Homecoming 2015 – where legacy and future come together!

Homecoming 2015 was fabulous! It is hard to find the right words to articulate what made the three days so wonderful.  The alumni who descended on the campus brought an energy and love seen in their smiles, tears and sharing of memories.  The class reunions, with yearbooks open and old hairstyles revisited, brought alumni back to the deep sense of community they shared as students. The children of alumni, faculty and staff added laughter and joy, whether in the bounce house or at an athletic event. The current students brought energy under the big tent, sharing the exciting activities and their passion around student organizations. And there were the athletic events. Although there wasn’t a Redhawks soccer game, lacrosse, tennis and volleyball provided exciting games.  The weather was outstanding! I could go on and on…It was everything you would wish a homecoming to be.

Amidst all the excitement and energy there were two other significant moments over the weekend – two events that leave me almost speechless:  the dedication of the Crothers Science & Nursing Center and the dedication of the Dorothy Whittingham Nursing Simulation Labs.

On Friday morning the community gathered to dedicate the new Crothers Science & Nursing Center.  The building, over 40,000 square feet of science and nursing simulation and lab space, was named in honor of former President and First Lady Bill and Rilla Crothers by an anonymous donor. That act alone is worth noting because of the humility and grace in which the donors gave. The donors’ grace was matched by the gracious words of Bill and Rilla when they humbly acknowledged the moment and expressed their gratitude to the staff, faculty and colleagues who served with them.  Throughout the day and weekend the new building was praised and admired by scores of people who toured it, by the news media coverage and during the many other events of Homecoming.  There are many stories to tell, but I encourage you to personally visit the new building to see what all the “buzz” is about.  This new building represents God’s faithfulness and his ability to use people in advancing his mission.  He did that through the leadership of the Crothers and it is represented in the beauty and totality of this amazing new facility on our campus.

Ribbon Cutting on Crothers Science & Nursing Center
Ribbon Cutting on Crothers Science & Nursing Center
Rilla and Bill Crothers
Rilla and Bill Crothers

On Saturday afternoon we dedicated the Dorothy Whittingham Nursing Simulation Lab, which is a significant part of the Crothers Science & Nursing Center. I was amazed by the number of alumni at the dedication – how many had been impacted by the life of one visionary leader. To have known Dorothy would have been a gift. The stories told revealed her belief in students, her strong leadership and her commitment to advancing transformational education in the lives of those she educated at Roberts.



I could go on and on about homecoming but will leave you with a short video that captured some of the events.

Guided by HOPE

Have you seen faculty or staff from the College or Seminary holding a little compass? Or seen one on a desk or even attached to a watch – have you noticed? On August 19th, Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary met to kick off the new academic year.  Anticipating the arrival of students, our purpose was to recognize those who have served at the College and Seminary, welcome new members to the community, and worship together. Even more important than ushering in the new academic year, though, we focused ourselves as a community on the year ahead. Our theme: Guided by HOPE.

We are a community that has been Guided by HOPE for almost 150 years!

While I was on vacation this summer I did a lot of walking and reflecting on where we are as a College and Seminary. I kept coming back to HOPE.  Last year the emphasis was Letting Hope Shine – letting the hope of Christ shine in our community and beyond. The theme was motivating as we engaged in the community at new levels and took the story of Roberts and Northeastern around the country, sharing our story with alumni and friends. So why would we continue with a theme of HOPE for a second year?

It comes back to who we are, where we are and how we will move forward. As we view the future it is apparent there will be opportunities and challenges in the upcoming year. How will we face it? Through our dependence on Christ: The HOPE of Christ and confidence in His leading. All of our accomplishments and all of the goals we hope to achieve mean nothing if we aren’t anchored or guided correctly.

The idea of being guided suggests an image of a compass. A compass is an instrument designed for navigation. Usually it has a magnet needle that points towards the earth’s magnetic north. It is believed that the earliest compasses were most likely invented by the Chinese for varying purposes, but certainly used for navigation. At our Kick-Off, each faculty and staff member was given a compass as a reminder of who guides us and to put our hope in Him.

