President's Monthly Reflection

A College That 'Grows'

September 2018 - A College That 'Grows'

On 'Getting Away' and 'Cruising Community'

August 2018 - On 'Getting Away' and 'Cruising Community'

The Surprising Practicality of Poetry

June 2018 - The Surprising Practicality of Poetry

Putting Technology in its Proper Place

May 2018 - Putting Technology in its Proper Place

 The Houghton Reads Journey

April 2018 - The Houghton Reads Journey

March 2018: Captivated by the Living Hope

March 2018 - March 2018: Captivated by the Living Hope

February 2018: The Complexity of the Human Story

February 2018 - February 2018: The Complexity of the Human Story

January 2018: Life-Renewing Reading

January 2018 - January 2018: Life-Renewing Reading

I have never heard the term "binge reading." It is the best way I know to describe what I did between Christmas and New Year's. During that week, I devoured a series of books, including...
December 2017 - Fearfully Favored

December 2017 - December 2017 - Fearfully Favored

Fear is not a major factor in 21st-century Christmas narratives. Perhaps a child is fearful of not getting what he or she wants from Santa. Parents may be fearful of post-Christmas credit card statements. But there is nothing like the shocking terror that pervades the first Christmas story from start to finish.

November 2017 - November 2017 - Practicing Gratitude

November is sandwiched between the two holidays of All Saints’ Day and Thanksgiving. Ironically, for the Christian at least, All Saints’ Day is eclipsed in our culture by Halloween (as if Christmas Eve were more important than Christmas Day) and Thanksgiving is a holiday first created not by the church calendar but by our government.

October 2017 - October 2017 - On Staying with “Just the Gospel”

I am quite familiar with the response of some students to a chapel speaker at Houghton advocating on justice issues of any sort – for women, for ethnic minorities, for the environment. “I don’t want politics in chapel. Can’t we just preach the Gospel?”

September 2017 - September 2017 - A Place of Impact

Since the days of our founder, Houghton College presidents have touted Houghton as a place of impact - where students are transformed to go out and transform the world. This week, I had two tangible examples confirming that what we claim actually comes true!

August 2017 - August 2017 - Gathering Stores of Memorable Moments

Where has the summer gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was facing a blank sheet of paper, divided into twelve boxes representing the weeks between graduation and the opening of school. I was matching the boxes to the various tasks I hoped to accomplish – and there seemed plenty of time for everything.

July 2017 - July 2017 - Daring to Dream

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 8, I saw the meaning of a Houghton education lived out in ways that a four-color admissions flyer or one-minute video could never capture. I wanted to summon every aspiring Houghton student to join us on the lawn behind the campus center to get a vision of what their college experience could be.

June 2017 - June 2017 - The Great Company of Highlanders

Less than a month ago, 269 members of the Class of 2017 left to put their Houghton education to the test in the 'real world.' While in this moment many of the graduates are no doubt feeling the usual pain of any major life transition, I am confident that their Houghton education will stand the test.

April 2017 - April 2017 - Easter

The Easter drama holds out the startling possibility that, in a world shaped by fear, we can actually live freely and courageously. From start to finish, nearly all the major players in the story are making choices – often choices of self-betrayal – out of fear. The chief priests and the elders were too afraid of the crowds to arrest Jesus in public, so they...

March 2017 - March 2017 - Not Just by Giving Up

I have been carrying a low-grade unease for the past several days; the Lenten Season is nearly half over and I have not figured out precisely how I want to celebrate it. I have been through giving up ice cream, and chocolate. One year I even tried to give up worrying...

February 2017 - February 2017 - The Gift of Not Quite Fitting ...

At the annual breakfast for graduating seniors, I tell our soon-to-be graduates that their best gift to the world is the courage not to step into one of the boxes that the world or the church has readily available for them. Their first obligation as Houghton graduates is to dare to not quite fit ...

January 2017 - January 2017 - Big Anniversaries

2017 is a year of big anniversaries. It has been 500 years since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door in Wittenberg, Germany, intending to invite debate about indulgences – and quite unwittingly ...
December 2016 - Christmas came ...

December 2016 - December 2016 - Christmas came ...

For most of my life, I have been a romantic about Christmas. I don’t mean in the Currier and Ives or Thomas Kinkade sense; I mean in the sense that I always wanted Christmas to be a certain way. I worked at creating the perfect Christmas ...

November 2016 - November 2016 - Words and Actions

The election is over, but we are most certainly not over the election. The drama continues. While it was Donald Trump who voiced doubts about the legitimacy ...

October 2016 - October 2016 - The Missing Questions in Higher Education Accountability

It is once again the season of college and university rankings. This exercise must be good for sales, since each year there seem to be more and more such lists. They take into account everything...

September 2016 - September 2016 - God’s Kingdom, the World, and the Houghton Bubble

In our opening chapel, I spoke on the topic, “God’s Kingdom, the World, and the Houghton Bubble.” I wanted to remind our community of three things as we began ...

