Dr. John Chowning
Thirty-third Annual Faculty and Staff Recognition Service
May 4, 2016
Scripture: Psalm 133:1-3
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
For more than a quarter of a century, I’ve had the distinct honor of serving in leadership here at Campbellsville University – first as a trustee at the invitation of former president, Dr. Ken Winters, including the great responsibility of serving as Board Chair, and for eighteen years, serving as a vice president and assistant to the president – under Dr. Winters for a year or so and then with Dr. [Michael V.] Carter for seventeen years. I am thankful to continue serving in a part-time role even in my time of retirement.
This scripture from Psalm 133 came to mind as I prayerfully considered what I should share today at our annual faculty and staff reception. The first verse in this Psalm describes for me a common thread that has run through the years of my service on this campus: the unity of God’s people living together as we seek to provide quality Christian higher education for our students. Yes, there have been differences of opinion along the way, strong opinions expressed by a diverse group of people, and spirited exchanges on occasion as challenging decisions were made, but there has been a unity of purpose and spirit during these years that has served as a crucial element in bringing us to this point-in-time in the history of Campbellsville University.
We have sought the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit in decisions that have been made, and we have not apologized for seeking to improve our academic programs and to provide our students with a first rate educational experience while seeking to instill in them the spiritual discipline of Christian servanthood. We have taken a strong stand that we are a Christian university, and we have been through some challenging times. Some tough decisions have been made by our board of trustees and administration in order to preserve the integrity and accreditation of Campbellsville University. The decisions that had to be made were necessary in order to protect the very heart and soul of Campbellsville University and resulted from efforts by outside forces seeking to control the university! And even in the challenging, and, yes, difficult times and experiences, there has been a unity and sweet spirit among the Campbellsville University board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, and coaches. And I’m pleased to observe that Campbellsville University is emerging as an even stronger Christian university!
Today, I came by to express appreciation to all who have been involved in helping bring us to this point in time. You are familiar with “Vision 2025 – Preparing Christian Servant Leaders”, adopted in August 2009 by the board of trustees. Major goals of “Vision 2025” include: working toward a total enrollment of 5,000 students, emerging as one of the nation’s premiere Christian universities, offering academic programs that are compatible with the needs of the twenty-first century, engaging CU students in Christian servant leadership opportunities and service learning opportunities, providing CU students with student life experiences that are transformative in nature, and having state of the art facilities and programs that engage and prepare our students for life in the 21st century. “Vision 2025” is our official blueprint for the future, and we continue to assess our progress in fulfilling this vision for the future – and where we need to improve and expand our efforts. Now we’re at a point of updating and refining “Vision 2025”. Dr. Carter and Dr. [Donna] Hedgepath have begun a process of assessment and analysis that will help us to refine our priority goals and objectives in “Vision 2025” as we near the mid-point of the fifteen year planning period.
“Vision 2025” can only be made a reality if we continue to move forward in a spirit of unity – as the psalmist expresses – where we live and work together in unity – and where we make every effort to work together in a Christian environment where each individual person is loved, even as Christ has first loved us, and respected, and where we understand each and every day that our purpose at this time and place is to serve our students and to provide them with the very best Christian higher education experience possible.
Unity and Diversity in the Body – First Corinthians 12:12: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” These words of the Apostle Paul are applicable to Campbellsville University. Look around the University family and note the diversity of our faculty, staff, coaches, and students. Each of you play an important role in the life of Campbellsville University, and it is when we work in unity and harmony (amidst diversity) that we are successful in fulfilling the mission of Campbellsville University.
There are many challenges that lie ahead:
- the ongoing challenge of affordability,
- creating new academic programs that provide our students with employment opportunities and viable career paths,
- contending with an increasingly obtrusive federal and state regulatory environment,
- raising funds in a very competitive environment,
- maintaining our Christian commitment and witness and finding a balance between the competing forces of secularization on the one hand and rigid doctrinal control and fundamentalism on the other,
- competition for students from numerous sectors of higher education,
- finding a balance between the growing demand for expanded online offerings versus the traditional face to face and residential campus models of higher education.
The list of challenges that lie ahead is ongoing, yet the opportunities for Campbellsville University to succeed and grow are abundant.
I am confident that Campbellsville University will remain strong – if we remain faithful to who we are – as the psalmist says in Psalm 133.1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” In these exciting and challenging days, may we remain united in our commitment to Campbellsville University and the very special mission we have been given. And may those who come after us be able to note that we were found faithful in service to our Lord and to our mission in these days! May God bless each of you; may He continue to bless Campbellsville University.
John Chowning is Executive Assistant to the President for Government, Community, Constituent Relations, Campbellsville University, Campbellsville, Kentucky. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.