Guided by Hope

There many challenges around us. One of our goals will be to remain anchored in Christ – seeking and asking Him to show us His ways – to show us His path, and to be open to His leading. But that takes discipline and seeking after him.

This next year, with all that needs to be accomplished and all that is ahead, our goal is to put our hope in Christ – the hope for the future of the College and Seminary – and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. To pursue Christ in our daily life – to rely on His strength throughout the year and to seek Him first for wisdom. May we be Guided by HOPE!


Psalms 25:4-5:

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Help us, Lord

I am heartbroken.

This week tragedy happened again. Lives were taken, hatred won, and we were left to make sense of another example of the racial tear in the fabric of our community. As I read through the stories of each of the nine victims of the AME shooting, my heart broke. These were our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, colleagues, neighbors, pastors and fellow believers. They were members of our community.

Earlier this week I attended a one-day seminar sponsored by Northeastern Seminary entitled Power, Inequity and Reconciliation in the Church, led by Dr. Christena Cleveland, who challenged us to listen… to listen to what is being said by ALL our brothers and sisters. As I have prayed and mourned the recent acts I have also been attempting to listen. At the risk of not articulating perfectly, I ask you to hear my heart as I try to make sense of what I am hearing in this challenging time.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We live in a fallen world, a world where hate and racism exist. The recent act in Charleston, South Carolina reminds us once again of our painful history as a divided nation. It is true that many around us love as Christ called us to love and are examples of living in community. But there remains a deep weed in the garden of our lives, an ugly weed that appears far too often. It divides our country around surface topics of personal defense and justification, and we slide into the posture of defending our position instead of listening to each other. I am guilty of this pattern even while trying to make sense of the senseless. Log into any social media today and you will hear debates brewing around our interpretation of what just happened in Charleston.

Injustice happened. Lives were taken. A community was impacted. A church was targeted. A people of a specific race were attacked. Wrong happened and we are left reminded we have not yet learned to live out our calling of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Dr. Cleveland also pointed us to Philippians 2 as a model for how we are encouraged to live within community.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:1-5, NRSV).

My attempt at listening reminds me I must rest in these words, and I am prompted to think of others first and stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters.

Help us, Lord.

What about our work at Roberts and Northeastern? What difference are we making in the lives of our students and community? Are we modeling what Christ is asking us to do? Are we regarding others better than ourselves? We were founded to educate for character and I can’t think of anything deeper or more important than teaching our students how to model their lives after Christ.

Educating for character isn’t easy and requires hard work as we embrace our call to impact the world for Christ. To do this we have to discuss the difficult things of this world and challenge our own thinking on issues of race and discrimination. We have to embrace Imago Dei (the image of God) and allow learning and listening to occur. As President, I continue on a journey of breaking down my own stereotypes and preconceived ideas about the world around me. But to create a community that reflects the Kingdom of God we must be willing and ready to be uncomfortable and stretched. I believe Roberts and Northeastern can be part of the change and make a difference by listening and engaging with the community around us.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge those who lost their lives this week and encourage each of us to be in prayer for the families and communities of Charleston and the AME Church. In discouraging times I turn to music to lift my spirit and redirect me to Christ.  I leave you with the words of a wonderful song, proclaiming who is in control and who holds our future. It is Him – the great I AM who overshadows the hate and pain in our world and gives us hope for the future.


 By Eddie James

I am the Lord, I’m the Almighty God
I am the One for whom nothing is too hard
I am the Shepherd and I am the Door
I am the Good News to the bound and the poor

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am the Righteous One and I am the Lamb
I am the Ram in the bush for Abraham
I am the ultimate Sacrifice for sin
I am your Redeemer, the Beginning and the End

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am Jehovah
And I am the King
I am Messiah, David’s offspring
I am your High Priest and I am the Christ
I am the Resurrection, I am the Light

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am the Bread and I am the Wine
I am your Future so leave your past behind
I am the One in the midst of two or three
I am your Tabernacle, I am your Jubilee

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am Hope, I am Peace, I am Joy, I am Rest
I am your Comfort and Relief from your stress
I am Strength, I am Faith, I am Love, I am Power
I am your Freedom this very hour!

