth doesn't try to be like every other institution – we know who we are and we're comfortable in our own skin. The fact that Whitworth offers a mind-and-heart education that combines first-class academics with an intentionally Christcentered experience gives me great confidence that Whitworth is relevant, not only to the Kingdom of God, but also to our world and to the culture at large. Equipping students to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity will never become passé or impractical. I think God values what we are doing here.
Second, a mission statement is just some ink on paper unless it is supported by students, faculty and staff who believe in the mission's importance. I'm confident in Whitworth's future because we have great people – Whitworthians who dedicate themselves consistently to live out Whitworth's values around relationships, grace, courage, intellectual vitality and service. Our people make us who we are.
Third, I'm confident in Whitworth's future because we are surrounded and supported by alumni, parents and friends who think Whitworth is worth praying for and supporting with time, talent and treasure. Each day I'm reminded of the investments others are making in this place. These investments sustain and encourage us to remain committed to our mission. And in those rare times when I'm feeling less than optimistic, these wonderful alumni, parents and friends give me renewed confidence and enthusiasm.
Finally, the world needs Whitworth. I am increasingly persuaded that Whitworth's graduates are best prepared, through an education that models intellectual competence, moral courage and deep compassion, to serve a world whose future is uncertain, a world that faces seemingly intractable challenges. Whitworth's graduates ask the right questions, pull together the appropriate resources, and lean into the hardest dilemmas facing society and the church. They do it with equal measures of confidence and humility. The world needs more of that.
I am confident that this university's brightest days are still ahead. As always, please keep Whitworth in your prayers.