The Whitworth community celebrated the inauguration of the university's 18th president in a reception and dinner at the Spokane Convention Center.
Rev. Mindy Smith, '98
Thank you for this beautiful evening to gather and celebrate together the gift of Whitworth University. All of us here have in some way been touched, molded and challenged through our experience of Whitworth. We are so grateful that you have made Whitworth part of each of our stories.
And now Lord we gather to share a meal and rejoice together in this new chapter of the story. With our new President stepping into his new position we pray to you. We look gratefully to the past, and thank you that from the very foundations of Whitworth. You called leaders of courage and wisdom and they trusted in you. So we ask today that you would inspire us by their example; where there has been failure, forgive us; where there has been progress, confirm; where there has been success, give us humility; and teach us to follow your instructions more closely as we enter this next chapter of Whitworth's legacy.
Give to all those to whom you have entrusted in leadership today the desire to seek your will and to do it. Give us the heart to love each other as you first loved us.
So this evening we ask your blessing on our President Beck Taylor and his wife, Julie, and their children, Zach, Lauren and Chloe. We pray for each of them in this transition to a new city, new relationships and new challenges. Draw them close together we ask. And for our new President we ask that you give him deep wisdom, clear discernment and a heart of grace and truth. Equip him to build upon the strong mission of Whitworth University. Help us to be a community of support to our new leader to live out the mission of the mind and the heart you have called us to this day and throughout the days to come.
In all these things we pray to you through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Travis Niles, '11
Good evening. I hope everyone here has enjoyed the opportunity this week to celebrate the mission of Whitworth and all of the people who make that vision a reality. I'd like to thank the Inauguration Committee for inviting me to speak tonight. I appreciate the honor of getting to share my thoughts with all of you here. And a word of congratulations to Beck Taylor for his appointment as our new president. Beck, welcome to the Whitworth family; and thank you, for everything you will do in the future to carry on the mission of Whitworth. I'd now like to share a few words on the virtue of courage, and how we live out that courage as a community at Whitworth.
How do we do that? How do we live courageously as a community in higher education? As a university committed to open inquiry and willing to entertain competing voices and ideas, how do we find the right amount of tolerance for ideas that challenge us without losing our courage to stand for our commitment to Christ?
Understandably, this tension between curiosity and conviction exists in the lives of students and faculty in a very palpable way. Students may refrain from making a public declaration on a given idea, citing a "lack of credentials." A student might say, "I am only a young student, not an expert. I do not know enough yet to make a decision." In some contexts, this could be a humble response based on the legitimate grounds that one has not lived long enough to know what is needed to make such a decision. The big question, then, is when is that a legitimate statement, or perhaps, when is that statement an excuse to hide and not take a stand? The key, I believe, is whether we react in a spirit of courage or a spirit of cowardice.
As a student (and really, we are all students, aren't we?), I believe the right response to challenging questions is not necessarily a response, but an attitude. It is not necessary that we possess all truth... as if it was some sort of commodity. No, we take a stand in the refuge of the One who is the Truth. We realize that through him we are empowered to live in a spirit not of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. As I've had the opportunity to study the history of Christianity, I've seen the depth and the breadth of our faith tradition. Not all Christians have agreed on all issues. And yet we still feel it is appropriate to call them by the name "Christian." That should be a lesson for us that we are not saved by our knowledge. We are saved by Christ. As a theology major, it is comforting to know that the aim of theology is not to possess the truth; rather, theology's aim is to point back to the Truth. And I am not alone in this work; I am not the only theologian in the room. Everyone here has ideas about God, and everyone reflects those beliefs in their lives and work. We are all, in a sense, theologians. All across the Whitworth campus, across every discipline; biology, chemistry, art, psychology, business, the modern languages, kinesiology -- every one, every discipline; we all share the same mission -- not to possess the truth, but to point to Jesus who is the Truth. We should take comfort in that. Therefore, as we do at Whitworth, we should all enjoy the freedom to pursue open and honest inquiry with regard to the pressing issues in today's world. And we can do this in a spirit of courage and confidence. We do this every day in Whitworth classrooms. Thank you all and have a good evening.
L. Denice Randle, '06
It doesn't take a genius to recognize that the demographics of our nation are shifting. According to the 2010 Census, the United States is becoming more diverse as Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Hispanic populations steadily rise. Consequently, the White population is projected to decrease from 72 percent to less than 53 percent by the year 2050. This information suggests that my children and grandchildren will live in a far more diverse America than the America we know today.
In spite of our nation's progression in diverse populations, you might be surprised to find that the contemporary definition of “community” is a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locale, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. Unfortunately, there are universities across the nation whose campuses too literally reflect this archaic definition of community.