July 2016 - July 2016 - With Eyes Fully Open

On June 17th, I went to Charleston to attend services of remembrance for the nine men and women who lost their lives in the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church just a year ago. I was part of the delegation from Civilitas—a coalition of Christians from all walks of life who want to promote understanding, dialogue and, most of all, action ...

June 2016 - June 2016 - Though the Earth Should Change

The words of Psalm 46 have been much on my mind this morning. “God is our Refuge and strength, a well proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change…. Be still, and know that I am God.” Life never “stops” to give us time to ...
April 2016 - <i>His Redeeming Work</i>

April 2016 - April 2016 - His Redeeming Work

On the Third Sunday of Easter, the Book of Common Prayer invites us to pray that God will “open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work.” As I read this prayer recently, I found a name for the great gift God had given me the previous week. He had allowed me to see ...

March 2016 - March 2016 - Positive Complication

Clearly, “evangelicals” are a category of concern in this year’s presidential election. According to the media, they are one of the key groups supporting both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. I must confess to cringing, at least inside, every time I hear ...

February 2016 - February 2016 - Living Differently

Last Saturday, I happened to be reading in the book of Malachi on my way through the scriptures. The prophet makes three charges against the people to whom he is writing: first, you have wearied God; second, you have robbed him; and third, you have spoken ill of him. I found myself identifying somewhat with ...
January 2016-<i>The Time that is Truly Ours</i>

January 2016 - January 2016-The Time that is Truly Ours

During the Christmas holidays, I once again read W. H. Auden’s For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. It is a long and sometimes opaque poem. But I keep coming back to it because, each year, it has something new to say. One of the most familiar parts of the poem is the last section, in which he talks about returning to “normal” after Christmas. We have caught a glimpse ...

November 2015 - November 2015-The Purposes of Pilgrimage

Signs abound of the upcoming holiday season. The mailbox is overflowing with catalogues from hopeful retailers. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are already featuring seasonal flavors and décor. Popular magazines highlight articles about how to manage holiday stress—brought on by other questions ...
September 2015 - <i>The Globe is Here</i>

September 2015 - September 2015 - The Globe is Here

My husband Paul and I were privileged to welcome the world to our supper table on a recent Friday evening. Forty-six Houghton students from 24 countries of the world, not counting the United States or Canada, gathered at our home for ...

August 2015 - August 2015 - The Love of Truth

As part of my weekly professional discipline, I read the Chronicle of Higher Education. I approach the Chronicle expecting information rather than inspiration, so it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to come upon Barry Schwartz’s article Intellectual Virtues ...
July 2015 - <i>A Counter-Cultural Virtue</i>

July 2015 - July 2015 - A Counter-Cultural Virtue

Recently, I nearly missed an important opportunity to be grateful. Over the July 4th weekend, I spoke at Camp Cedarbrook in the Adirondacks as part of their 50th anniversary celebration. I had worked at the camp from 1976 to 1980 when it was known as Camp Cherith but stopped going when graduate school began to take up my summers. I had not been back in nearly 35 years ...
June 2015 - <i>To Struggle Against Ourselves</i>

June 2015 - June 2015 - To Struggle Against Ourselves

As you put together your list of summer reading, I would highly recommend David Brooks’ newest book, The Road to Character. It is accessible and organized into self-contained chapters, so you can conveniently intersperse your reading with the various windows of leisure time that your summer allows. It is also deeply nourishing ...
May 2015 - <i>Always Christmas</i>

May 2015 - May 2015 - Always Christmas

Thanks to the Class of 2015, Houghton College now has a perpetual Christmas tree. The tree will serve to symbolize many things in our community. As one speaker reminded us at the dedication, we will never again be able to say of Houghton what was said of Narnia ...
April 2015 - <i>Trouble and Joy</i>

April 2015 - April 2015 - Trouble and Joy

“When I’m in trouble with a painting, I know there is something to be learned. In fact, I sometimes actually enjoy getting myself into trouble for that reason.” This statement came in the course of a casual conversation with alumnus artist Ben Frank Moss as he ...
March 2015 - <i>A Privilege and Responsibility</i>

March 2015 - March 2015 - A Privilege and Responsibility

I came to the United States as a “landed immigrant” on June 25th, 1966. After living in this country for nearly 49 years as a “resident alien,” I finally became an American citizen on February 19th of this year. As with many of life’s decisions, the meaning and implications have become larger than I had imagined ...

