As The Campus' Eighth President
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Undecided about which seminary to attend, Loren Swartzendruber went to friends for advice.
He went to Edward Stoltzfus, who was pastor of First Mennonite Church in Iowa City, Iowa, at the time. And Swartzendruber went to his father-in-law, also a pastor.
"Those two conversations," Swartzendruber told about 1,000 people Saturday at Eastern Mennonite University, "pointed me in a direction that shaped my life in ways that they nor I could have imagined."
Swartzendruber, an EMU alum, went on to graduate from the campus seminary.
This weekend, representatives of the university's board of trustees and the Mennonite Education Agency board of directors installed Swartzendruber as EMU's eighth president.
The newly installed leader pledged EMU would remain a place for life-shaping advice he called "sacred conversations."
Both boards appointed Swartzendruber as EMU's eighth president last year. His tenure began in July 2003 but he did not begin day-to-day duties until January 2004.
Saturday's ceremony at The Commons included the presentation of many gifts and tidbits of advice for Swartzendruber, who was president of Hesston College in Kansas before accepting the EMU post.
Former EMU President Myron Augsburger offered a reminder about EMU's church heritage. He presented the new president with a statue of Menno Simons, a founder of the Mennonite church. Augsburger's wife, Esther, sculpted the limited-edition piece at her husband's request.
Joe Lapp, Augsburger's successor, presented the new president with gold, silver and copper coins and a paper bill. Lapp told Swartzendruber of his role as a university fund-raiser. "May you find a way to value all gifts regardless of size, whether gold, silver, copper, a paper bill or checks with many zeroes or without any zeroes," he said.
After his appointment and before occupying his office at EMU, Academic Provost Beryl Brubaker served as interim president. Brubaker, who served as EMU's first woman president in her interim role, noted the increasing role of women in the university's life, including a growing number of women on the board of trustees.
She presented Swartzendruber with a piece by Barbara Fast, associate professor of art at EMU. "Let the art remind you," Brubaker said, "that women stand ready to be full partners in the unfolding vision of EMU."
Fast also created the stole presented later to Swartzendruber. The multicolored garment is made from material given by EMU graduates who are serving around the world. The stole, which Swartzendruber donned around his shoulders, is to remind the new president of the campus' global context.
Swartzendruber pledged to uphold EMU's international interest. During a trip to Ethiopia, Swartzendruber encountered an EMU grad who stayed at the school in the late 1960s to finish his work because of a conversation between campus benefactors. Eventually, the man returned to his native country and helped write the nation's constitution.
"I invite us to reflect on the sacred conversations of our own lives," Swartzendruber said, "and to invest time in such activities, knowing that a conversation that is truly profound and sacred may not be revealed as such until many years later."
"We cannot plan for sacred conversations," Swartzendruber continued. "We can only live in the moment, understanding that every interaction between professor and student, between co-workers at the office, between mentor and mentee, between parents and young adults inhabits that sacred space."
-- article by: Jeff Mellott, Daily News-Record, posted March