For whatever reasons, these universities seek out and recruit students, faculty and staff who are similar in appearance, socioeconomic background, cultural heritage and political perspectives. Outside of a small group of international students and the occasional urban superstars, these campuses lack diversity in all meanings of the word. Who can blame them for being wary of keeping up with the changing times? Isn't it easier to live in a community where individuals look, act and think the same? Face it: in a diversity-free community, there would rarely be any debates, any worries, and any problems. The truth, however, is that these communities are extremely dangerous for their inhabitants. For where there is a lack of diversity, there is also a lack of potential for spiritual, mental and social growth.
As an institution, Whitworth has made great strides in building a community that reflects the changing demographics of our nation. Whitworth has implemented programs such as the Act Six Leadership & Scholarship Initiative; trained student Cultural Diversity Advocates; hired outstanding professors of color; engaged in challenging dialogue in the classrooms; invited visiting professors to campus from across the nation; supported students from a variety of religious faiths; and traveled with students around the world, all the while integrating faith-learning as a complementary rather than a competing value to inclusion and diversity.
Yes, there have been tears, misunderstandings and challenging conversations, both in and out of the classroom. But – more importantly – we have grown in our faith, sharpened our grace, and learned the power of forgiveness. We would be foolish to expect there would never be adversity when living in a community that reflects diversity. As long as we are growing and recruiting more and more students who represent the true demographics of our nation, there will be differences of opinion. It is vital to remember that as we pursue an education of mind and heart, we must also learn, evaluate and consider the differences of opinion presented by those who make our communities diverse. It takes a community of courage to make this goal a reality.
Because Whitworth acts courageously when faced with challenges, develops the resources to empower all individuals, and yearns for the spiritual, mental and educational growth that diversity provides, the university is embracing God's standard of community. In the years to come, Whitworth will continue to operate at its mission-focused best when it embraces open intellectual inquiry from a variety of perspectives, and is inspired by, seeks out and invites those from historically underrepresented communities into our community. We do not invite these students, faculty and staff because it is a popular multicultural trend or the up-and-coming fad in higher education; we take on the challenge because it is a God-appointed calling that empowers the members of our community.
By collaborating with those underrepresented in higher education, we will impact the members of the Whitworth community, the residents of Spokane, the population of Washington State, the nation, and the world at large. Our graduates will take the lessons they learned at Whitworth and go to the ends of the earth as agents of change, and will serve as witnesses of the audacity and wisdom diversity brings to a community of courage.
Bendi Benson Schrambach, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Modern Languages
Good evening. It is an honor to celebrate with you the inauguration of our new president, Beck Taylor.
How should a Christian philosophy professor teach the outspoken atheist Friedrich Nietzsche and Nietzsche's critique of Christian morality?
How should a French professor introduce the topic of present-day racism against French citizens of North African descent?
How should a theology professor facilitate a discussion on the often controversial matter of a woman's role in the family and in the Church?
These and similar questions arise each day on Whitworth's campus. As an instructor of humanities, I have observed many ways that Whitworth professors courageously – and prayerfully – broach these delicate issues with their students. And I would suggest that Whitworth embodies a community of courage in part because of the willingness of these professors to ask difficult questions, engage in challenging discussions and sometimes accept ambiguity.
Not on fundamental issues of our faith, of course: the Headship of God; the Lordship of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit are the foundation upon which all is built. But given these certainties, given the fact that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," Whitworth professors take on important topics – topics that will or should cross the minds of young, compassionate scholars – such as injustice, prejudice, poverty, racism, sexism and challenges to our faith. If a Whitworth classroom isn't a safe environment in which to raise these issues, often in the form of incisive questions, then where is?
Jesus knew the value of asking thorny questions: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?", "Where is your faith?" and "Who do people say that I am?" In the Sermon on the Mount alone, Jesus posed more than fourteen questions, using them to prompt critical thinking, draw out those who might otherwise not take a stand, and promote action. Remember how empowered Peter was when he finally got the answer right?
But not all questions possess so straightforward a reply as Peter's. On the contrary, some questions highlight uncertainty and raise additional arguments. Some admit no pat response at all. Yet as we attempt to uncover and shed light on the world's problems – past and present, and, when possible, inspire practical change, all types of questions should be raised in our classrooms.
And they are – in courses as varied as the History offering "Colonialism and Globalization," to the theology course, "How Free Are We?" We are a community of courage when, in philosophy, we dissect and debate divergent theories of justice or when, in theatre, we bring this art to bear on issues of justice in Spokane, beginning with an investigation of our own prejudices. We are a community of courage when we canvass modern day examples of injustice, such as on a study program to Thailand where students meet women exploited in human trafficking. We are a community of courage in English, French, German and Spanish courses when we analyze racism through examinations of literature from underrepresented populations and grant a voice to the manifold perspectives of the "Other." We are a community of courage, finally, when we ask our students to live in poverty, participate in service projects to the poor and listen to the testimony of eye-witnesses to atrocities that have torn families apart on the Central America Study Program.
