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The Charge

William P. Robinson, Ph.D.
President Emeritus, Whitworth University

I'm supposed to give a charge. I should be good at this. For the past 24 years, I've given a charge to seniors at graduation. But when I sat down to think about this charge, I thought, "What do I have to say to a new president?" And that's when it struck me. For all these years I was the president giving a charge to seniors; now I'm a senior giving a charge to the president. How'd that happen?

Well, I thank God that it did happen. I am thrilled to pledge myself to Beck Taylor's leadership.

I don't think I've ever been much of a charger, but I hope I've been an encourager. And commending courage seems more in keeping with the theme of this inauguration than making charges. So, cross out CHARGE in your bulletins and write in ENCOURAGEMENTS, plural, because I have several of them.

To the Whitworth community: When I was inaugurated as the 36 year old president of Manchester College, my predecessor offered these words about me in his charge to the Manchester community. "Some of you are concerned about our president's youth. Trust me, a year from now, he'll be plenty old." While President Taylor is in the process of becoming plenty old, I encourage every member of the Whitworth community to extend him grace upon grace. And then after he's plenty old, keep extending grace. You'll never have to hear me say this again, so for the last time, "When in doubt, fill in the gaps with good."

To Julie Taylor: Although your role is different than your husband's, you are a full partner in this presidency. So I encourage you to enter fully into this partnership, but be courageous in protecting your own identity. I think Bonnie Robinson left you a loving example of how not to become "Mrs. President." Already, we have seen your strength, courage and individuality. It is these traits that will enable you to be Beck's most trusted mentor. There are days he will come home when you need to say, "Beck, you're not as bad as you think you are." On other days, you will need to say, "Beck, you're not as good as you think you are." And make sure you don't get those days mixed up!

To Beck Taylor: Out of my own failures, I encourage you to seek wisdom from others. As you lead and shape this community, allow this community to lead and shape you. You will make each other better. I encourage you to love the students, faculty and staff, always remembering students are the reason we are here. I encourage you never to travel on Fridays. Nothing is worth missing French Dip Friday. I encourage you not to believe everything you hear about yourself… or your predecessor. Whether you want them to or not, I'm sure Julie, Zach, Lauren and Chloe will help you moderate whatever you hear about yourself. And in terms of what you hear about your predecessor, I can help you with that. Comparisons offer little if any value, especially comparisons with past presidents. I resisted them. But you can help me with the one comparison I would love. Someday I hope I will be known in the same way people think about a certain UCLA basketball coach. That coach is Wilbur Johns, known as the guy who preceded the legendary John Wooden.

Finally, I encourage you to live every moment of your presidency consumed by the boundless grace and the redemptive truth of Jesus Christ, our risen savior Lord. He will meet you in the storm saying "Take courage, it is I, don't be afraid." So now on behalf of presidents Eaton, DeJong, Mounce, Lindaman, Warren and all those who presided before us, I issue you the charge on which this presidency stands: educate these students in heart and mind, and in all things, honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity. God bless you, Beck.