I am, I am

I am, I am

Roberts Enactus Team: We Have Spirit

This past week I had the privilege of spending time with the Roberts Wesleyan College Enactus Team (formerly known as SIFE).  What is Enactus? It is a wonderful community of student, academic and business leadership to use the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world.

The full Roberts Enactus team
The full Roberts Enactus team

I first met our Enactus team last year during one of my visits to campus as president-elect, when the team presented their Silver Medal performance for the Board of Trustees. I was impressed! This year, as the team returned to the national competition in St. Louis, I was excited to have an opportunity to join them there for their final day of competition.

Our team was amazing and made it to the quarter-final round. Their presentation this year focused on the innovative programs they have developed in the City of Rochester. What an accomplishment!!

The Enactus Presentation Team
The Enactus Presentation Team

The real story however is what I witnessed the last day. The true character of the Roberts Enactus team came after their elimination. The team was disappointed they didn’t make it farther, but despite the disappointment they began a diligent campaign to encourage others still competing. They were tweeting, talking, hugging, and serving the teams that were still in the competition. They stayed to cheer on the final four teams when many had left, prayed with one of our fellow Council of Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions who made the finals, and helped hand out their business plans to the judges. It was clear to me that they weren’t doing this for recognition, and I was reminded it is how we respond to disappointment that really defines our character, and how our plans are not always the Lord’s.

Then, an amazing thing began to happen: leadership from the Enactus organization sought out our team to encourage and thank them!  They weren’t the only ones; other teams thanked them for their work and impact during the week. It was impressive to see how the Lord encouraged them as they encouraged others. The highlight of the competition came when the students received the Spirit of Enactus Award!  (Pictured below).  I had to smile at how the Lord works – encouraging our students with an award that I believe speaks to their character.

The Roberts Enactus team as they won the Spirit Award


Each year, as part of the trip, Professor Carrie Starr, director of the program at Roberts, takes time to create a moment for our students, to thank them for their work and acknowledge the graduating seniors. To just be in the room during this special moment was a gift.  I heard about the impact of each senior and some of their journey in the program. It was a sacred moment. There is no way for me to recreate it in this blog, but let me say I was so moved by the effect that this program has had on the academic, personal, and spiritual lives of these students, I left with a desire for every Roberts student to have an opportunity for that kind of experience, in whatever program or activity they participate.

This is what an education at Roberts is about! We are in the business of educating, mentoring and disciplining our students so they can have a transformational experience that leaves them and those they touch with a deeper sense of the character of God.

If you want to see the video that won the Roberts Enactus team the Spirit of Enactus Award, you can watch below!

The Power of a Commute

During the Christmas holiday I had the opportunity to travel west to see family and friends. While there I found myself back on the familiar freeways I drove daily to get to and from work and was reminded of the commute.  When you think of commuting to work in Southern California what comes to mind first is traffic and attempting to avoid it at all cost.  But as I drove my old route I realized I missed the commute. Why?  Because the commute gave me space to think, to step away and to regroup before arriving at work in the morning or at home in the evening.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression – I wasn’t missing it so bad I wanted to move far from campus for a commute! But it did get me thinking. There is value in a commute. It allows opportunity to find space in your day. To prepare for or unwind from your day. It creates space. The power of the commute is space. Do you ever need space? Space for reflection, rest, and renewal. Space to create, imagine and vision.

I have been reading through the New Testament this year and I am amazed at how often Jesus goes to find space for prayer, reflection and rest. I bet he would have loved to have had a commute. Space for him to get ahead of the crowds that somehow found him each time.

If there is value in the commute then why do we struggle to add that time into our schedules each day unless we have to? What if we lived with some measure of commute time built into our lives?

As I think about our students, staff and faculty I can recognize the pace and load they carry each day and I am thankful. But I wonder how we are doing with our space quotient – our commute time. The time we move between one piece of our life to the next, one class to another, one conversation to another.

Life with commute space requires work. Maybe we need to add a little commute time to our lives? Join me in adding a little commute to your day. Cars not required!