By President Stan D. Gaede ’69
There are pros and cons of growing up on a farm in a rural community. The downside is that you have to get up pretty early in the morning, expend considerable energy during the day, and then pray like crazy the rest of the time that the weather will be good and the harvest will be plenty. But there are lots of benefits, as well. One of them is knowing — in your bones — your indebtedness to those who came before. Parents and grandparents who worked the land before you. And a community of people on whom you depend throughout the year. Farming isn’t easy. But it’s a great teacher.
I say all that, not just because I grew up on a farm, but because I don’t want to forget the lessons learned there. That thought was brought home to me by the picture of four Westmont presidents (see page 2). The initial reason for the picture was simply to take advantage of the moment and capture the four of us in print. But when I actually looked at the picture a few weeks later, the reality of the thing began to sink in. “Fifty years of indebtedness,” were the words that came to mind. Not only my indebtedness to each of these past presidents (which is substantial), but our collective indebtedness to all those who have served the college over the last five decades.
I remember the first time that I met Dr.Voskuyl. I was a new student on campus with my parents, and we happened to meet President Voskuyl in the hall of Kerrwood. It was one of the more frightening experiences of my young life. My parents handled it well (big relief) and, when it was over, I was just happy to still be in school. For some reason, I thought presidents were the guardians of the well-being of the institution. And I wasn’t convinced that Dr. Voskuyl would want me there if he got to know me. Probably for good reason.
Thirty-five years later, I have to tell you, those feelings persist. But for a different reason. I know now the investment that Presidents Voskuyl, Hillegas and Winter made in this institution. I know too the extent to which their investment was matched by faculty and staff who worked alongside them. In many ways, they were still plowing the ground. Getting up early in the morning, breaking up the rocks, planting the seeds and praying for the right weather — for growth and protection. The fact is, the weather cooperated. Faculty and students descended in ever-increasing ability and renown. People from all walks of life gave their money and their time, and the college broke into the ranks of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation. More importantly than any of that, Christ remained the Landlord. The Owner. And He is the One who has brought in the harvest.
We have a ways to go, of course. Every year brings a season of planting as well as a season of harvest. But we will not understand the beauty of the harvest without remembering those who first plowed the fields. And we will not reap the final reward unless we cultivate the same faith. When I look at that picture, I see not only indebtedness, but lots of faithfulness. Indeed, in looking back, I see the future. Thanks be to God.