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What do you perceive to be the relationship between the university and the church?
The historic position views the university as an extension of the home. As an extension of the home, ACU will reflect many of the same values that arecommon to individual members of the church. So, there is a closeness of all who are committed to biblical principles. But we are not an extension of the congregation. We are not an extension of the home and its job of inculcating principles in the young people who are a part of that home.
How would you like an outsider to describe ACU after his first visit here?
I can best describe that by reporting how people frequently do describe the university after their first visit here. They are impressed by the appearance and conduct of the students and the faculty and perceive this as a friendly environment in which learning can take place. They perceive our students for the most part as being serious-minded and mannerly, and yet with the vitality that one expects on any college campus.
You’ve gone on record as an advocate for high quality in every aspect of the university, but also said you want the university to continue to grow in size. How do you expect to maintain a balance where quality and quantity can coexist?
It is a myth to conclude that you must sacrifice quality when you increase quantity. The key to maintaining quality is in the faculty and staff. A strong faculty can just as well serve a large number of people as a small number. The
quality of instruction today is significantly stronger than when I was a student here 30 years ago, and enrollment was 40 percent of what it is today. Abilene Christian has demonstrated that you can increase in quality while growing in numbers.
You’ve done some preaching in the past, and most Christian college presidents wind up doing a good deal of preaching. What sermon do you most want to preach, and do you think people most need to hear?
The sermon that most people probably most need to hear today is a sermon of confidence and hope. Too many people evaluate the conditions around them and come away with the very negative outlook that there’s no way we can be successful. Our enemies are too strong. The road is too rough. The mountain is too high. In every generation, after an assessment of the risks and the problems, I think the Lord wants us to view it as “the land can be taken.”
Before you were an ACU president, you were an ACU parent. What advice would you give to a parent who is sending their child off to ACU as a freshman?
Urge your children not to come home for at least four weeks. Be ready to give advice over the telephone. Recognize that freshmen may be very impressionable when they’re away from home for the first time, and their first evaluations may be colored by the emotions of homesickness. I’d ask them, for the sake of the student, to allow the student time to get over the first-day, first-week, first-month jitters that are always there when you’re thrust into a completely new environment.
That’s the advice you’d give to a parent. What advice would you give to your child?
The advice that we gave to all three of our children was much the same. Go in with an open spirit. Take everything at either face value or better. Do not be thin-skinned, but look at every experience as “How can I learn from this?” Have a wide variety of experiences. Go to all the devotionals that you can. Go to all lectures that you can do. Don’t try to make college conform to what you already know, but try to make college an opportunity to expand what you already know.
Look at college as you would a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris. Walk the Champs-Elysees. Go to the Louvre. Ride the buses. Go out to Versailles. Meet the people. Go up on the Eiffel Tower. None of these, within themselves, may be significantly attractive options. But if that’s the only time you’re going to be there, do it. Use college as a valuable learning experience. Treat it as though you’re a pilgrim. Get as much from it as you can, and when you get finished, you’ll discover that in addition to all the things a pilgrim gets from a visit, you’ve ended up with a lot of natives loving you.
Finally, what plans do you have for keeping alumni involved in the ACU family?
We have a great start in the number of alumni chapters that have been chartered over the last few years. This practice must continue. Not only must we have additional alumni clubs, but we must have great vitality in all of the existing alumni chapters across the nation. These alumni chapters need to grow. More and more alumni should come back to the campus. I’m urging alumni to come for the formal opening, for graduation, in addition to Homecoming and Lectureship. Then if possible, come to the Bible Teachers’ Workshop in the summer.
I just don’t believe you can ever suffer by coming here five times a year. We have something different for the visitor to take away each time. The thrill of the new session with all of these freshman students at the opening. Homecoming, where your friends come back from all over the world for this particular weekend.
Lectureship, with its feast of spiritual presentations. And then at the close of the year, to see that graduating class with all the gratitude in their hearts for all the experiences they’ve had with their fellow classmates and teachers, mingled with a little bit of apprehension for what’s beyond, and yet full faith that they’re going to be able to achieve their goals. And then, of course, the Bible Teachers’ Workshop in the summer. So many of our graduates are teaching Bible classes and trying to do a better job that this concentrated effort toward improvement is a major help to them.
What question would you like to be asked that no one ever asks?
“What do you give up, if anything, by selecting Abilene Christian in preference to some other school?” You really give up nothing. You gain by it. Because you must measure everything by the totality of the experience. You can’t tell how tall a man is by looking at his feet. You can’t tell the size of his shoe by looking at his hair. But in this thing, you ought to consider everything – the total impact of these ACU years. It is so important for college students to be in a Christian environment.
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