On July 5, 2008, two dozen ACU administrators, trustees and friends will travel from Abilene, Texas, to Antananarivo, Madagascar, to help 24 recent ACU alumni celebrate their completion of a bachelor’s degree as the first graduates of the Madagascar Presidential Scholars Program. We expect about 400 of their family and friends to gather July 12 at 3 p.m. in the Hotel Carlton to watch what is likely the first major recreation of an ACU commencement in a distant location. Certainly, no one has traveled a longer distance to do so – 10,210 miles according to one Web-based calculator. That’s also 16,432 kilometers, but as one of those spending two days on a plane just to get there, the miles sound a lot kinder.
For the next two weeks, I’ll be blogging as the trip progresses, describing to interested friends how this Most Excellent Adventure is going, complete with photographs and, technology permitting, short video clips (thanks to our friends at Phillips Productions Inc.) I’ll give you some background about the plans, introduce you to some of the Malagasy students and their families, and write about a couple of side trips to visit Madagascar missions efforts involving ACU alumni and students. Along the way, I’ll also try to describe the world’s fourth-largest island – Madagascar – and the natural resources that make it unlike anywhere else on earth.
And for the record, this trip won’t raise tuition for ACU students; it is possible because of a special grant and the generosity of some of the university’s friends. It promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of us, just as four years at ACU has changed the lives of our new Malagasy friends.
Reminds me of what the father of one of these students said four years ago when interviewed for a film I helped produce for ACU about this program. He was asked how he and his family viewed this opportunity. “It is a grace from God,” he replied.
I think we all feel that way.
— Ron Hadfield
June 6, 2008