February 2015 - February 2015 - Worth It All

Last week, Paul and I braved blinding snow and slippery roads to join the 2015 Class of Wesley Service Corps for their monthly dinner meeting in downtown Buffalo. (Wesley Service Corps is our formal partnership with Western New York AmeriCorps ...
January 2015 - <i>Becoming New</i>

January 2015 - January 2015 - Becoming New

For many people, the "newness" of 2015 is already over. It happened as soon as the first New Year's resolution was broken—if there were resolutions in the first place! Newness is a fairly thin concept in our culture at large.
November 2014 - <i>The Community of Saints</i>

November 2014 - November 2014 - The Community of Saints

November begins with All Saints’ Day. As I get older, I am much more interested in celebrating this often neglected holiday of the church calendar than the more popular eve of All Saints’ Day that our culture knows as Halloween. Maybe it is simply that I am not as interested in dressing up as ...
October 2014 - <i>Thick Souls</i>

October 2014 - October 2014 - Thick Souls

My mother recently reminded me of a conversation between my sister Barbara and me when we were about 5 or 6 years old. Following a funeral, we were discussing how souls get to heaven. Barb suggested that they might get sent in envelopes. According to my mother, I responded quite definitively that this would be impossible since souls were too thick to fit into envelopes.
September 2014 - <i>The Captain</i>

September 2014 - September 2014 - The Captain

Some loyalties we are born into. (I will always be partial to four seasons.) Some loyalties are part of our history. (I will probably always prefer turning pages to scrolling screens.) Some loyalties we acquire through relationship. That is how I became a New York Yankees fan. It was not mentioned in my marriage vows four years ago ...
August 2014 - <i>Taken In</i>

August 2014 - August 2014 - Taken In

I returned to the office recently from my vacation in New Brunswick – one of Canada’s eastern provinces and also my childhood home. While the sense of responsibility and the awareness of the outside world never fully departs ...
July 2014 - <i>The Lord of History</i>

July 2014 - July 2014 - The Lord of History

June 28, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. It took until August 1 for ...
June 2014 - <i>Looking Deeply</i>

June 2014 - June 2014 - Looking Deeply

So far in my summer reading, I have been reminded twice that part of loving God is desiring to look deeply into the world He has made. Who would think that ...
May 2014

May 2014 - May 2014

College presidents consider themselves fortunate to have one wise person speaking to their graduates at Commencement. This year at Houghton, we had the good fortune of having two such speakers: ...

April 2014 - April 2014

One of the small luxuries afforded by cable television is Turner Classic Movies. Who would have guessed that we might one day watch old movies from the comfort of our own living rooms? This past Tuesday, I wandered into the middle of Waterloo Bridge, a 1940 remake of a 1931 film about World War I, starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.

March 2014 - March 2014

I had occasion to be walking in downtown Philadelphia at rush hour on Ash Wednesday. Working my way in and out of the crowd, I noted the faces marked by the cross of ashes. There were a lot of such faces—more than I expected. And they were so varied—sometimes even surprising.

February 2014 - February 2014

I recently had occasion to thumb through my dog-eared copy of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées. Since I first encountered the Pensées over 40 years ago in Western Civilization at Houghton, I must keep this book at close range among a few select books.

January 2014 - January 2014

Last November, I visited the battlefield at Gettysburg for the first time. During the orientation film, I was sitting in front of a young family. Every time the screen flashed an image of a person, the little boy eagerly asked his mother, “Is he good?” or “Is he bad?” The boy’s simple categories did not easily match the complexities ...

November 2013 - November 2013

If you honor the church calendar, you know that last Sunday was the 32nd Sunday in “Ordinary Time.” We are just about to leave this season of “Ordinary Time” and enter the Season of Advent. I always look forward to Advent, but this week I have been thinking about the notion of “Ordinary Time.”

October 2013 - October 2013

Who would suspect that a small town on Route 19 — a town without a single traffic light or a shopping mall — could be a crossroads of God’s global activity? Yet that is just what we are privileged to witness year in and year out here in Houghton.

September 2013 - September 2013

This is the season of “academic ratings” — the Academy Awards of higher education as it were. College presidents across the country will watch for their updated position in the latest U.S. News ranking — sometimes because they truly care about it, sometimes just because they know ...

August 2013 - August 2013

I usually find myself on the “high church” or “traditional” side of the worship wars, especially on a college campus. Some of this is age no doubt. It is also an outgrowth of my convictions about the role of worship in the life of Houghton College

July 2013 - July 2013

I have been working my way through a book of Winston Churchill quotes. There are lots of good ones ...

June 2013 - June 2013

Sometimes we are the last ones to see our own circumstances clearly. During our recent trip to China, we met a young Christian professional who heard about Houghton College. She felt God calling her to be a worship leader within her Christian community ...

April 2013 - April 2013

Last week I sat next to a seven-year-old “digital native” on a three-hour plane ride. I had planned to get a lot of work done on the plane. He clearly had other plans for me ...

March 2013 - March 2013

The wind is gusting on the quad this morning. The white landscape gives no clue that we are already over halfway through Lent — which, apart from all its connotative associations with reflection and preparation for Easter — is supposed to mean “spring.”

February 2013 - February 2013

Last week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. The campus store, like many of the nation’s retailers, was doing a hefty business in balloons, roses, and chocolate. I have always had a love-hate relationship to Valentine’s Day.