Society Luncheon
October 4, 2013
Shirley A. Mullen

This year, I have been talking with our students about I Corinthians as one of the “Biblical homes” for what we do here at Houghton College.

We are helping young men and women to “grow up” – to put away childish things, to become the kind of substantial beings who can bear the gaze of God, to know as we are known, to image the likeness of our Heavenly Father in this world, to work with Faith and Hope and Love.

This week on campus, we have been focusing on “Hope.”  The week began with the third annual Symposium  sponsored by our Center for Faith, Justice and Global Engagement.  This year’s theme was “Hunger and Extreme Poverty.” On Wednesday, we honored as our Alumni of the Year two members of the Class of 1988: Dr. Myron Glick and Dr. Joe Harvey.  They are both medical doctors who have chosen to steward their gifts  for the sake of those whom our Lord might call “the least of these.”    Dr. Glick founded the Jericho Road Family Practice, which has just been elevated to the Jericho Road Community Health Center, on the West Side of Buffalo.  This center serves 12,000 people in a part of Buffalo that is home to refugees as well as many immigrants from all over the world.   As Myron says, he wants to make sure that, at Jericho Road, both the President and a refugee just off the plane would get the same kind of health care.   Dr. Joe Harvey founded a hospital in the Congo that provides the only medical care for several hundred thousand Congolese.

Not all Houghton Alumni are medical doctors.  Today we heard from Mr. Bob Van Dyk, who studied business but has used his gifts to push for changes and high quality care for the growing population of elderly in this country and around the world.  His daughter Kristina Van Dyk, Class of 2005, works in the fashion industry in Los Angeles, but also has a mentoring ministry among the young people of the  poorest families in that city.

Every week I hear from alumni of Houghton College who are serving as lawyers, educators, physicians, pastors and directors of non-profit organizations in every sector of society and around the world who are stewarding their gifts to bring Hope to our world.

This is what Willard Houghton had in mind when he founded Houghton in 1883.

A lot has happened in our world over the past 130 years!  Most of what seemed so important in 1883 has long since disappeared into the history books – of interest only to historians and  academics like me. Who can name the American president in 1883 (Chester Arthur!) let alone other world leaders at that time?  (Perhaps you could drag up the name of Queen Victoria.)  Who remembers the major political events of that time? 

But as always in our world, God is at work in and through those things that seem “small” in the world’s eyes. Who could have guessed that a manger in Bethlehem would house the second person of the Trinity? Who could have guessed that a little seminary in Houghton Creek would become an institution that would send 20,000 people into the world as agents of hope and messengers of God’s Grace and Mercy.  But that is exactly what has happened.

And today, in 2013, as the foundations of American higher education shake all around us, we at Houghton have the challenging and exhilarating opportunity to continue to “be Houghton” in this time.  This will mean BOTH continuing all that is best in our tradition – high quality,  rich Christian community, affordability, accessibility,  global vision – and doing this in ways that match the circumstances and the opportunities of 2013 and not 1883.  We don’t know all that this will mean.  But we do know that it will mean making much more strategic use of technology, doing much more with continuing education, both for those who want degrees, and for those who simply want to be lifelong learners, and opening up opportunities for accessing a Houghton education in some of our New York State’s urban centers.  In the fall of 2014, we plan to open a non-residential teaching site on Symphony Circle in downtown Buffalo so that students in the Buffalo area can begin their Houghton education closer to home.

I believe that Willard J. Houghton and James S. Luckey – while they might not be dressed in the latest fashion – would be at home among us today.  I believe they would approve of how Houghton has stayed true to its core mission in ways that speak compellingly to the world in which we live.

At his core, Willard J. Houghton was concerned that all we are and have as Christians should be devoted to “lighting up this dark and sin-cursed world,” letting our “lights shine very clearly on the dangerous places, exposing the rocks and sandbars that the masses are striking.” As you have heard me say, he often signed his letters, “Yours for fixing up this world.” He wanted a “First Class Seminary” to serve the “people in western New York and northern Pennsylvania” for the purpose of “conferring a thorough education without regard to sex or nationality.”

This past Tuesday, I attended the annual “Imprint Buffalo” event where Jericho Road – a community Health Center – invites all of Buffalo to see what is happening there.  Houghton student volunteers, Wesley Service Corps members, and Houghton alumni are serving there – biology, communication, psychology, business and intercultural studies majors – living out the vision of a Houghton education. 

This is the story that we have been invited to be part of, a story of God’s creative and redemptive purposes. This is what it means to keep alive the vision of 1883 in our world today.

We thank you for your partnership with us as together we continue to meet young people where they are and prepare them for extraordinary lives of purpose and impact in our world today.