GOSHEN — “Goshen College is all the people who taught, loved or worked here,” recited a group of Goshen College students as they kicked off the official inauguration ceremony of their new president, Rebecca Stoltzfus.
Thus began a presentation of true stories about Goshen College alumni, from an undocumented immigrant nursing student to a member of the resistance during wartime. The stories emphasized the school's Mennonite roots of treating education as more than knowledge acquisition, but as “a moral activity,” according to the Goshen College mission statement.
After a handful of speakers and a prayer, Stoltzfus was officially recognized as president and launched into her inaugural speech.
She thanked the audience, then cut straight to the chase: many colleges are struggling right now, she said. Some wonder if a degree is worth all the debt, while others note the lack of minority representation among those who do graduate, she explained.
“Next year, this institution will be 125 years old,” she said. “We must be clear and confident in what we offer the world.”
Stoltzfus spoke at length on the benefits of the college that she calls “distinctively Goshen.” As she described what the institution can offer to the world, she also wove in personal anecdotes from her own time at Goshen College.
Her first point was that Goshen College does a good job of integrating the arts, sciences and humanities.
“(We) express and integrate the transcendent values of beauty, truth and goodness,” she said.
Stoltzfus also emphasized Goshen College as an “experiential” school. She described students learning alongside inmates in a local prison classroom, learning the languages of their host countries during Study-Service Term (SST) or actively practicing land restoration and sustainability.
“I want not only to build on our current distinctions, but to imagine a brighter future as well,” she said. “I imagine our campus culture being transformed by the full participation of the increasingly diverse student body who are choosing a Goshen College education. I imagine a Goshen College transformed by this new reality, willing to let old things fall apart when our transformation requires it.”
Part of the brighter future, according to Stoltzfus, includes more “community relevance.” She wants to strengthen Goshen College’s connection the town of Goshen, Elkhart County and the Potawatomi community, she said.
After outlining these hopes for the college, the new president concluded, “I accept your charge with deep gladness, and I will serve you with my whole heart and being.”
The hourlong ceremony ended with a resounding community singing of the Goshen College song, “Alma Mater.”
Leandra Beabout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 314.