At our best, we in humanities inspire our students to reflection and to action by means of good questions raised but not always answered. Through this approach and others, courageous professors model positive and compelling ways for our students to grapple with the trials and the triumphs of humanity in our fallen world.
Michael Sardinia, '87
Associate Professor of Biology
When I considered the idea of a "Community of Courage," the first thing that came to my mind was, "What compels me to teach at Whitworth" and that is our students. It's not the pay – sorry. And when I think about our students and I think about how special they are; special young people that were special in the ‘80's, as my classmates and are special now as our students. I see courageous students that do not disregard the outcomes. (It was not a willful disregard that we had in Mac.) It is the courage that comes from seeking God's will for their lives. To see what it is they are called to do and then taking the charge from the apostle Paul to use and to develop their gifts; to be prepared when they are asked and led by God in difficult situations.
I had a pair of married students that graduated and that had seen and done this. One served our country in the Middle East and came to Whitworth as a Biology major and his wife was a nursing major. She was a phenomenal student. I don't know how many "B's" she ever got; maybe one. FERPA says I can't tell you that. She went on to nursing school and prepared to be a nurse in the anesthesia. Very prestigious and well paying, but it wasn't her calling. All the way to the end she prepared for this, until she discovered in her church refugees from Eastern European countries attending who were having problems getting their children vaccinated. When she saw this need in the community she said this is what I'm supposed to do. She now works in the public health department; no prestige, not the quiet precision of the anesthesia room, not the pay, but it is her calling. She was courageous in stepping out to do this and she didn't have to. (I and my wife were also courageous when this nurse poked us in the arm with a needle.) Her husband returned from Iraq and became a Biology major. He also could have taken the easier way out, but those of us who are married to teachers in high school know that teaching in high school is not the easy way out. He now serves in Idaho teaching young students about science and dealing with classroom management problems that Whitworth professors don't understand unless you are in the Education department or have done it before. I avoid it like the plague, my wife does not.
There are many many more stories like this and I know I'm supposed to stop talking so I will. But I could talk about students who are missionary's now who stepped out into Africa before they were trained and followed God's calling. So, when I think of courage I think of our special young adults, I think of our students. Whenever President Taylor is at a loss for why he came here or what it is all about I hope he spends some time with these very special people.
Assistant Professor of Education
I am honored to be here tonight representing the professions as a faculty member of the School of Education and truly, the entire faculty, who are called to educate the minds and hearts of all our students.
When my nephew, Max, was three he asked me what I did for work. I told him that I taught teachers. Max replied with amazement, "You TEACH teachers? But teachers know EVERYTHING!" After my moment of hero worship was over, I reflected on the power of Max's statement. This child had already captured what many people feel about teachers at all levels. When surveyed, the American public has consistently ranked teaching as one of the most beneficial professions to society. Teachers shape lives. They are charged with the incredible task of educating all students that come to them in academics and citizenship. And yet teachers must do this amidst constant scrutiny, changing standards, and an increasingly diverse student population that demands new ways of approaching curriculum and delivering instruction. However, we take this in stride because ultimately, our profession is about what's best for the kids.
Our students are the future. We must always ask how we can do our job better to ensure every child is reaching his or her potential to positively contribute to our community and society as a whole. This isn't easy, but it can be as simple as looking inside those that sit in each of our classrooms to bring forth their assets and passion for doing something great.
Each individual is infinitely unique and possesses different gifts, whether it's the gift of compassion or thinking mathematically. It is these unique gifts and talents that when brought together, complement each other and strengthen the community. Teachers at any grade level are in a distinct position to guide their students toward recognizing their capabilities through an encouraging word and the permission to succeed despite possible boundaries.
When I ask the teacher candidates I prepare why they have gone into teaching, they respond with myriad reasons for positively contributing to society, but they also say, "Someone told me I would be good at this." This person was often a teacher. The impact of this kind of statement cannot go unnoticed. Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner says, "In order to succeed, every child needs one person that is absolutely crazy about them." Teachers often fill that role for students. We're on the front lines of seeing our students in different lights, bridging their personal interests and strengths today to positive contributions in the future.
In the end, I don't think teaching is about knowing everything. What's essential is knowing everything about our students. We need to know what inspires them, what they're afraid of, what they're good at, and what they still need to know to accomplish their goals. We need to know how to connect the content to their lives in order to make it real and applicable. We need to be an educated guide to serve all of our students for the greater good of the community, walking along side and sometimes showing them the way.
