One of the most profound moments of each academic year takes place when Professor of English Leonard Oakland welcomes our freshman class to Whitworth during Orientation Week. Leonard's address is meaningful for at least two reasons: First, he speaks about mind-and-heart education in compelling ways that excite Whitworth's newest students and their families. And then he leads the singing of Amazing Grace, a time-honored tradition at Whitworth, to conclude his welcome.
But Leonard's address is notable for another reason. And that reason is that he has been teaching at Whitworth since 1966! If anyone knows the essence of Whitworth, it's Leonard – the man who composed the lyrics to our alma mater. An astonishing 83 percent of Whitworth's alumni have graduated during his 51 years on our faculty.
Although Leonard's tenure at Whitworth is particularly long, his service is emblematic of faculty and staff members who have given decades of dedicated service to our students and who have shaped Whitworth's culture and mission. Whitworth is what it is today because of the influence of its longstanding employees.
In this issue, you'll read about the retirements of beloved faculty and staff members. Understandably, alumni and current students express concern when such employees retire. Will Whitworth be the same without them? Of course not! There's no way to replicate the unique contributions of these beloved Whitworthians to the university and to the countless students they have mentored.
But Whitworthians need not worry. Institutions like Whitworth stand the test of time. That's because God has heaped blessings upon us in the persons of so many brilliant and dedicated faculty and staff members who have filled the roles of those who preceded them. Julia Stronks, Forrest Baird, Jerry Sittser, Kathy Lee and, yes, even Leonard Oakland stand on the shoulders of Pat MacDonald, Clem Simpson, Laura Bloxham, '69, Fenton Duvall, Evelyn Smith and Nicolin Gray. And Whitworth's newest professors and staff members will ably and faithfully continue the tradition of shaping our students' minds and hearts for years to come. It's a perpetual relay race – as one person's lap around the proverbial track is coming to an end, someone else is taking the baton.
Whitworth's future is secure. The institution we love may not look the same, because the people who serve it will be different. But Whitworth's students will always be well-served by the talented and faithful people God sends us.
Please keep Whitworth in your prayers.