Spiritual activist Marianne Williamson states, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you NOT to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
At Whitworth, in our teacher preparation programs and across campus, we do this with an education of mind and heart, encouraging our students to nurture their gifts and pursue their vocation, and in doing so, honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. It takes individual courage and the entire educational community, but it's well worth the effort.
Associate Professor of Music
Why the Arts are important
Few would argue with the statement that the Arts are an essential part of a vibrant community, and I would go so far as to say that Art is an essential part of life itself. It is hard to envision a world without the glorious sounds of Bach, the thought-provoking colors and images of the visual arts, the poignancy of a touching scene in a play, or the other enumerable artistic expressions we are blessed to experience. Pablo Casals might have said it best when he wrote that the music of Bach "fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being."i
The courage to embark on a journey
Sadly, we live in a culture that tends to disregard the value of art. Popular culture lives on a diet of artistic Wonderbread where music and other forms of art are often relegated to a type of aural or visual wallpaper. I see incredible courage in our students when they begin their journey as artists, actors, dancers, musicians, or poets, knowing full well that their work may never be appreciated by a broader community. The world needs to hear and see their work, and it takes courage for a community to support these individuals. As I like to phrase it to my students, music is one of God's greatest gifts to humanity, but without musicians we are only one generation away from losing music forever. The same could be said for the other arts as well. What a beautiful way for our students to honor God and serve humanity.
The courage to make, share, and appreciate art
The process of making art is intensely personal, and it takes courage to share an artistic expression in a public venue. Composer Edgard Varèse describes it this way: "The very basis of creative works is experimentation—bold experimentation."ii Noted jazz pianist Kenny Werner describes the process as "fearless expression."iii
On the other side of the coin, it takes courage to take an active role in appreciating the Arts. Good art can make us uncomfortable. Art can challenge beliefs and cause us to look within ourselves. The Arts can have a transformative effect if we give our full attention to the sounds, words, or images of a sincere artistic expression. Art can be figuratively and literally messy and we can and should have the courage to react. As Igor Stravinsky stated: "The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music; they should be taught to love it instead."iv
The courage to be true to one's art
Finally, it takes courage to be true to one's art. Many examples come to mind such as Bach's unwillingness to tone down his music to appease authorities of the churchv or Clara Wieck-Schumann's decision to tour as a concert pianist in the 19th Century despite being a lone female in a male-dominated field. However, I would like to conclude with two anecdotes that illustrate how artistic courage can have a transformative effect not just on individuals but on society as a whole:
The courage to make a difference
Most people are aware that jazz is an entirely American art form that combines elements of Western European and African traditions. Unfortunately, music history tends to be taught from a Euro-centric perspective, so most people are unaware that jazz had a profound impact race relations as well as the musical traditions of the country.
In 1935 noted jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman made an artistic decision to hire pianist Teddy Wilson. It didn't matter that Teddy Wilson was black or that bands of the era were segregated. It was the music that mattered most to Benny Goodman. Wilson and Goodman made music that was imbued with an elegance and sophistication and their work had an impact on other musicians and society as a whole. I would point out that these musicians started performing together nearly three decades before the civil rights movement was in full swing.
Another example of courageous performance can be heard in the music of jazz vocalist Billy Holiday. In 1939 Holiday performed (and later recorded) "Strange Fruit," a song that captures the utter horror and barbarity of the lynchings that were common in the Southern United States. Holiday was fearful of retaliation but she continued to perform the song in public throughout her career, and many feel this was the first modern "protest" song.vi Her performance is a profoundly personal expression of those horrible events and the racism that she endured on a daily basis.
In closing, I would like to share a composition that was written by the late Oscar Peterson. The piece, which he composed extemporaneously at a recording session in 1962, is titled "Hymn To Freedom," and is a reflection on the civil rights movement. I invite you to sit back and close your eyes as the music unfolds. I would stress that this performance is not about "Brent the jazz pianist"—it is my sincere wish that you will receive the piece as a gift from Mr. Peterson, and that your heart might be opened to reflect on the theme of courage and what Peterson described as "a musical salute to the brave and persevering leaders of the [civil rights movement], especially the Rev. Martin Luther King."vii
i Helen Exley, ed., Music Lovers Quotations (New York: Exley, 1992), p. 2
ii Josiah Fisk and Jeff Nichols, eds., Composers On Music (Boston: Northeastern, 1997), p. 301
iii Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery (New Albany, IN: Jamey Aebersold, 2010), p. 78
iv Fisk & Nichols, p. 284
v Karl Geiringer, Bach: The Culmination of An Era (Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 26
vi Jack Wheaton, All That Jazz!, (New York: Ardsley House Publishers, 1994), p. 202
vii Oscar Peterson, A Jazz Odyssey: the Life of Oscar Peterson, (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2006), p. 223